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Many Japanese speak English. But they do not think our thoughts. They worship at other shrines; profess another creed; observe a different code. They can no more be moved by Christian pacifism than wolves by the bleating of sheep. We have to deal with a people whose values are in many respects altogether different from our own.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

The Mission of Japan, 1937

Split Stories

Begin the class with a story. Making it gripping. Just as the story reaches a vital point, break away and go onto something else. Say you will return to the story if reminded of it at the end of the class.


There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.

Alfred Hitchcock

Reputedly, when asked how long he could keep a close-up of a kiss going on screen Hitchcock replied, "Twenty minutes, if the audience know there's a bomb under the seat."

Of course terror is the antithesis of a good learning environment but anticipation and curiosity make for good building blocks. By careful choice of story a teacher can make reference to an idea that will be key in the enfolding lesson. Then when concluding the lesson the end of the story can be used to drive a point home or provide something to reflect on.

Starting with a story is a good way of building focus. By stopping the story the teacher can divert that focus into something else. Incidentally, one source for stories is Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors

If at the end of the class no-one asks for the story the teacher has the choice of whether to remember the story and tell it anyway or whether to leave it be. In either case it is worth reflecting why the story was forgotten. Was it boring? Was the language used too difficult to understand? Or perhaps the lesson was so interesting and satisfying memory of the story faded away? Who can tell? You can.