An Unexpected Classroom Intervention


With only five minutes left until the end of class, I ask a student to go to the front of the classroom for a quick "stand and deliver" exercise.  He's asked to speak about a topic of interest for one minute, devoid of any verbal fillers, like uh or um, that might distract the audience from his message.

He chooses to talk about how he settled on his major.  He begins, "I've always looked up to my father, so when I thought about what to study, I looked to his career as a model.  He's a chemical engineer.  He has a PhD in it, actually.  When I enrolled here, it seemed natural to follow in his footsteps and major in chemical engineering, so I did.  Except now I'm two years into the program, and I realize that I don't love it.  I'm much more interested in computer engineering, but I worry that I'm too far into my courses to change."

I glance at my watch and I realize that he's already reached his time limit, but nobody in the audience is antsy.  They're rapt with attention.  One student ahead of me nods her head in understanding, then kindly interjects, "You're not too far."

Other students immediately echo the same sentiment:

"No, you still have time to make a change."

"You're preparing for the rest of your life.  Don't settle -- do what you're passionate about. "

"Don't keep going down a road that you know is wrong.  Changing your major might seem drastic to you now, but it makes sense to correct your course.

The whole class rallies behind him.  I sit quietly, filled to the brim at this outpouring.  He listens, nodding intently, as classmate after classmate echos that he's not as trapped as he thinks he is.

We all thought that he was going to the front of the classroom for a brief speaking exercise.  Instead, it turned out to be the most unexpected intervention from 26 of his classmates, who at that moment, were the best audience I've ever seen.

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