teaching

To Inspire: The Priority List

I wasn’t brave enough to read today’s book, David Menasche’s The Priority List (Allen and Unwin), I thought I might struggle with the subject matter a little, and so I passed it on to TBYL Reviewer Narelle. She’s made me wish I’d read it, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too. Here’s her thoughts…

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I picked up David Menasche’s The Priority List and immediately warmed to the premise outlined on the cover: “A teachers final quest to discover life’s greatest lessons.” With an endorsement from Elizabeth Gilbert and the back cover questioning “What truly matters in life?” I had mentally slotted this in somewhere alongside Tuesdays with Morrie and Life’s Golden Ticket, as an uplifting, moving read that would warm my heart. What I read was altogether more intriguing and absorbing than first glance suggested.

the priority listWith two retired school teachers as parents, the teaching world that Menasche inhabits is a familiar one, I’ve seen first-hand a similar dedication and passion for teaching. As Menasche begins his story though, life throws a huge boulder in front of him – a diagnosis of an aggressive brain tumour. It’s his response though, that shows his strength and courage, telling family, friends and beloved students “Don’t worry – I’ve got this.”

Menasche weaves his story back and forth, telling stories of students and his encounters with them alongside a history of his teaching career. His passion for learning and for igniting a similar passion in his students is evident throughout his story. He tells of his excitement of having a classroom and students to call his own at Coral Reef Senior High.

“But as much as I wanted to make a good impression on my coworkers, what mattered to me most were the kids. I couldn’t wait to meet them. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”, the author and scholar William Arthur Ward wrote. I wanted to be great teacher. The best they’d ever had.” 

David candidly shares the terror of his diagnosis and the at times brutal toll his cancer treatment takes on his body. Throughout his illness, his unwavering passion for teaching and inspiring his students keeps him afloat, and indeed he credits them with giving him the will to continue. As his health deteriorates, he reaches a crushing realization – that he can no longer continues his classroom teaching. His body and eyesight failing, but his determination firm, he begins a new quest – to visit his former students and find out where life has taken them.

And in this modern age, how best to connect with his now scattered flock? Why, through Facebook of course! With a swift response from all over the US, David sets out to meet and learn about the many students he inspired in his classroom. Along the way, he faces physical and personal challenges that will alter his life forever.

Ultimately I found The Priority List many things – inspiring and moving, deeply sad at moments and joy-filled in others. Menasche’s love of teaching, learning, and life shine through, reflected through the testimony of many students that experienced first hand his passion for learning. A quirky mixture of John Keating (Dead Poets Society) with a dash of rebellious Walter White (Breaking Bad), David Menasche’s story is unique, and one that deserves to be shared.

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You can find out more about David Menasche’s The Priority List, here…

Brainwashing al la Elmo

Oscar loves chocolate.  If we could have chocolate for dinner, we’d have a happy three year old and a very peaceful house.

But alas, apparently chocolate isn’t good for main meals, and so we must battle. Sometimes we reach a compromise and settle on vegemite toast, yoghurt or bananas for dinner but most often I stick to my guns and Oscar sits sullenly in front of a plate of untouched food, next to a nagging Mum who’s not only driving him nutty, but also the rest of the family.

I’ve tried negotiation.  I’ve tried flat-out bribery.  I’ve tried threats.  I’ve played good cop.  I’ve played bad cop.  All to little or no avail.

Oscar is a healthy, happy kid. He’s growing well and he never stops running, so my concerns are not nutritional.  Nonetheless, I do worry about the habits that are being learnt as he grows up…he is so quickly becoming a big boy and I know only too well how deeply ingrained eating habits can become. So I was getting desperate, I really needed to win this argument.

Last week I used a different approach in the hope of convincing Oscar that new food wasn’t enemy number one.  At the risk of being shown up as a not so perfect mother, I’d like to run this strategy past you as I’m interested to hear what people think about it…

I used the power of television. More specifically, the influence of one little red monster named Elmo.

Last week at the video shop, instead of Ben 10 or Toy Story, I convinced Oscar to choose Sesame Street’s Happy Healthy Monsters. After this, the ‘brainwashing’ commenced – happy monsters love to jump, happy monsters love to drink milk, happy monsters love to eat healthy, fresh food. And they do all these things with a great big smile ontheir face.

And guess what?  So did Oscar…

The process was helped no end by the play-along game Oscar found in the Extras section where Oscar was able to help Cookie Monster make salads, spaghetti and meatballs, fruit salad. I reinforced this by asking Oscar to help me cook dinner that night. I know it’s not a new idea, but I really did find that Oscar was much more interested in eating what he’d had a part in cooking.

We’ve had a much better go of it since then. It’s not perfect, but we’re certainly getting there. Oscar will now eat rice and vegetables, he’s loving fish and even though we have to call it ‘fish’, he quite likes chicken too.

So my question is this – does TV have a legitimate place in helping to teach children?  I know many people would say a big no, while others would say that it’s a means to an end and you do what you have to do to teach your kids the best of lessons.

What do you think?