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Contagious Stories. Monday June 19, 2017

Like a good joke told by the next person, or the second person who picks up a Mexican Wave, a great story goes viral when someone else catches it and retells it.

Here's the exciting creative challenge then: to tell true stories that capture the imagination, but that are easy enough to remember for other people to retell.

I train trainers and teach teachers Accelerated Learning (well, that's part of what I do.) When enthusing teachers and trainers about teaching and training being a vocation, way more than just a job, I tell the story of my first chemistry lesson vs my first physics lesson. Those first lessons changed my preferences and my personal history.

The important thing to me is that the story is easy to relate to and easy to tell-on. So, once upon a time...

My chemistry teacher was well over 6 feet tall when we were tiny students going to the BIG school for the first time. We'd walk up the stairs, one-step-at-a-time, whereas he would stride past, one-flight-at-a-time! He was awesome, and his name will be remembered fondly forever: Mr Hill.

Mr Hill had only one eye. The other had been blinded in a chemical accident. He told us this in our first lesson. When we heard this, he had our attention!

The first lesson included a command to go to the back of the room and gather around the bench. On the bench was a galvanised bucked full of water...

When we could bear it no longer, he took some tongs and placed a piece of Sodium into the bucket.

Ker Boom!!!

Mr Hill's experiment peppered the ceiling as the Sodium reacted fiercely with the water and blew up.

"Cool!" we all thought, "We like Chemistry!"

Nobody was hurt, everybody was impressed! Chemistry was 'sold'!

By way of stark contrast, our first Physics lesson began with us all being asked to form a circle around the room and hold hands! Picture a group of young men in their first lesson. Holding hands was not 'cool' at the best of times. The nameless Physics master then powered up the Van de Graaff Generator and sent a charge through the whole group.

...He electrocuted us!

Shocking, I know! But the shock had a powerful effect. I wasn't the only student that day to decide: Chemistry = cool; Physics = uncool!

Now, do you think you could retell that story?

And what about the moral of the story?

My intended meaning is that teachers and trainers need to give their students and participants engaging experiences. The Physics Master meant well. He meant to be interactive and engaging. However, he only engaged pain and fear! We were unharmed but cautious and therefore 'Physics Adverse'! Our Chemistry Master was a warning in himself. Warning out of the way, it was time to play... and play we did.

The result? I took 'A' Level Chemistry... and we all lived happily ever after.

Go, tell good stories... stories that others can catch and tell-on.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 12:33am

...So, what I'd really like to hear are your stories. Mr Hill, like so many other amazing teachers, switched me 'on' to Chemistry. Did you have an enthusiastic teacher who ignited your interest in a topic? Please share an engaging story from your own youth... We'll all be deeply interested and grateful.

LP Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 7:51am

Hey Lex,
Love that story! :)
I have lasting memories, but none of them sparked an enthusiasm for a subject that I can remember!
There was "Hello, I'm Miss Fright I'm afraid" Luckily she was a lovely art teacher who was far from frightening!
There was Mr Phillips (as in the screw drivers) a handsome Physics teacher, who thought I was good at Physics and wanted me to take it as an option. Him saying "You can wire my plug any day" did nothing to inspire me to choose the subject! Bottom line I didn't like physics! At 15 I was flattered, as an adult, it sets off alarm bells!
My favourite was Ms Andreas. It was scary going to secondary school, but she was funny, relaxed and down to earth. She told us her favourite joke, the story of the Wide Mouthed Frog. (Nothing to do with French at all!) Interestingly and somewhat annoyingly I can't remember the joke, but I remember her telling the punch line and the way she made me feel. Happy and looking forward to my next French Lesson!

The thing about people remembering how we made them feel is so true.
Big thanks to any teachers out there, summer term = reports, on top of a billion other things, so wishes for lots of fun and rewarding moments along the way, to all.
Thanks for a lovely nostalgic blog Lex, I'll look for the story of the wide mouthed frog and post it! :) LP xx

LP Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 8:03am

Ms Andreas had a big personality and huge smiley mouth!
She did the frog speaking with a loud voice and fingers pulling the sides of her mouth even wider! :)

One morning, the wide mouthed frog decided to take a walk to see the world and enhance his education.
As he hopped through the meadow by the pond he came upon a cow.

He hopped over to the cow and said: "Hello Mrs. Cow, I’m the wide mouthed Frog, Tell me what do you feed your babies?”

The cow replied: "I feed my babies milk."


The frog hopped further into the meadow and came upon a bird pecking in the grass. He hopped over to the bird and said: "Hello, Mrs. Bird, I’m the wide mouthed Frog, Tell me what do you feed your babies?”

The bird replied: "I feed my babies worms."


The frog hopped further into the meadow and came upon a horse eating grass. He hopped over to the horse and said: "Hello, Mrs. Horse, I’m the wide mouthed Frog, Tell me what do you feed your babies?”

The horse replied: "I feed my babies wide mouthed frogs."

(Lets go of sides of mouth and purses lips tightly with a very tiny squeaky voice...

Frog: "oh…you don't see many of those around do you?"

Loved Miss Andreas :) xx

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 8:37am

I LOVE that joke. Might have to video a version today! Thank you so much for your stories. Here's to brilliant teachers the world over xx

Freya Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 6:07pm

One of my favourite jokes LP, at least amoungst the polite ones! xx

Eva Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 8:15am

Hi Lex, our histories are made of stories aren't they? Funny it's so hard to pull one out when put on the spot. A lot of my memories are fascinating for me but aren't actually narratives. I went to school in Africa though and one day we couldn't go out to play because there was a crocodile on the football pitch. We just had to wait, that was an exciting day, but not nearly as scary as having to go past an irrate turkey outside the girls loos, I was only about 6 and that turkey felt as big as a trex!

RATG I left my DID list on yesterday's blog, apologies for the late response.

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 8:40am

Quick stories from hi-stories work just as well, Eva... I can imagine your terrifying turkeys tyrannically trying to be t-rex! And the first time I heard the w-i-d-e mouthed frog joke, it ended with a crocodile - so double grins there! Off to play 'Africa' by Toto now!

Tutti Frutti Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 9:16am

Hi Lex
I had a really lovely and funny applied maths teacher who replaced all the text book examples with things like Eskimos sliding down Igloos (calculate the point where they fall off). And he didn't mind being told his drawing was rubbish and changing the story to fit our view of what he had drawn on the board. We definitely had a pig pulling a cart once! I also had a cool chemistry teacher who I remember would always answer the question where do I find x with in the draw marked x and whose rule about eating sweets in class was you had to give him one. The very camp physics teacher I had for o level was fun and good at explaining stuff. A pity he left before my A levels. I also remember my class teacher reading us Danny the Champion of the World aged 8, the only decent art teacher I ever had aged 11 and my English teacher reading us the beginning of Adrian Mole ( new out at the time ) when I was 13.

I tried teaching myself. (Didn't last long.) It's a very tough job and I am very impressed with and grateful for those who do it well.

Love TF x

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 10:00am

I feel a day of deep teacher appreciation ahead! Love all your teachers already, Tutti Frutti - and an igloo today would be nice! x

Angela Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 11:16am

I remember we had a lovely Chemistry teacher called Mrs Wolf. She used to show us experiments ( stuff whizzing round on water )She was inspiring. However, the Miss Smith in 1st year used to make us heat sulphur up in test tubes and we BEGGED her (in vain!) to open the windows as we spluttered & coughed! I also remember squirting hydrochloric acid at each others knees to make holes in one anothers tights in 1st year. 46 years later and I'm still just as immature :)

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 1:03pm

Ah, the secret of youth, Angela... here's to creative immaturity!

David Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 11:55am

Hello Lex,
Strange how we remember our teacher's names and as you say a story will always be remembered like a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry to be picky but it is good you survived the electric shock and was not electrocuted!

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 1:03pm

Thanks, David. It certainly branded the experience into my memory!

Molly Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 3:58pm

Hi Lex. I was a quiet child with little confidence, so anyone would have been shocked to believe that I 'bunked off' a whole year of what was then called 'games' (sport) because I didn't go to the first one and get registered, or turn up at the second etc - I had no option but to skip the rest without being found out. Amazingly no-one noticed and I even got a report at the end of the year which said I was 'satisfactory' (well not much else they could have written about me, they had never met me !!) I suppose that was the start of me being rebellious. The quiet ones are the worst :-) Molly xx

Lex Mon, Jun 19th 2017 @ 6:19pm

That's brilliant, Molly... and, yes, we are! xx

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