Game on.

Get Ready Pac ManGreat conversation the other day: student in my “struggling” reading comprehension group reminded me once again that many kids aren’t necessarily “bad” readers, but not motivatedto read. We had a few moments just to talk about what we were reading, a topic at hand, a bird-walk, so to speak, and he and I discussed a high-level, critical analysis about: games.

We talked about the genres and analyzed the varying classification of the wide variety of video/computer games. (The student sent me this link, by the way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_genres) Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about this very same topic, in the context of  deep critical analysis of World of Warcraft. I know – many of you (teachers) are scoffing or rolling your eyes. (By the way, eye rollers – grow up.)

What is fascinating to me is this question: why are we humans participating and practicing in the worlds that yield no results or product?

Or do they?

One Alpha game that has come on the scene in MineCraft.  MineCraft scares the snot out of me, and I’m not sure why. Our Robot Overlords are busy working on enslaving human productivity and time to create Lego-esque worlds and kill zombies. When I can find the link to the article, one enterprising young man went as far as to create a world, a virtual world, that ran on its own “red dust” electrical power. Can you say “Mr. Anderson?”

Another virtual world is obviously Farmville.  Millions of Facebook users work diligently on this (distopian) commune,

We all have burning questions, and it is job 1 for teachers to help students identify and recognize those questions and motivations. We are given low basal readers for checkpoints and reading strategy instruction. I have a certain amount of buy-in and fear. The fear comes from the thought of NOT adhering “with fidelity” to the “system” somehow any failure or lack of progress of my students will be squarely on my shoulders. Which, it would be. If I can honestly report that I kept the program in its inherent and intended form, then perhaps that will shield me from any negative results.

A term my husband has been using recently is “emergent behaviors.”  The context he uses this in is the explained best just by thinking of ways that humans, animals, forms and functions do or create the unexpected.

The words that come to mind when thinking about the activities of these types of games far exceed the simple, violent FPS label:

1. Resource management

2. Professions

3. Product and Productivity

4. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality: Elitism and bragging rights (talk to anyone who’s flying around on a Onyxian Drake.

But what even scares me more is the next generation of “games,” and this puts the word “generation” in a different context. Both the same student and my husand informed me of this little AI darling, who is programmed to make moral decisions based on squishing, or not, snails: Milo, the Computer Boy.

Think I may be sick.

Now, I must also write this: While we are so busy creating fake boys and girls, and getting fake jobs, and getting fake results, we are neglecting our real boys and girls. Student informed me the other day: “Mrs. L, did you know the band member of KISS are Jewish?” Reponse: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Follow up: “And did you also know they had to wear that make up to hide from Hitler during the war?”

Lost boys.

Lost Boys in Peter Pan

An e-mail yesterday informed the staff that big changes are coming for our schedules; apparently, the number of enrolled students has significantly exceeded the estimate, and there will be a big shift to our schedules, classes, number of students, etc. I appreciated the ‘head’s up, the flare, the notice, and the loud FORE before the incoming is lobbed toward my bare noggin.

But again, it’s not about me. My preparedness or planning is only as effective as its intrinsic flexibility and responsiveness. Sometimes, many times, I long for a normal, set schedule. My sons’ school district has had the same schedule since they started in kindergarten. For my older son, that is eleven years of consistency. No amount of reading intervention, no new programs, no surprises. There are blue days. And there are gold days. Blue days are music. Gold days are PE/Health. It alternates on Fridays. Teacher workshop days are on Fridays, adhering to NCLB requirements. That’s it. The district has maybe shifted boundaries once or twice in the past eleven years. Maybe.

Since I’ve been in my district/school, the schedule has been different each of the five years. The programs have changed almost quarterly. The data has been presented constantly, and yet now, the data I really need isn’t available from the state. So much for informing my instruction.

There is no magic needed here (as much as I would love to pull a rabbit out of a hat, or turn someone into a newt)–it’s simple. Kids need safety. They need boundaries. They need consistency. If we never show them that the world can be a safe place, a place to take risks that are creative, a place where the world will help care for them while they grow and thrive, a place where time to learn and time to play are one and the same, then why, oh why, are we so surprised when they don’t know what’s due? What’s missing? What’s lost? What’s forsaken?

But I’m not hopeless or helpless. Recognizing that a Wendy-archetype needs to step in, with her polite mannerisms and threaded needle to patch and mend what others tear may be required. And even though it’s far more fun to be Tinkerbell or Peter, someone’s got to make sure there’s an adherance to bedtimes and behaviors. I’m finding my adult voice again, and transitioning back home. Change in a schedule? Fine. In the meantime, I’ll be guiding the lost boys and girls to a home in their hearts, or at least trying my best. Even the skunk boy.

Satisfied.

 

Alice Quote

How do I know I’m mad, indeed? Well, I keep coming back for more. I am tired, I am somewhat exhausted, and I smell smoke; a sign of potential burn-out. Too many voices in the forms of e-mails, tweets, blogs, push-back, cattiness and manic, agenda-fueled piracy. Leave me alone. I’m fading out and leaving only an enigmatic smile behind.


 

But lately I’ve been thinking that true satisfaction, smug, self-reliant satisfaction, is possibly the best option for sanity. Or survival.


 

The other day I just got so teary. Voices I respect are telling me I don’t have the right to be tired, or telling me I am not being professional if I’m feeling exhausted. I realize it’s ‘only October,’ but I need to find my reset button. I haven’t been teaching that long, to be sure. I am not a veteran or old war horse. This is only my fifth year; I counted up the number of students I’ve had, and it’s close to 800 collective souls. They came in waves of years, each class thinking they are the only ones who have tried a trick on me, or been disrespectful with their special, unique brand of sass, or proudly waved their illiteracy banner, or alliterate masthead, of “I hate to read! Ha! Now try to reach me! I’m falling through the cracks, and you can’t reach me…neener neener neener!”


 

Everyone is working their fannies off right now. And at the risk of sounding like an entitled, whiney, unprofessional teacher, there are many colleagues who would testify on my behalf that I have done and given more than my fair share. I have spent hours creating meaningful, relevant, and engaging curriculum–nights, weekends, planning time, mornings, vacations — you name it. I have neglected balance and health in my own life to ensure I am “prepared.”

It is with some sense of satisfaction that I can dutifully and happily report that all the hard work is paying off, that I am reaping the educational harvest I have sown. Lots of creative lessons, on-line, technologically integrated lessons, rubrics and checklists galore, along with the big questions and the targeted assessments.


 

So why the frown, clown?


 

The half-lit thought of change has crossed my mind. I don’t really want to teach anywhere else, though. What I do want is for you, my friends and colleagues, to tell me how you keep things fresh, avoid burn-out, and still maintain strong, foundational instructional practices for all students? I remind myself that even though that even though this may be my 786th student, this is Student #786’s first time in 8th grade.

We are all balancing families, friends, health, happiness, and hope. Maybe seeking satisfaction isn’t the answer. But a little more peace and creativity sure would help.


 

Waiting for Superman? Nah. Lois Lane already had a life before he showed up.

 

Mrs. Love’s terrible, no good, very bad day.

Ah, human failings.

Why are the Japanese trying to invent/perfect a robot teacher? Perhaps to avoid teacher days like the one I had last Friday.

Changes in schedule, random bells, anxious students, pep assembly, discipline, and longer class times with no “bio” break for anyone, and falling apart, crackling, splitting headache…

I don’t really give a toot about the Oprahs, Bills, or Arnies. They have “people” who have “people” who take care of those things for them, and when their schedules don’t run as they desire, heads roll, I’m sure.

But when it’s my big mouth, my tension, and my attitude, who controls those but me?

And sometimes I just don’t have that control.

So, to all my students who not only pushed my buttons, but broke the safety glass and set off the alarms to do so on Friday, I still wish I had risen above, gone beyond, and taken the high road.

But I didn’t.

And I’m sorry.