I just finished listening to “the Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. After seeing the book in airports and bookstores across the Middle East, Europe and the States, I figured that I might as well see what all the press was about, not to mention all of the hype on You Tube.
So, prior to my journey last week to give technology trainings to teachers in a small village in the mountains of the UAE, I downloaded the audio book to pass the car ride along—desert, followed by rocks, followed by jagged mountains amidst 120 degree heat and haze.
In a nutshell, the book left me thinking for hours, reminding myself of life’s pleasures and priorities and the gift and responsibility teachers have of inspiring, challenging and enabling young (and old) minds to achieve their dreams, imagine, think big and do.
For those of you that need a bit of background information, The Last Lecture website summarizes:
On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” With slides of his CT scans beaming out to the audience, Randy told his audience about the cancer that is devouring his pancreas and that will claim his life in a matter of months. On the stage that day, Randy was youthful, energetic, handsome, often cheerfully, darkly funny. He seemed invincible. But this was a brief moment, as he himself acknowledged.
Randy’s lecture has become a phenomenon, as has the book he wrote based on the same principles, celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities. Sadly, Randy lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all, for generations to come.
Pausch for the most part tells us the lessons he wished he could teach his kids if he were around to watch them grow into adults. His messages are simple, easy to relate to and grounded in a ton of Disney World metaphors and examples (one of Pausch’s dreams was to become an imagineer—a dream he accomplished), making the book very digestible across a wide variety of audiences. Perhaps it is his simple lessons and prose that make the messages so sticky (see Will your lessons stand the test of time?).
In the addendum of the audio book, there is a live interview with the real Randy Pausch (the audio book of course was read by someone else) in which Pausch is asked, “What inspired the topic of your lecture?” Pausch responds, “A list that I made at the age of eight, ‘My Lifelong Dreams'”.
As you think about topics to teach this summer or next fall, consider having your students write or create a multimedia response to the theme, “My Dreams”. While you’re at it, take a moment to recollect yours.
P.S. My favorite quote from the book, “Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them – even if someone practically had to throw you over – it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it”.