Nothing is Scary

Its the beginning of the fright season and if your at all like me you are excited that the places where “everything is scary” are about to open their doors.

What I want to explore today is the fact that “Nothing is Scary”  to even the most seasoned haunted house regulars.  They may not fear ghosts, ghouls, or those things that seem to wander between this world and the next.  They may not fear abandoned houses, old prisons, or ancient asylums.  They may even feel safe in those dark and lonesome places where your imagination starts to play tricks on your eyes and your ears.  Today I am arguing that even those of you who can laugh off your standard scares are still terrified of nothing.  Its the absence of something, the eternal void, the antithesis of everything, that might be one of the scariest concepts out there.  Seriously considering what nothing means brings me to the conclusion that “Nothing is VERY Scary”.

I was introduced to this concept by Steve Matuszak at a seminar on “Whose Classroom is it Anyway” a talk focused on using improvisation in the classroom.  The fact that “Nothing is Scary” takes on a whole new level of meaning when you apply the concept of Nothingness to the classroom.  In a learning environment nothing can take on a lot of forms but his focus is on the value of using genuine improvisation in moments of nothingness to discover and expose teachable moments.

He doesn’t suggest that we walk into a classroom with nothing prepared, nothing to teach, or nothing to share.  What he says is to recognize that when you start with “Nothing” you have the potential to create “_________________”.  I would love to hear how your brains just filled in the blank.

As teachers there is some value in exploring nothingness before solidifying and selecting a tried and true lesson plan.  Things can come out of nothingness that shock you, excite you, and engage you.  Chances are that diverging from the tried and true lesson plan might help you do the same for your students.

Plan 200% for 50% of the Time

In a unconventional class offered through the honors department here at Virginia Tech I learned a great tip on teaching.  It is more of a mentality with which to approach a facilitated learning environment than a technique to apply and test out on your students.  We were a team of three TA’s and one professor working to develop a lesson plan for “The Art and Science of Tracking”.  Our mentor Micheal Blackwell shared with us that we should approach each lesson with twice as much material as we thought we could cover in the given time period.  On top of that he encouraged us to only focus on that material for half of the class period.

To me this struck home.  Over prepare but remain flexible.  Have a detailed plan but keep your eyes and ears open for those unplannable moments in which true deep learning can occur.  Cultivate a passion for your lesson plan’s material but be prepared to capture learning in the moments you can never plan for.  Be an expert in your field but realize that you have something to learn from each of your students.

By planning 200 percent for only 50 percent of the time our team was able to focus on the students more.  Adapt our lessons on the fly and redirect each and every class to better fit the students moods and interests.   My teammates were devoted.  We each brought a unique set of skills to the table, and our mentor was able to empower us to fully immerse in the creative process of teaching and being taught.   True, the setting was unique, but I believe that the “200 percent for 50 percent” lesson is one that could be applied to any learning environment from the lecture hall to the impromptu track discovery on the banks of strouble’s creek.


Hello Blog

Just as the “Hello World” prompt is often the first output ever generated by someone learning a new programing language this post will be my first foray into the world of blogging.  This is a place with which I am not comfortable in.  Yet this is a place that I am eager to explore largely because of Dr. Campbell’s incredible enthusiasm towards both the power and meaning behind blogging.  Dr. Campbell spoke of the Internet and computers in ways that had never crossed my mind.  Instead of a tool to be used Dr. Campbell referred to Alan Kay’s statement “The computer is an instrument whose music is ideas”.  He encouraged us to “join the band” and I am eager to try my luck pickin’ on the street corner with my colleagues.  Some seem to play elegantly already but others like myself are just taking their instruments out their cases.