Friday, April 20, 2007

What Would Les Do?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life. Some I have learned, forgotten, relearned, forgotten. . . you get the idea.

Last week I did an Arbor Day program for a group of fourth graders. The kids sat through three speeches full of facts and figures. Things like how much storm water a tree can absorb, how trees can lower energy bills, how many trees were planted during the year, etc. One speech was given by the Mayor, another by the Principal, and the third by the City Forester. I was to be the fourth speaker. Looking at my note card all I saw were more facts and figures.

Walking across the stage, I looked at the crowd of fourth graders. They were restless, there was a little talking going on, and most of them had that glazed over look in their eyes.

Then I noticed one little boy with a shaved head holding his head in his hands. For whatever reason that reminded me of this story. That made me think of Les Morrow who is Cliff’s brother. Les is a GREAT storyteller and thinking of Les prompted the question, “What would Les do?” Yeah, I don’t know how my mind works either.

When I got to center stage, I asked the kids if they would like to hear a story. There was a resounding "YES". I ripped up my note card and told them a story.

Here is the Readers Digest Condensed Version. There once was a young forester who planted trees around a pond that was in located in the middle of nowhere. The pond is now close to their school. The pond didn’t move but development including their school took place. I talked about how the young forester had gone back every few years to look at those trees and watched as apartments, houses, shopping centers, and even schools went up around the area. How the young forester went back when a park was being developed around the pond and trees he planted. And how that forester, who is not exactly young any more, still goes back every once in awhile just to watches people in the park enjoy the shade of the trees.

Then I told them I was that forester - yeah, this is a true story. The whole story took about ten minutes. When I was done, hands went up across the auditorium and we spent another ten minutes answering questions like:
How old were you when you planted the trees?
How big were the trees when you planted them?
How tall are they now?
Does anybody living around the trees know you planted them?

It was a lot of fun - so much fun that I almost forgot to give the Mayor the award.

Yesterday the teacher who arranged that program called to thank me again and to let me know the kids are still talking about my story. She also said her class wanted me to come back and talk with them again. She told them I was really, really busy and didn't have time. Before we hung up, I freed up some time the first week of May to return to her class.

So what was the lesson I relearned? Sometimes, probably most of the time, a good story will get the point across much better and be remembered far longer than all the facts and figures in the world. It also helps to know your audience.

Thanks Les.

16 Comments:

Blogger Britmum said...

Ralph that was so brilliant and I wish that I had been there to hear your lovely story. Sam would have loved to have heard it to. Can you come to Phoenix?

Take care xx

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Jerry said...

Ralph,
I think that you are just a fourth-grader at heart. Good job!

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though you hate teachers and wouldn't have married one if she was one before marriage, you use the methods of a great teacher!

Keep up the great work!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Seeker said...

Encore!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...

britmum - would love to come Phoenix for Arbor Day. When does AZ celebrate it?

Jerry - yeah, you're right. It might be because fourth graders have a longer attention span than most city councils.

anonymous - make no mistake about it, teachers are not my favorite people BUT I would marry my wife again in a heartbeat.

seeker - Thanks.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Ralph, that was a great idea and post! About the lessons .... learned, forgotten, relearned, forgotten .... I hate it when that happens! ;)

4:54 PM  
Blogger Aravis said...

That's a beautiful story, Ralph. I wish we had more speakers like you when I was in 4th grade!

And a very happy, belated Arbor Day to you. As one who feels most at peace surrounded by trees, thank-you for all you do. :0)

9:54 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

VERY Good! It's awesome that with just that one kid, you were able to rework your entire presentation. AND, you were able to understand what the kids needed to be at their level of understanding. At that age, most kids don't want facts and figures. They want stories!

5:28 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hey Ralph, would you come to my school and talk to us? That was great!
This Sunday is International Earth Day 2007, you sure are doing your part by your occupation.
And now in education too! Thanks.
Oh yes, two things:
I don't have a school, could I come to yours? and,
My Earth Day 2007 bit was just a reminder posted yesterday when I had a little time to do it.
..
I hope you watched the ABC 20/20 Planet Earth last night, they had an hour program on conservation and the like, showing problems all over the world.
Their videos remain this morning,
http://abcnews.go.com/2020/
..

6:03 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Ahhh, that was a great story Ralph. A story is bound to get to 4th graders attention better than facts or figures. How nice you thought of Les! I'm sure Les is proud!

7:16 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

You're a great man, Ralph.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Cliff Morrow said...

Well done my friend. You are without a doubt the best.
And yes I'll let Char know. er...wait..you've already told her.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

"You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace..." Psalm 45:2

This was part of our pastor's sermon text this morning and I immediately thought of you and your story to the kids. I could hardly wait to get home and tell you so.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...

Paul
Thanks for your kind words. I am sure we both know this was God inspired not 'Ralph inspired'.
It falls into the mysterious ways category.
Ralph

1:56 PM  
Blogger Doug Bagley said...

Ralph, what a great experience. It reminds me of Abe Lincoln and his Gettysburg address. he followed a long-winded speaker who spoke for hours.Lincoln's speech was only about 20 mins but was so awe inspiring that the crowd was virtually speachless. Because of the silence, he thought he'd really bombed. Sometimes "less is more."
Thanks for the anicdote

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Les said...

Ralph,
I am humbled, your post entitled "What would Les Do?". It's one thing to 'bring' it to a group of adults, but when you can nail it with kids, now that's somethin'! You've brought your occupation to life for them, and in doing so have, one more time, planted some trees.

9:32 PM  

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