Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"That sucks!"

I was at Henry Sibley High School in Suburban St. Paul, Minnesota today to give a presentation to their senior class and had fun for about eighty minutes with approximately 400 students, many of whom have already started counting the days till graduation.

I know I made an impact on these seniors for a couple of reasons. One, they gave me a standing ovation. That’s always a good sign! Secondly, at the end of the day, one of the counselors approached me and wanted to tell me what she had experienced.

She told me in the hour or two following my program, in which I addressed a number of issues including college, three students came to her and told her they had not been planning on going to college; but after hearing me speak, they wanted to get information on applying to colleges for next fall! She was amazed and very thankful.

Pat Johnson has hired me a few times over the last several years to speak at Sibley and at another school where she worked before she moved to Sibley. She wanted me to spend some time with their seniors; then I was free to go because I thought I had double-booked another school for the afternoon. I told her that school had been rescheduled so I could spend the rest of the day at Sibley. So, she went into hyper speed and started trying to schedule classrooms to visit. We went looking for teachers who might want me to visit their classroom. Once I’m in a building, I want to be with students. I always have a hard time leaving a school!

We finally went into a teacher lounge during lunch and met Lee Huenecke who teaches tenth grade health classes. He smiled and said, "Sure, come into my room. I was planning to give a test today, I'm sure the students wouldn't mind putting it off another day."

We went into his classroom and he told his students they were having a guest speaker today, instead of the test; and no one had a problem with that!

Pat then introduced me and she went back to her duties as one of the assistant principals in this school of about 1,600 students.

Since these students hadn't heard me in the morning, I started to tell my story and early on, I said something like, "I broke my neck playing football when I was in high school."

I no sooner got out those words, and a student in the back of the classroom matter-of-factly said, "That sucks!"

It just hit me and I lost it! I started laughing and had a hard time regaining my composure so I could continue! In more that 5,000 speeches, no one has ever said that, at least not that I could hear. It was just hysterical and set the tone for the rest of the hour. I had more fun with these kids than I've had in a long time and I think the reason was I was very relaxed and they immediately felt comfortable with me. They knew I could laugh at my situation, and they were very open to what I wanted to tell them. I made a great connection with the whole class and we bonded right off the bat. I had 'em! It was an amazing, fun-filled hour.

I also made a special connection with a young man whose name is Rolando. Rolando showed me some leadership skills as he helped me navigate my website with a small, Mac laptop. The room wasn't equipped with a large monitor, so Rolando would take the laptop and walk up and down the aisles showing everyone the pictures we were discussing. It was fun to watch as he took ownership of the tasks I had him carry out and I could see his character come out as the hour moved on.

It was one of those "teachable moments" that lasted an entire class period! I would like to be a fly on the wall tomorrow during class to see what the conversation will be like when Mr. Huenecke asks them what they thought of my presentation.


Giant said...

Whatever happened to my good chum, Jack Lawless, from the Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, Minnesota? At your presentation he called you out in your hypocrisy and you said you would talk about him in your blog?

Gabe "Poncho" Tomasko.

Daniel said...

I'm really glad to see that you got such a wonderful result from high school seniors, especially since I often wonder what kids think of me (I'm the only physically disabled kid in AP classes in my grade, by the way).

I'm Not Done Yet said...

Hi Gabe,

I thought about writing a post about what happened that day, but after pondering it a while, I haven't found something positive yet to write about. There were other positive things that day, and during a busy week that deserved to be discussed. So, I picked just a few of the positive stories to write about.

Thanks for your comment.



Giant said...

It is Poncho, thanks.