The time I cussed at all my students

I'm not a casual swear-word user but that day they had it coming.

I was in a room with around 23 students, who I was teaching the fine details of social philosophy.

Most all of them were bored, as can happen when sitting in a chair for 50 minutes. Even if the topic interests you, it's easy for attention to wander. When the subject is difficult and detailed, it's a miracle they stayed awake.

I used a lot of analogies and stories when I taught. Stories make it easier to digest and understand complex information. They're also more fun and mentally engaging than listening to a boring lecture.

But today, I was losing them.

So I dropped a bomb on them.

An F-bomb.

It's not that I'm a prude about crudities of language. I cuss. Doubly so when I'm mad or into the whiskey.

It's worth remembering the vulgar in vulgarity.

Too much of that lowers my opinion of others. The last thing I want to do is bring that into my own self-image.

The upside is, a precision-guided F-bomb will hit with that much more force when you're not known for your F-bombs.

When I heard a couple of gasps and one "oh my God!" from the peanut gallery, I knew I'd hit the target.

Woke 'em right up.

I was halfway worried I'd get in trouble for that. But this is New Zealand, where swearing is as casual as getting dressed in the morning.

(Plus, one of friends, an actual pink-haired feminist stereotype and one of my favorite people I met in grad school, told me she did it all the time.)

There's a powerful lesson in this story for anyone looking to up their own game in matters learning-related.

I don't teach at a university any more, but what I learned about learning was worth far more than the modest stipend they paid me.

I'm going to talk about this on Friday's Mattcast.

If you've got any questions or comments about learning, thinking processes, "mental models", that kind of thing, then head into Night's Gate and drop a comment in this thread:

Be good & take it easy.

Matt Perryman

PS – You'll have to be a member of my Night's Gate group – which requires an account with SocialLair – in order to access that link. If for some mind-defying reason you aren't a member yet, click here for access: