Viva la Death-ray!

V

As a youth I was somewhat less than engaged in academia. Specifically high school. Actually, to say that I was “less than engaged” would be like saying nuclear bombs make a loud sound when they explode. My motto was ‘D’ is a passing grade and I worked to insure that I barely got by. As hard as one can, given the goal is to simply not fail. I had many excellent instructors that attempted to “reach me” but it could not be done. That is until the day I walked into Chemistry class. There stood a man so adept at garnering respect and adulation that almost no one could resist the inextricable force that is Mr. Smiley. He knew how to pull the best out of each student and as a consequence, chemistry was the only class in high school I cared about. Actually, in hindsight, I didn’t care at all about chemistry or the class. I cared about the teacher and wanted to succeed because I cared about him. I wanted him to be successful. If I learned something along the way; so be it.

During the course of our year together I was able to establish myself as a complete pain in the ass. I did like the guy and was willing to put in the time but I did NOT say I would go easy on him. Case in point.

Infraction 1

Mr. Smiley: “Tonight, I need you to memorize the first 14 elements on the periodic table.”

Class Response: “Oh man! What the HELL?!?!? You gotta be kidding me?!?!?”

Mr. Smiley: “Hey. Hey . . . Hey. When I was in school, we had to memorize the entire table!”

Michael Myers: “Yes. But when you were in school there were only four known elements. Earth. Fire. Water. Wind.”

Mr. Smiley: “Mr. Myers. Would you be so kind as to move to the directly under the death-ray please?”

Michael Myers: “Sure!”

What is the death-ray you ask? It is in fact a single solitary heat lamp, nestled in the ceiling, near the center of the classroom. As a class, we were never sure what the purpose of the lamp was but it was where kids got to go for punishment. The joke, was of course on the student; in this case me! It was funny to switch seats with the person directly underneath the death-ray. It wasn’t once when you were sitting there. It was only turned on as a form of fun pseudo punishment. I gleefully lept over and and took my place. Mr. Smiley sauntered over, flipped the switch and the light came on. The attention being paid to me was dying down and I was pleased with my new location. That is until it started to get hot. At first I thought it was because of all the laughing I had been actively participating in. But then I realized it was not emanating from within. It was the death-ray. And it was making me hotter and hotter. By the end of class, I was a little toasty and had to go outside to cool down. Still worth every second of discomfort.

Infraction 2

Mr. Smiley: “Man, I just got a Coke out of the vending machine. And it cost me 35 cents!” When I was in school (Mr. Smiley takes this moment to look directly at me to insure that I DON’T go for the obvious) a coke cost 10 cents!

Class response: “Wow. Big deal. Whatever . . .”

Michael Myers: “I thought you were going to say two clams and a rock.”

Mr. Smiley: “Mr. Myers. Can please come up here and put your nose on the chalk board? Put it right inĀ  . . . this circle.”

Again. Not sure he felt this way but, very rewarding.

Fast forward to 3 months ago, I was starting my second quarter of teaching at Daniels and was talking with my wife about how I could see some of the students coming to grips with how augmented reality could be used in business as a differentiator and not simply a curiosity. I believe I said that I could see some of them “flopping around”. (Loosely translated they’d just seen something and were trying to categorize it. Trying to relate it to things they’d seen.) The key term in that sentence was flopping around and this was something Mr. Smiley said repeatedly on occasion to describe the same scenario. I felt compelled to find the man. They myth. The legend. The talking shirt! (more on that later)

When I did finally locate him, he told me he’d written a book entitled, Your Kid’s Too Soft: Welcome to the Old School. We met for coffee and I asked him for a copy of his book. He gladly handed me one but made me pay! (Joke) We talked about the gist of the book and I told him I was now teaching a graduate course so I was now receiving (on some level) what I had given back in the day. I of course offered to read his book and review it on my blog even though education is not the primary focus of this blog, I believe it will be something everyone should here. AND it’s my blog so I can do whatever the hell I want. :) I also know that you will stop reading at this point due to the length of the post. (Sorry. Needed some context.) So please tune in next post to find out what you can do help your kids prepare for their future. Other than give them everything they ever wanted including a pony and a GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip and then stare at them wondering how they got so spoiled.

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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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