Davo’s Burgers and Fries in Hopkinsville was the scene of some heavy educational dialogue Thursday evening. Some high school mates convened to dine and visit, and unexpectedly, education came up. On one side was Danielle White, a veteran nursing professor of 37 years at Austin Peay Sate University, married to classmate and longtime friend, Lee White. Across the table sat class mate Gary Ebling, history professor at Fort Campbell’s Eagle University in the 1970’s.
Danielle changes her approach every three years since students by then watch different television shows, use updated technology, and speak in different idioms. The kidneys aren’t going to be renamed, but enticing students to study their anatomical complexities requires connection to rapidly changing culture. A professor said long ago in class, “The core message doesn’t change. It’s a candy bar that stays the same but gets a different wrapper periodically.”
Gary said he used to hold pretest classes in a restaurant while going over all the questions that would appear on the upcoming test, even telling students the answers, yet he was consistently shocked at the high number of miserable test scores. “I hope things are better these days,” he said. I told Gary stories from several professors at our college last year who replicated Gary’s story. They hadn’t taken the students to supper, but they had gone over all the questions and answers, only to experience the same miserable results.
Do people remain the same? I’ve frankly given questions and answers to classes myself a few times, with the same result. Here’s a speculation. If a task is too hard, students won’t do well; if it is too easy, they won’t do well. When our sons were little, we had an Easter egg hunt for a group of kids. The eggs had to be placed in findable ways, hidden just right—to make the search meaningful, with the right kind of pride for the kids in finding them. If the eggs were in plain view, they might snatch them up to be competitive, but the hunt was a bust.
Nothing is stretched when everything is easy. Meaningful challenges take just the right amount of challenge so that a seeker truly seeks and isn’t fed like a baby. However, even with my children, it was necessary to be playful at times and hold the food at a distance or move it around in the air to get the baby to go for it. Even babies get bored if feeding time is too ritualistic and easy.
To cap off Davo’s, I heard a voice call my name behind me, and it was Dr. Jay Allen, president of our college, with his wife, Belinda. Their children were at art camp, and they slipped off to Davo’s for supper and noticed our group. It was a great opportunity to chat and introduce Dr. Allen and Belinda to a couple of classmates. The evening was an unexpected burger convergence of an educational flavor.