Ethos Education

The 100-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared: Listen and Learn

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Assembly Objective: 

  • How can we best show respect and tolerance as we communicate with others? This assembly explores the Bible’s teaching that we should have open ears and open hearts.

Film:

  • The 100-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared, (StudioCanal, 2014, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Bible:

Supporting Values Education:

  • To show Respect and Tolerance we must listen to other people and be willing to accept them for whom they are.

OPENING ACTIVITY

The Impossible Problem (drama)

Download the Impossible Problem Script pdf for use with this activity.

  • Prepare three actors to perform the sketch The Impossible problem. If you can find some suitable music to use as a theme song for the television programme in the sketch, arrange to have it played at the beginning and end. Using theme music, particularly at the end of the sketch, will be a great help if you are able to do so.

Communications Race (game)

  • Ask for a number of paired volunteers to come to the front (or arrange in advance for a suitable number of contestants). Send one volunteer from each pair to the back of the room, and then quietly explain the task. You are going to give a message to the volunteers at the front of the room, and they have to communicate it to their partner. You could give each team a different method of communication to use (see the list below), or just allow each to do whatever they want. If you choose to give them a free hand, you might want to specify that they aren’t allowed to just run over to their partner and tell them the message face to face. Select a simple sentence as the message, such as ‘Teachers make great communicators’, or ‘One mouth to speak, two ears to listen.’
  • Possible methods of communication:
    • Shouting across the room.
    • Miming out the message.
    • Writing the message down and throwing it.
    • Going over to their partner and telling them the message face to face.
    • Giving the message to someone in the audience of the assembly, and asking them to pass it on to the person behind them, repeating this process until it reaches the partner.
  • It is up to you whether you make the task harder by encouraging the audience to cheer the contestants on or by playing loud music while the game takes place.
  • Once you have finished the game (with or without a winner!), explain that today’s assembly is all about communication, which isn’t always as straightforward as we might want it to be.

Means of Communication (something to think about)

Download the Communication Means PowerPoint for use with this activity.

  • Explain to the students that over the years, humankind has developed all sorts of different ways of communicating with one another.
  • [PowerPoint slide 1] Symbols
  • [PowerPoint slide 2] Writing
  • [PowerPoint slide 3] Semaphore
  • [PowerPoint slide 4] Telegraph
  • [PowerPoint slide 5] Telephone
  • [PowerPoint slide 6] Radio
  • [PowerPoint slide 7] Email
  • [PowerPoint slide 8] And finally, good old shouting

FILM CLIP

  • Play the clip from The 100-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared (StudioCanal, 2014, certificate 15)
    • Start time:       1.05.34 (in chapter 7 of the DVD)
    • End time:         1.07.21
    • Clip length:     1 minute and 47 seconds
  • The clip starts with Allan (Robert Gustafsson) scraping up some snow and putting it in a tin cup. The first line is ‘And the food there, well, the feed it was terrible.’ The clip ends with Allan saying, ‘Herbert, forget it.’
  • The clip shows Allan trying repeatedly to explain his escape plan to Herbert Einstein (David Shackleton) – Albert’s ‘idiot brother’ – who proves completely incapable of understanding the crucial role that Allan intends for him.

Talk

Download the Communication 100 year old PowerPoint for use with this presentation.

Scripted Talk

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Several years ago there was a sketch on a television show. A boy arrives in a French teacher’s classroom and starts to pass a message to the teacher. The teacher interrupts: ‘Non. En Francais.’ The boy struggles to translate his message into French and after several false starts and corrections from the teacher he finally manages to pass on his message, which was: ‘The school is on fire. Everybody out.’
    • It can be hugely frustrating when you aren’t able to get across what you’re trying to say. The fault doesn’t always lie with French teachers; sometimes we don’t express ourselves clearly, making it harder for other people to grasp what we’re getting at. Of course, there are other reasons for failures in communication, as this film clip shows.
    • Allan is a Swedish citizen who has somehow ended up in one of Joseph Stalin’s concentration camps, or Gulags. In this scene, Allan has decided to escape. His friend Herbert has a vital part to play, and here Allan is explaining the plan to Herbert. Unfortunately for Allan, the film has already established that Herbert is the idiot brother of Albert Einstein. Let’s see just how much of an idiot Herbert is.
    • Show the clip from The 100-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared:
      • Start time:       1.05.34 (in chapter 7 of the DVD)
      • End time:         1.07.21
      • Clip length:     1 minute and 47 seconds
    • The clip starts with Allan (Robert Gustafsson) scraping up some snow and putting it in a tin cup. The first line is ‘And the food there, well, the feed it was terrible.’ The clip ends with Allan saying, ‘Herbert, forget it.’
    • If you are unable to show the clip, say, ‘Allan comes up with a plan to escape, based around the fact that none of the guards ever question Herbert Einstein when he’s in the wrong place, because they are so used to him getting lost and confused. The problem is, no matter how hard Allan tries, he can’t get Herbert to understand that he needs to go to the laundry and steal two sets of guards uniforms. Eventually, after months of repeating himself, Allan gives up.’
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • Allan had a plan to escape. It was a good plan, and it needed help from Herbert. But Allan couldn’t communicate his plan: he explained it over and over again, but Herbert just didn’t understand, so Allan gave up on his plan to escape the Gulag. Where was the problem? Was it Allan’s fault for not explaining well enough, or was it Herbert’s fault for failing to understand?
    • Clearly, in this instance the problem was that Herbert – Albert Einstein’s idiot brother – was too much of an idiot to grasp even simple instructions. In this instance it wasn’t Allan’s fault, and it wasn’t even Herbert’s fault. Communication broke down because one party couldn’t make sense of simple instructions.
    • But sometimes when communication breaks down, the problem does lie with the one receiving a message. Sometimes it isn’t that we don’t understand, it’s that we don’t want to understand. We’re not willing to listen, to open our minds to what someone is trying to explain. More and more in politics we see politicians arguing across one another, neither side actually engaging with the other’s argument, just sticking to the sound bites they have worked out in advance. [If you used Opening Activity: The Impossible Problem, refer to the failure of the two chat show guests to engage seriously with one another’s arguments].
    • Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The problem of people closing their ears and their minds to ideas isn’t a new one. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah describes something very similar:
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • To whom can I give warning? Who will listen when I speak? Their ears are closed, and they cannot hear. They scorn the word of the Lord. They don’t want to listen at all. Jeremiah 6:10, New Living Translation.
    • The implication of ‘their ears are closed’ is that the people Jeremiah is talking about have closed their own ears. As he says himself, they don’t want to listen at all. Sometimes we decide in advance that we’re not going to listen to what someone has to say. They can explain their point of view ‘till they are blue in the face, it won’t make a blind bit of difference – we know what we know, and that’s the end of the matter. We’re not willing to consider that we might be mistaken and someone else might know better than us. We’ve stopped listening.
  • [PowerPoint slide 4]
    • If anyone is still listening to what I’ve got to say, let me put a challenge to you: don’t dismiss anyone’s point of view until they’ve had the chance to actually explain it to you. [click] Listen carefully, and think clearly about it and make up your own mind. At worst, everyone will at least understand each other a bit better even if they still disagree; at best, you might discover a new insight into the world and how it works. You might even discover something that changes your life. Thanks for listening.

Headings and Bullets

Download the Communication 100 Year Old PowerPoint for use with this presentation.

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Sketch on television show:
      • Boy arrives in French teacher’s classroom with message.
      • Can’t give the message until he works it out in French.
      • Eventually passes on message – ‘the school is on fire. Everybody out’.
    • Not being able to communicate can be frustrating.
      • French teachers aren’t always to blame.
      • Sometimes we don’t express ourselves clearly.
      • Sometimes there are other reasons.
    • Introduce clip
      • Allan is a prisoner in one of Stalin’s Gulags.
      • He explains his escape plan to his friend Herbert.
      • Herbert is an essential part of the plan, but is also Albert Einstein’s ‘idiot brother’.
    • Play the clip
      • Start time:       1.05.34 (in chapter 7 of the DVD)
      • End time:         1.07.47
      • Clip length:      1 minute and 47 seconds
    • The clip starts with Allan (Robert Gustafsson) scraping up some snow and putting it in a tin cup. The first line is ‘And the food there, well, the feed it was terrible.’ The clip ends with Allan saying, ‘Herbert, forget it.’
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • Allan’s plan couldn’t work, because he couldn’t communicate it.
      • Herbert couldn’t understand, so Allan gave up.
      • The problem wasn’t that Allan did something wrong, it’s that Herbert couldn’t understand it.
    • Sometimes communication breaks down because someone doesn’t want to understand.
      • We often see politicians arguing across each other.
      • Repeating sound bites, not engaging with arguments.
      • Refer to Opening Activity: the Impossible Problem if you used it.
    • Not a new problem. Old Testament prophet Jeremiah describes something similar:
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • To whom can I give warning? Who will listen when I speak? Their ears are closed, and they cannot hear. They scorn the word of the Lord. They don’t want to listen at all. Jeremiah 6:10, New Living Translation.
    • The people Jeremiah is talking about have closed their own ears.
      • They don’t want to listen.
      • Sometimes we decide in advance not to be convinced.
      • We won’t consider that we might be wrong, so we stop listening.
    • [PowerPoint slide 4]
      • A challenge, if anyone is still listening:
        • Don’t dismiss anyone’s point of view until they have explained it.
        • [click] Listen and think carefully, then make up your mind.
        • At worst, everyone will understand each other better, even if they still disagree.
        • At best, you might discover a new insight.
        • You might even discover something that changes your life.
        • Thanks for listening.

RESPOND

Prayer

  • Dear God, thank you that you are a God of truth and a God who communicates. Help us to make the effort to listen to people and ideas around us, to be open-minded and thoughtful and to work hard to discover the truth for ourselves. Make each of us a force for greater understanding as we live our lives in your world. Amen.

Reflection

  • How open-minded do you think you are? When someone puts forward a point of view that you don’t agree with, how much effort do you make to understand their argument before dismissing it? How much thought have you put into the things you believe? How open are you to the possibility that you might be wrong and someone else might be right?

YOU WILL NEED: 

  1. The 100-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared, (StudioCanal, 2014, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.
  2. Impossible Problem Script pdf.
  3. Communication Means PowerPoint.
  4. Communication 100 year old PowerPoint.
  5. Suitable theme music for the Impossible problem sketch.

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