TITLE: Becoming Engrossed AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 20, 2012 4:54 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Moneyball author Michael Lewis gave the graduation address at his alma mater, Princeton, this spring. Unlike so many others, his address is short and to the point. He wants us to remember the role that luck and accident play in our lives, and not to assume that every time live presents us with a gift we deserve it. It's worth a quick read. The teacher in me was struck by a line about something else. It appears in the background story that describes Lewis's own good fortune. As an undergrad, Lewis wrote his senior thesis under the direction of archaeologist William Childs, about whom he says:
God knows what Professor Childs actually thought of [my thesis], but he helped me to become engrossed.
"He helped me to become engrossed." What a fine compliment to pay a teacher. It's not easy to help students become engrossed in a project, a topic, or a discipline. It requires skill. I think I'm pretty good at working with students who are already engrossed, but then so are a lot of people, I imagine. These students make it easy for us. I want to get better at helping students become engrossed, to help light the new fire. I try all the time, and every once in a while I succeed. I'd like to be more reliable at it. Whatever else goes into this skill, I'm pretty sure that connecting with students and their interests is usually a good first step, and that being curious myself is a good next step. I also think it's good for students to see me being engrossed with a problem is helpful. In fact, being engrossed is almost certainly more important than being engrossing. -----