A regional Chamber of Commerce developed a Stay-in-School program where area businesspersons would attend after school programs at local Middle Schools and talk to the students. They talked about their careers and encouraged the students to stay in school and get their diplomas from High School plus additional Career Training or College Education. The after-school students were considered at-risk students since both parents worked, and the students would be at school until 5 or 6pm every school day.

I joined the Speakers group, and over time I spoke at every area Middle School for several years. I was given a nicknamed by the students and teachers as “that NASA guy”! Normally there would be three teachers and 20 – 40 students. I spoke about graduating from the local university and working with NASA for 26 years on the Apollo/Saturn moon rocket (getting my fingerprints on the moon) and the Space Shuttle. Then I would ask the students to promise me that they would develop a “Life Plan” committing to staying in school and getting their High School diplomas plus additional Career Training or College Education.

Next, I would ask the students if they knew the meaning of the word “anomaly”, and usually no one knew. I told them I was going show them a 2-minute video of rockets launching and the flight would end abruptly by a spectacular explosion. Immediately, I informed them that no one was in the rockets and no one was injured! I told them to listen carefully to the people describing the rocket launch and only one time would they use the word “anomaly”. Now here is the part of my presentation that I loved the most. I would ask the students when they hear the word “anomaly” to shout out anomaly as loud as they could. Immediately the students would turn and look at the teachers with a BIG smile on their face, and the teacher would silently smile back!

After the video I would ask if anyone thought they knew the meaning of anomaly now. Most would guess explosion or problem. Then I explained that anomaly had two meanings – one was problem and the second was “deviation from a plan”. NASA had a plan to put something in orbit, but there was an anomaly – a deviation from that plan. What would NASA do? Find the reason for the problem, fix it, and try again. I told the students that sometimes they will have an anomaly to their life plan – get a bad grade on a test. That was just a deviation from their plan to graduate from High School. They could find the reason, fix it, and do better on the next test. The best compliment I ever received was a student came up to me as the other students were leaving the room, and he asked me when I was coming back to talk again!


Have you ever been in a position at school where you purposely gave the students permission to “misbehavior”?  If so, what was it and what was their reaction? Please share with us by replying below.