A room full of surprises

Tim Hibsman

In one of my teaching sessions on anecdotal learning, several of the junior high school students were asked to give a quick one or two-minute informative speech. They could pick any topic that was of interest to them. There were several speeches on video games and sports. Shopping, fashion, and social media were also popular topics. Less than a third of the class followed my speech organization instructions. I made it very clear that every speech had to have a beginning, middle and end. Examples were provided. I made them repeat the three parts aloud. I made it especially clear that there had to be an entertaining or interesting introduction. However, when it was time to give the speeches very few actually had a catchy beginning, a middle with details, and an ending that wrapped it up.

As I got annoyed watching the students giving bad speeches, one student stood up. He waited till he had everyone’s attention. “I would like to talk to you about porn.”

The class froze. I looked up. I couldn’t believe he had the courage to do this. The class looked at me for a reaction. I figured I gave him enough rope to hang himself. I would let him go a little further so I would have some good information to give to the assistant principal and his parents. I gestured for him to continue.

He cleared his throat and began again. “I would like to talk to you about porn.” Picking up a piece of chalk he wrote, PORN in big letters on the blackboard. “PORN for People Opposed to Rap Network. My older brother hates rap music and there is an organization that is against it. They go online and bash rappers and people who listen to rap music. Rap music was originally…”

I heaved a sigh of relief as the students slumped down into their seats, but still listened intently. Luckily, there was no presentation on pornography. The students were disappointed. However, I was uplifted and enthused. Finally, a student had listened to me. Here was a catchy beginning that got the attention of everyone in the class. He continued with a good middle and end. I was happy to say that the best presentation of the day was on PORN.

Lessons learned

  • Beginnings are very important. First impressions must grab the attention of the audience.
  • Creativity and a well thought out presentation should be rewarded.
  • Be happy to be in a profession where every day is a new adventure. You never know what a student might say.
  • Understand that your reaction is being observed. Don’t overreact and never ignore a student – find your balance.
  • Know the value of acronyms. They help to save time, remember a concept, and provide a good overview.
    1. The author is now out of the K-12 classroom and is a Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at tim.hibsman@iup.edu.