Memories of Awe Episode 28

Liz wanted to explore how Professor McKown used these stories of moral beauty in his classes. They were beginning to influence how she thought about herself and the contributions she could make to others and to society in general.

LJ: Your stories of moral beauty have really changed how I think about myself. Do you use these in class?

KMcK:  I do. I’ve found that stories are much more powerful than anything I can say. Stories about previous students are especially effective.

LJ: Could you share with me a story you use in class?

KMcK:  I can, but it’s a two-part story. I’ll do the second part when we do our next interview. Jim had a horrible first semester in college. He rarely attended my class and earned an F. He must have done the same thing in the rest of his courses because he failed them all. I tell his story in the second week of classes. That’s when the excitement of the first week has passed and the reality of college is setting in.

LJDoes the story impact the students?

KMcK:  It doesn’t until I tell them about Jim’s second semester. I met with Jim every week to review his grades. He told me he was doing fine, but he would never be specific about his actual grades.

When the semester was over, I found out that he had only passed one course. He was suspended from the University.

LJ: That must have been a reality check.

KMcK:  Not really. Students don’t react well to stories of failures.

LJ: So what did you do to make an impact?

KMcK:  I tell them the rest of the story.

He sat out the semester. When he returned, I again worked with him, but this time the result was better. He had a 4.00 GPA. I asked Jim what made the difference. I’ll never forget his answer, it was simply: “it’s time”.

I then continue on with more material until I get to the end of class. Then I asked students what time it is. They gave me the time of day. I tell them that’s not what I’m asking. I ask again, “what time is it?” A deafening roar of “it’s time” is the new answer. That’s when I know the story was impactful. To make stories impactful, they have to be hopeful, and they have to be internalized.

LJ: Amazing. You really have to think of the stories you tell.

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“Hope but never expect. Look forward but never wait.” – Unknown

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