Joel’s leaving Brent (Baguio), and delivered a “Last Lecture” a la Randy Pausch…
To help me remember, here’s the link to “Au Revoir Brent”:
I wish you would blog, Joel, since Facebook can be such a closed place. Then again, with the FB privacy issues, it might soon be as wide open as blogging.
I particularly enjoyed point #7: Be an author and not an audience.
Stop watching, reading, playing. MAKE! Write your own book (or start with an essay, or short story). Direct your own student film. Program your own videogame. I will pick my students’ own humble Mother’s Day Flash animation over the multi-million dollar Computer Animation of Toy Story 3, Shrek 4 or Alice in Wonderland because my students were the ones who did it, not a company with hundreds of computer servers and money to burn!
I hope Joel publishes his complete Facebook notes outside of FB soon…
Here’s the full post of Joel’s Au Revior Brent:
My son Miro first grew up in a house in Fairview, Quezon City. Then a townhouse in Fairview, then a huge house in Quezon City. By the time he arrived in Baguio, he remembers moving to five homes. Now we’re moving back to Manila, and the brave soul is game. Good soldier.
My daughter remembers less. Mornings and afternoons, she is carried around the campus. At two months, the walks put her to sleep. Now at six months she sees the trees, the skies, the cawing crows. She can’t get enough of it.
There are many things to miss, many things I won’t see again. Worse are the experiences I know my children will no longer have. Teachers and cooks and maintenance staff and security they won’t learn from or say “good morning” to or play with. And everyone was so ready to play with my daughter.|
This has made my decision difficult but I refuse to be sad.
I believe in quality over quantity. If I had one day, if I was some noob tourist who came, strolled around Brent and left, I have memories to last till my old age. I had three years, and I was privileged with working with great people, some of which have also left already. That’s quite a gift, something to be very thankful for. I would like to stay forever but that would be an indulgence. I’ve had my three years, now it’s time to make like a dandelion seed and disperse.
I have also given my Last Lecture. I was inspired by Randy Pausch, a professor who died from pancreatic cancer and gave a lecture before he died (See it in Youtube!). I’m departing and I gave my humbler version of the last lecture at my last meeting with grades 7, 8 and 9o in PowerPoint. Here it is (I keep making essays with lists! Gotta get out of this rut!)
1. Jesus saves!
Jesus and Satan were having an argument. Who is better in Microsoft Word? So they call on God to be a judge and they had a contest to show who is the king of MS Word. They’ve been working for almost an hour, typing away, formatting paragraphs, inserting pictures, Clipart, Word Art, graphs and tables when the power went out. Satan screamed, “My work! All my work!” When the power returned, he checked his computer and sure enough, all his work was gone.
Satan looks over at Jesus’s computer. Jesus was busy printing his work. Satan cries to God: “God, look at Jesus, he cheated! I’ve been working for an hour, and when the blackout came, I lost everything! Why is he able to print his work?”
God shrugged, “Jesus saves.”
Save your work. When? Every five minutes. Every time you write an especially cool paragraph. Every time you do a tricky graph or a wicked piece of Vector art. This applies to ANY kind of work you do on the computer; editing video, creating graphics, making a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet. Save Everything.
2. Use “Save As” and not just “Save”. Save your work with version numbers like “Joel Math Homework 1.doc” and “Joel Math Homework 2.doc”. That way, if you make a serious mistake and the application crashes, you don’t have to start from the beginning, but rather, you can open the previous version and start from there.
3. Be paranoid. Never work over the network. We have a network drive where each student (and teacher) has a little bit of hard disk space in our main server in Mr. Salvador’s room. Students like to open their network drive, open their document and type from there. Problem is, when the network is slow, or if it goes down, when you save your work, you might lose everything, even the version in the network. What I like to do (especially with huge Photoshop files that take a long time to save) is to copy the file to my desktop, work on it there. Save the file. At the end of class, I copy it to my network drive. That is practicing safe saving.
As a corollary, never trust your USB thumbnail drives. They are the floppy disks of the new millennium, unreliable and easy to lose. Save your work in your school computer, AND in the computer at home. If it’s really important, email it to yourself. Free online email services like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo mail save their files in redundant locations (meaning your files can be saved in Malaysia, Guatemala and Italy) with instant updates. That should be safe enough.
4. Be lazy. Not the wrong kind of lazy, like the Filipino folklore of Juan Tamad, who waited under a fruit tree waiting for fruit to drop in his mouth.
You need the right kind of lazy, like the guy who invented the car. Who? I don’t care who it is, all I know is, he was tired of walking. So he found a better way. Who invented the escalator? The guy who was sick of walking up the stairs.
Hard work is not necessarily a virtue. Hard efficient work, making good use of the least amount of resources, is. That means working less, but thinking more.
This works in an exam situation, especially math. Am I using the right approach or will it take up too much time? Maybe there is a better approach!
That was in my “Letter to my Unborn Daughter”. People congratulated me for predicting I’d have a daughter. Big deal, I had a fifty-fifty chance of being right.
Reading improves your vocabulary. It exposes you to good grammar and good writing. It also stimulates your imagination. When you read “Twilight”, wasn’t Edward the handsomest dude you’d like for yourself? Wasn’t Bella the most beautiful creature in the world? Didn’t the movie version disappoint? Your imagination doesn’t need a budget or millions of dollars to create the best special effects in the world.
Reading is indispensable in this technological world. If a sign says “Danger, bridge under repair” would you keep driving across the bridge? Do you use bug spray without reading the warning label? Eat junk food without reading the ingredients? When you buy a camera or laptop, do you read the manual? Few do. That’s why they are unaware of half the cool features their cameras or laptops can do.
Books are engines for ideas. Nowadays, movies are usually based on books. Videogames usually get inspired by books (World of Warcraft was inspired by “Lord of the Rings”.) In our society today, practically everything is inspired from a book. Stop drinking the dregs, the leftovers. Go straight to the source of goodness. Read.
6. Humans know history. Animals don’t. That’s one big difference between humans and animals. We have all this civilization and technology because of all the collected wisdom and knowledge we’ve learned. Science is a collection of historical discoveries. We remember all these facts because we’ve written it all down (hence the importance of reading) and the combination of discoveries lead to the technological miracles we have today.
Take airplanes. Otto Lilienthal was one of many men who made gliders. The Wright brothers added an engine. Then they used steel skins instead of cloth, allowing planes to carry more passengers. Then came the jet engine. These are incremental discoveries building on what was known before. Without the “before”, there would be no airplane now.
Computers were used as early as World War 2, when Tommy Flowers made Colossus to break the German secret code Enigma and helped win the war. But almost a century before, Charles Babbage designed a computer and he was ridiculed and his computer was never built. Imagine if people had paid attention, we would have had computers as early as the time of Queen Victoria!
Why can’t ants develop a society with laws? Why can’t apes use tools and learn to govern themselves? Why can’t dolphins (whose brains are almost as complex as ours) create submarines and stop being victims of tuna fishing? Because they can’t write, and they can’t remember their history and build their society with technology!
A person who despises history, who disdains to learn his past, is condemned to repeat his mistakes. He has no idea of how rich his cultural inheritance is. Worse, he’s no better than an animal, acting only on his immediate wants and needs (I’m hungry. I want to eat. Studying is hard. I will sleep instead.) rather than planning and acting on a vision for tomorrow (I want to be a doctor. I will study hard, graduate, be a doctor, earn a good living, help save lives).
7. Be an author and not an audience. Who watched Iron Man 2? New Moon? How to Train Your Dragon? Who read Percy Jackson? Harry Potter? Who played Bioshock? World of Warcraft?
You are all couch potatoes. Consumers! Audiences! Why would you settle for the world someone else had imagined when you have a brain yourself and you can make your own?
When you’re an audience, all you’re doing is spending money and making someone else rich. How rich can you be, being an author? J.K. Rowling, before she wrote the Harry Potter book series, was so poor she didn’t have a toy for her baby daughter. Seven Harry Potter books and six movies later, she’s richer than the Queen of England!
Stop watching, reading, playing. MAKE! Write your own book (or start with an essay, or short story). Direct your own student film. Program your own videogame. I will pick my students’ own humble Mother’s Day Flash animation over the multi-million dollar Computer Animation of Toy Story 3, Shrek 4 or Alice in Wonderland because my students were the ones who did it, not a company with hundreds of computer servers and money to burn! Which leads to…
8. Whatever you do, do it well. If you write a movie review, write the best movie review ever written. If you were submitting a science experiment, submit the best science experiment in your class, complete with charts and graphs. Don’t go for half-measures, don’t say, “that’s good enough.” Be tough on yourself and strive for perfection!
When running a race, no one wants to be in front at the start. They believe the guy in front “cuts the air” for everyone else behind him, making him tire faster. Near the end of the race, that’s when runners make their move, running faster to win the race.
However, Steve Prefontaine hated that strategy. When the race starts, he runs flat out, and gives it his all until the finish line. He doesn’t believe in half-measures, no sir!
In college, when we had to do PowerPoint presentations among our classmates, the teacher would welcome questions from the students after one student presents. They’d whisper among ourselves, “don’t ask any hard questions.”
Y’know what I’d do? I’d volunteer to be first, make a really kick-ass presentation complete with music, animation and video, then when my turn is finished, proceed to raise my hand and shoot holes in the presentations of my classmates.
Cruel? No! Why would I let my class settle for easy questions when no one will learn from each other’s mistakes? When we conspire to ask each other easy questions, we make a choice to be mediocre, easygoing students when we’ve been given a chance to work hard and learn a lot. I gave my classmates a hard time, but my questions forced them to think hard. After two or three meetings, you can bet the presentations improved drastically, in anticipation for my laser-guided take-no-prisoners questions.
Do you think you’re stupid? Do you think you’re talentless? How would you know? You haven’t really tried. Try first, succeed or fail, then maybe you can crawl back and admit you’re talentless, but not before you’ve tried. Even better, go for broke! Treat each homework, seatwork or groupwork like a Kamikaze attack. “I have nothing to lose, I have nothing to lose.”
I end by telling my class, my life is over. The world is yours. You’re going to be the future leaders, the makers and the shakers. You are going to write the next Harry Potter. You are going to be the next Brad Pitt, or the next Martin Scorsese, or the next Will Wright (The Sims), John Carmack (Doom and Quake), David Cage (Heavy Rain). If we meet again, it’s no longer as teacher and student. We meet as two civilians. I expect to whip out a piece of paper and a pen and ask for your autograph. Your autograph.
I ended by saying, it’s been a privilege. The class might clap, but I tell them, the applause is really for all of you, for completing the school year.