Tag Archives: teaching

We Got Some ‘Splainin To Do


I just got done speaking to a couple of students.

Things are a little … tumultuous right now; in this country, in our school, shoot… in *life generally*. They hung around after the bell just to talk, to ask some questions, to vent… and I’m happy to be that for them. They obviously needed to talk to somebody. Heck, *I* needed to talk to somebody.

I came away from that conversation shaking my head. The older generation has so much to answer for with these kids. They have been robbed of so much, and yet they’re weathering the storm with so much more resolve and level-headedness than so many of the adults in their lives.

I often joke with them about how I’m glad I’m not a kid like them in the world we’re living in (even though it’s not actually a joke).

But the truth is, many of them don’t even get to be kids anymore. They got yanked out of that and plopped straight into adult problems, starting a few years ago, but especially here in 2020.

And even adults don’t know how to deal with 2020.

These kids have it worse.


Age of Crisis


So you know how you can sort of measure how old you are — what generation you belong to — by the first national crisis you remember? (For me, it’s the Challenger explosion — I believe I was six at the time).

Teachers play a similar game, except we do it with our students. For example, it was a rough day for me when I realized that I am no longer teaching anybody who was alive when 9/11 happened. My students these days had not been born yet — weren’t a twinkle in their parents’ eyes, even.

Which had me thinking … well … where’s their first crisis moment coming? These things roll around generationally, so one seems due.

And it hit me. COVID is their crisis moment. It just doesn’t feel like one.

Think of your moment. It’s just that, a moment. The Challenger going up in two pillars of smoke in the atmosphere. The Twin Towers coming down. The carnage at the Boston Marathon. (Smaller scale, but still nationally covered.) Lots of souls, tragically snuffed out in an instant.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster - HISTORY

With COVID, you can’t point to that moment. You don’t have that strong sense of memory burned into your brain, that piece of you that somehow always remembers I was sitting in the classroom, three rows back, when the teacher rolled the TV into the room and turned it on… Because COVID has been going for months. There is no moment.

But make no mistake. This is the moment.

Here in the ‘States we’re knocking on the door of 200,000 people dead from this thing. (Unofficial numbers are certainly staggeringly higher.)

Roughly 3,000 people died on 9/11.

COVID has given us as many deaths as sixty-six 9/11s, and it’s far from finished. Put another way, it’s giving us roughly one more 9/11 every 3-5 days.

A 9/11-level loss of life every few days.

How could COVID not be this generation’s crisis moment?

And we still have people in our country pretending it’s no big deal.

Maybe that is the real crisis moment.


Go Between


A student asked me to say “hi” to another student yesterday.

The student receiving the greeting is a student he had texted, from my classroom, only a few minutes prior — and one he would text again, later in the evening.

But he still wanted me to say “hi” to him when he came in the next day.

See, our school is doing this “hybrid” schedule where we essentially have two student bodies alternating days in the classroom, so if your last name begins with a B and your friend’s last name begins with a W, it’s entirely likely you may not see that student at school until January.

So now, like Juliet’s nurse, I’m passing greetings from one group to the other, relating stories of what happened on Monday to the classmates coming in on Tuesday… even though these kids are all in contact with each other at the jingle of a text message.

I guess there’s still something about the human contact. Something in the fact that even though they don’t see each other, they do still see me; they share that experience, at least, and that’s something. Kind of like knowing that your long-distance girlfriend is looking up and seeing the same moon hanging in the sky as you talk on the phone into the night.

Right before she hangs up on you and runs out the door with Todd.

WHY, SHEILA??


Air Bubbles of Happiness


I remember in the old-school Sonic the Hedgehog games, in the underwater levels (every game back then had an underwater level or six, didn’t it?), there was this great little mechanic. The levels were far too long to make it through on one breath of air (however long an animated supersonic hedgehog can hold its breath), so interspersed throughout the zone were little fizzing fissures that would occasionally burp up a hog-sized bubble of air. You’d jump into it, get a bubble-popping noise, and your little blue guy would have another lungful of air to press onward with.

The game design was great, too, there’d be a little number flashing next to his head to show you how much time he had left, and when the timer was almost out, the music sped up and got all panicky.

But you’d catch an air bubble, and it would sustain you until you could get back above water, or to the next bubble.

Or you wouldn’t, and you’d drown.

If Sonic Water Levels Gave You Lifelong Anxiety, You May Be Entitled to  Compensation

Anyway, in the few weeks since we’ve been back at school, I’ve had more than one student tell me that my class is the only thing making school enjoyable for them right now.

And I don’t tell them how much it helps to hear things like that, that I’m drowning, that the music is speeding up in my head and I’m panicking that I might not make it to the next bubble fissure.

But they tell me that, and I think of old video games.

My brain is weird.

(Edit: Turns out that anxiety over the Sonic the Hedgehog drowning sequence is a thing!)


A Quickie about Evolution


I teach theatre.

Because I teach theatre, I also teach a fair bit of psychology and sociology.

Because I teach a fair bit of psychology and sociology, I also teach a little bit about evolution.

Why, you ask?

Because it’s useful to know, as an actor, not only that a quick movement is more likely to draw the audience’s attention than a slow one, but to internalize the reason why (because we evolved, as all predators do, to zero in on movement). Or why the audience’s attention naturally shifts to the actor closest to them (because the person closest to you is the one who poses you the greatest threat — so it’s best to keep your eye on them). Or why it’s so important to use the body when telling stories (because we understood pantomime and gesture long before we developed language). Or any number of other curiosities of the brain.

And two things occur to me, every time I go down this road of teaching evolution in a theatre class:

  1. I am very likely teaching these students more about evolution than some science teachers ever will.
  2. There are almost certainly students sitting in my seats rolling their eyes because they have been indoctrinated to believe evolution is not real.

Both of which are pretty shocking. But because 1) is true, I think it’s vitally important that the kids hear it from somewhere. And because 2) is true, it’s important to expose kids to voices that don’t agree with them.

Plus, I just love to get on their nerves.

“Wait, I thought this is theatre — why’s he on about evolution?”

Because my job is to teach the whole child, kid.


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