Student Stories - by Dr. J. Galloway (unless otherwise noted)

Brief stories for students to ponder during those rare times between assignments.  It is interesting how we learn everyday important life-changing lessons and we do it without a rubric, without a syllabus, without participation ribbons and life provides its own assessment in due course - none of which was approved in advance.  Learning happens anyway.


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Life Without a Syllabus

I'm at a red light waiting for my green so I can be on my way.  I'm comfortable and not in any particular hurry and everything seems quite routine.  I notice, then, that a police squad car pulls up in the lane next to me.  I had my seat belt on already so I wasn't particularly concerned and I was sitting completely still at the light (behind the white line too).  It seemed safe and benign to me.  So, as we're both stuck here waiting for the light, I looked over and subtly nodded a cordial 'hello' motion to the police officer.

About that time, the light turned green and, after checking for cross traffic and placing my hands at 10 and 2, I pulled forward and proceeded through the intersection at a conservative speed.  [BAM !] The siren comes on... the lights flash... the cop has pulled behind me and is pulling me over to the side of the street.

I comply and pull over.  The cop asks for my license and insurance which I provide.  Everything is in order except I lack a state inspection sticker on my factory-new truck purchased two weeks before out of state.  The cop gives me a ticket and lets me be on my way but not before emphasizing that this state requires inspections on all vehicles, regardless.

The cop felt pretty good about all this as it contributed to his sense of doing his duty.  He was keeping order and enforcing right and wrong and all that.  He felt sure that I would pay the price I was obligated to pay.  He felt sure that I would learn my lesson about inspection stickers and state regulations .... all very socially important.  After all, profound lessons learned can shape every event for the rest of our lives.

The lesson I learned was don't wave at cops.

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The Vantage Points

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, three guys headed for the moon on super fast rockets. The first fellow, Bob, shuts his eyes and says “oh well… whatever!... I don’t really care.”

The second fellow, Fred, talks to the press and lets them know how different he is from Bob. He told the press frequently that he is a serious-minded traveler and used to only the highest recognition as an accomplished traveler. He was clearly intent on influencing the press and the public that he always maintains the highest standards.

The third fellow, Charlie, didn't say anything - especially to the press - knowing that talk was cheap and it was action that really mattered.

On blast-off day, Bob shows up late, is distracted by other interests. Eventually, he blasts-off and shoots in completely the wrong direction. Naturally, poor Bob ends up lost in deep space forever.

The second fellow, Fred, had no respect for Bob and, being very conscientious and diligent as he was, not to mention competitive, expected better accolades in the press than Bob was getting. So, he held a press conference weekly as he prepared. He even complained to the press that he should be getting more press coverage than Bob. It was extremely important to him that the press know how hard he was working so he had a lot to say to the press.

He studied trajectories carefully. Double checked his math. Made extra trips to check on the rocket, etc. He didn't know much about the design of the rocket but he really cared a lot so that's what he emphasized to the press. So, on blast-off day, he aims very, very carefully… nearly perfect in fact.

Then, Fred shoots… oops. He misses the moon by about 100 yards or maybe even less. What a shame… too bad. The press reported the two incidents and people had varied reactions.

The moral of the story is the contrast of the reactions held by the public. Some expected extra points for Fred because of his care and concern and his arguably higher quality effort faithfully applied. They wanted to make sure he gets more points than Bob. In fact, there was a committee setup to consider the equity of those points. Fred's team made a really nice presentation. But, of course, so did Bob's team.

Some on the nightly news didn't see any relevance to the committee's work as they pointed out that Fred and Bob are both in the same place together - lost forever in deep space. They had a nice graphic. They said that’s the bottom line and points don't have anything to do with it.

Interestingly, Charlie, the third man, just did his job, and landed on the moon. It wasn't pretty, but he made it there just fine. When the committee asked him if he should have more points than Fred, he said, "What do I care about points?... I'm on the moon."

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Your aptitude potential and the potential of aptitude.

What is aptitude?  One might say it's your ability to learn something.  That suggests that you might or might not have the aptitude for a given task or goal.  I would suggest that this is the wrong definition and an unfortunate perspective on aptitude.  I would prefer the definition that says aptitude is a measure of time.  How long will take you to drive to grandma's house?  Well, driving a bicycle vs. a rocket might yield different results... yet, either way, you can get there.  So, I prefer the notion that you can learn it - period.  Aptitude is merely a measure of the time it will take to accomplish it... not a declaration of some ominous limitation or prohibition.  You might not get there as fast as you like or even as fast as someone else who happens to have a rocket.  So what?  You can get there - and you will get there.  In that regard, aptitude is irrelevant.

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The Be All of All You Can Be.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  A familiar question we've all heard at some point. Perhaps we have all wondered at one point or another:  do I have the ability to become a ____ [fill in the blank]?  Or, am I smart enough to become a _____[another blank]?  I would suggest that, regardless of how natural, compelling or inevitable such questions may be, they are all irrelevant.  They are all the wrong question and essentially an unfortunate distraction from what's truly important.  On a fundamental level, one cannot account for what it is to "become something."  I know of many people who ponder and meditate and dream on what it would be like to become an astronaut, a surgeon, a pilot, a martial artist, an author, or just smart.  The method eludes them and they are left to merely ponder endlessly.  That's the error.  I would suggest that the method of "becoming" will not be clear or known until AFTER it is completed.  Only then will the path be clear.  The solution to the problem is something discovered in hindsight... not something that is revealed before the fact.  The key is to ACT.  Take action.  The process of "becoming" something - anything - is a series of action steps completed - period. Becoming anything (even becoming smarter) is merely a series of action steps... things you do like a list. Interestingly, being smart or having special abilities is rarely if ever on the list.  Everything has a list.  Being an astronaut is a list of things you do.  Finish the list - and BAM! you're an astronaut.  If you finish the list and you aren't one... then you did the wrong list.  I'm not very familiar with that list - I'm not an astronaut.  I am, however, familiar with a great many lists.  Enough so, that I know that all things have a list.  Forget about being smart or having abilities, those things are consequences - not action steps.  You want to become something?... then start doing something - period.

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