Published on: July 19, 2012
Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from Portland, Oregon.
As regular MNB readers know, I've been spending the month out here - part of it is vacation, and I'll offer some details on that tomorrow in OffBeat. But I've also been lucky enough to be team teaching a class in retail and CPG marketing at Portland State University, an opportunity that Dr. Tom Gillpatrick was kind enough to offer me. Needless to say, I grabbed it.
I've learned a few lessons myself so far, and not just because I'm pretty sure all the students in the class are smarter than I am. I'm not going to offer any details - I've promised all involved that when I'm in the classroom, I'm wearing my teacher's hat, not my writer's hat - but I think I can tell you a few things without violating that promise.
First of all, I have to tell you that if you have the opportunity to spend any time in a college classroom, even as a guest speaker, you have to do it. It can be a little bit of work, and even a little nerve-wracking, but it is worth every bit of anxiety you might feel. I've done one-shots at schools all over the country over the past ten years, and it has always been a wonderful experience. This month, it is like wonderful on steroids.
Another thing - and this one really caught me by surprise - is the discovery that these kids are pretty good writers. I've been going through some papers that they wrote for me, on the subject of their most memorable meal; I think that food companies often don't capitalize on how people feel about food, so I wanted them to get in touch with that. These papers are terrific - well-written, evocative, and sometimes I can even smell the food they are describing. I'm feeling really good about these kids.
They also ask great questions, and seem to be suckers for a learning experience. Which is exactly what you want from a student.
Last week, we had a friend of mine, a senior retailing executive, in to chat with the class, and afterwards, one of the students hung around ... and promptly asked if he could go with they guy on store visits the next day. The executive didn't blink - he jumped at the request and I'm told it was an interesting morning for both of them.
That's a great life lesson, by the way. Go one step farther than anyone else, and you almost always be rewarded. I was reminded of when I was in college, I was taking a class called the "Philosophy of Death." (Give me a break. It was the seventies.) The class was designed to examine the notion of death from the perspective of various cultures and religions.
Well, I was going to school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and one evening the professor took us all to the LA City Morgue - where better to see death first hand. We saw bodies being rolled in, autopsies being performed - it was amazing. Well, people are dropping out of the tour right and left, because it was pretty intense. But not me.
I kept on, with the professor and a few other students, until we got to the cooler - the place where bodies were kept before being processed and examined. I will never in my life forget seeing a young black guy on a gurney. He was not much older than me, and in rigor mortis, with a bullet hole through his throat and his eyes wide open. I turned to the teacher and said, "Can I touch him/"
The teacher was taken aback. He'd been teaching this course for years, but never had been asked that question before. "Why?" he said.
"Because I've never touched a dead body before," I said.
He said I could, and I did, and the feel was cold and waxy and I'll never forget it. Death up close is far different from in the movies or on television or reported in newspapers.
Two things happened as a result of that. One, I was guaranteed an A in that class, and didn't have to take the final. But more importantly, I learned the importance of asking the question nobody else wants to ask. That's the way you learn stuff that nobody else learns.
I hope that's what my class at PSU learns this month. And I'm glad that by doing this, I'm getting a whole new learning experience as well.
One final note. I want to take this moment to wish a Happy 87th birthday to my first teacher, who managed to continue loving me even though I was the only person to whom he could not teach math - my dad.
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