On Days Like Today, I Wish I Was A Better Teacher

After the planes hit the Twin Towers on September 11th, most professors at Duke canceled their classes. My Music In Society professor refused to cancel his. Instead, at 1:00 on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, while all my peers were staring at their TVs in disbelief, I went to class.

My professor entered our small seminar room, sat in his chair at the head of a long conference table, and said:

I know you’re wondering why I didn’t cancel class. I couldn’t do it because the work we do here is so important that, during World War II, while German planes were dropping bombs on London, professors were teaching classes in the subways. Think about that for a second: they were teaching classes in the subways while bombs were exploding over their heads. That’s how important education is.

The room was silent for another few seconds. Then my professor wiped away his tears, shuffled his papers, and began the day’s lesson.

This morning, I had to teach a class in the immediate aftermath of a national tragedy. I’m not writing about it to put the Las Vegas shooting on par with 9/11 — they’re not comparable. But it did seem like an appropriate moment to share perhaps the most important lesson I ever had.

…they were teaching classes in the subways while bombs were exploding over their heads. That’s how important education is…

Today, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, I shared this same story with my students. I told it to them while standing in the exact building where I’d been on 9/11 as a Duke student — perhaps the exact same spot where I’d stood when the first plane struck a tower.

Once I’d finished my story, I didn’t know what else to say, so I continued with my prepared lesson.

On days like today, I wish I was a better teacher. If I was a better teacher, maybe I would have had something more impactful to say. Maybe I could have explained the significance of the tragedy. Maybe I could have helped my students better understand the violence of the world. Hell, maybe I could help stop some future violence.

But I’m not a better teacher.

So I stood at the front of my classroom, reminded my students about the importance of education, and then continued with my lesson.

…they were teaching classes in the subways while bombs were exploding over their heads. That’s how important education is…

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I teach in Duke University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program and founded RocketBolt. I write about startups, pedagogy, entrepreneurship, engineering, and poetry. They’re all related, I promise.

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  • Giving a 3 hour lecture to a wonderful group of Chinese students from Yangtze University visiting @dukeuniversity. We’ll be taking about #marketing #sales #startups #entrepreneurship  #innovation #socialmediamarketing and lots of other stuff that’ll probably put them to sleep. 😴.
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P.S. It’s really hot in this room and we’re all sweating.
  • ‪“In a business, you can hire to solve almost any problem, but nobody can replace discovering the problem and finding the path toward solving it. That’s what an entrepreneur does.” ‬- Sam Fox, a brilliant young #entrepreneur and @dukeuniversity alum who came back to talk with my @dukeinnovation capstone class about his journey into healthcare innovation.
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#entrepreneur #startup #innovation #healthtech #healthcare #guestspeaker
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A special thanks to my new partner in #failure, @star.gould, for jumping in as my #learningtofail co-teacher. It’s going to be a fun semester.
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#startup #startups #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #innovation #highereducation #highered
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#innovation #entrepreneur #marketing #mystudentshateme
  • Snuck into the back of today’s @dukefuqua Program for Entrepreneurs kickoff event. Maybe if I attend enough classes I can convince someone to give me a free #MBA 😁
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#p4e #entrepreneur #startup #entrepreneurlife #freeMBA
  • I’m hosting today’s @dukeinnovation “Lunch & Learn.” I’m talking with my colleagues about #socialmedia and trying to convince them to take it seriously, so I made them take a group photo for me to post.
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In related news, doing this kind of thing is why I’ll probably never get #tenure
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#entrepreneur #startups #lunchandlearn #mycolleagueshateme
  • Today, I lead the first meeting of a @dukeinnovation faculty committee about creating a methodology for teaching #entrepreneurship that can apply to any type of #venture.
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Mind you, by “lead the meeting” I mostly just mean I was lucky to be in the same room with an amazing group of #scholars and #entrepreneurs who didn’t need any help from me to have a fascinating debate about how to accomplish a nearly impossible task.
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But at least I got to take a picture from the head of the table 😁
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#mycolleaguesarebrilliant #innovation #entrepreneur #wholetmein
  • Brought my daughter with me to watch my @dukeinnovation students graduate. She got to see dozens of examples of the kind of person I hope she becomes: brilliant, kind, thoughtful, articulate, talented, caring, confident, and really good at producing high quality work despite a propensity for procrastination 😁
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Thanks, #duke2018 #graduates for making me love going to school every day. I hope your journeys beyond @dukeuniversity take you into jobs as amazing and rewarding as mine.
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#graduation #innovation #entrepreneurship #classof2018 #bluedevils
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No more #homework. Now it’s time for the #realworld.
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#duke2018
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#innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship
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The students had to convince their friends to bring food, and they earned points based on how many calories they got delivered to class.
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Lots of cookies and candies. But the winner was the student who convinced his friend to deliver 30 pounds of flour. 🤣
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#innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #startup #ldoc #partytime
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In related news, I heard a report from a campus tour guide that dozens of prospective students and their families were continuously being solicited to buy absurdly expensive candy during their campus visits.
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What a strange coincidence. Must have been someone else selling candy today, too...😒
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#innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #sweettooth #collegevisits

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