Friday, January 14, 2011

You've Been Schooled

This week has been finals week at the high school where I teach. For the past several days, kids have been stressed over papers, exams, speeches, and projects. Teachers have been stressed about grading papers, exams, speeches, and projects. It's a time full of tension where none of us really seems to like each other all that much as a result of our stress. Kids are angry at teachers for having the audacity to expect them to complete work. Teachers are angry at kids for seemingly not retaining a damn thing over the course of 18 weeks. It's not pretty.

To help relieve that tension and celebrate the end of first semester, our Latin Club sponsored a game night last night. Our gym was transformed into the sort of magnificent Aladdin's Castle we could only dream of in our youth. Gaming systems ranging from PS3's to old school Nintendos were set up on giant screens. You could walk through our gym at any point last night and see Just Dance, NBA2K11, Mario Kart, Guitar Hero, and even classic Zelda being played by students and adults alike.

See, our Latin Club sponsor sent out a call for help chaperoning about a week or so ago. Several teachers (including myself) jumped at the chance to hang out for a couple hours and play video games under the guise of supervising students. As the night went on, I found myself over in a corner of the gym going head-to-head against kids in Guitar Hero. (I should mention here that I got versions of Rock Band as both birthday and Christmas gifts this year and have become addicted to that game!) Another teacher spent hours playing old school Nintendo with a freshman boy. My sis (who is in her 30's) discovered an addiction to Just Dance, as did several other teachers. There was something really tremendous about seeing students and teachers side by side engaging in this sort of fun and friendly competition.

Our faculty is a relatively young one. I'm pushing 40 and am likely on the older end of the age spectrum. We have a lot of teachers in their 20's and 30's, and that helps us, I think, build good relationships with a lot of our students. We can identify with our kids and understand them at many different levels. Does the fact that I can play Guitar Hero make me a better teacher or make my students better students? No, I'm not so naive that I can even entertain that thought for a second. What it can do, though, is help me find ways to reach my students and create working relationships that have a different level of trust and respect attached to them. I think back to the teachers I had in high school and how much older and more foreign they seemed to me (even though I realize now that many were younger than I am now). I can't imagine many of them taking on Just Dance or challenging me to Guitar Hero (had either of those existed in the 1980's). It kind of makes you think a little about how our culture has changed and old just isn't so old anymore. We don't look our ages; we don't act our ages ... and maybe that's not such a bad thing.

PS -- I actually wrote this last Friday, but my ability to post from work now is rather spotty now to the addition of hardcore filters that have deemed blogspot worthy of being blocked. I've found a way around this, but it is not always 100% reliable.

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