The bell rang. I walked into my room. My students were playing video games. The horror! I stood there, an invisible force in the universe that doesn’t matter much to kids playing video games.
“Oh, hi, Miss.” The game resumed.
“Um, I was hoping to have class today.” Ignored. “As in…stop playing video games and work on your project?” We were doing research projects on time travel. Quarks, wormholes, eras in history, “McFly?” I wanted to say “Anyone, anyone, Bueller? Bueller?” I’m a generation past anyone who would understand.
“So, could we start?” One more subtle hint.
“This is for your class. We made this game.” I stepped in closer. “I had to ask a kid for help because this is my first game, but I’m learning. Is it okay if this counts as the last project?”
I have a reputation for being flexible with assignments. The original project was pretty easy–spell your name or something like that. Instead, these kids wrote a video game. “Yeah, I said, “that’ll do.” It would more than do, actually. These guys rallied an entire class behind their project.
“What’d we get for a grade?” They showed me game’s features and how it related to our class. They said they might make an app. The grade, I thought, was irrelevant but since everyone wants to be defined by a number, I made one up on the spot.
“I’ll give you 100. Or maybe 98, so you’ll have two points to work for on the app.”
Lesson learned. The kids I was about to have sit down wrote a video game for my project. Eventually, when all their peers had seen, the class fell into order again. Although I guess it wasn’t ever out of order if I consider learning and inspiration.
I returned home from school. My work-avoiding six-year old rushed to the homework chair taking out chunks of papers. He was writing a story. The story was four pages, “so far” from a kid who judiciously conserves lead and time by writing no more than a sentence or two.
Today’s question, “Tell about one of your favorite Dr. Seuss books.” He picked The Lorax. He was telling about the trees, the characters, saving the universe–we feel very strongly about conservation in this house. That prompt hit a nerve.
“Without trees, you can’t breathe, Mommy.” He was going to tell his teacher all about it. That story is currently eight pages, and still emerging.
“Mommy,” he said. “I’m a little tired of writing. Can I take a break?”
Can you take a break from work that isn’t required? “Yes, buddy, you can take a break. The best writers take breaks. Even Hemingway.”
“Even Dickens? And you, Mommy?” I’m honored to be put in the same sentence as Dickens, his favorite. He hasn’t read Hemingway yet. And he just called me a writer! I’m honored. Next step, Pulitzer.
“Yes, even me.”
I make dinner. He takes a break. Then he pops up on the chair and bangs out another page.
“We’re keeping this story, Mommy.” I tell him I will keep and treasure it.
I’ll keep that video game, too. It’s on my desktop awaiting Version 2 currently in production. I’m going to play it again because I’m not very good at video games like my students. They’re much better.
They’re much better…
That’s my goal. To produce kids who are better than me. Who are inspired. Who work because they want to, not because the grade matters. If I lived in a perfect world, that’s how I’d measure them.
I look at my little boy scribbling about the Once-ler. I know he didn’t do his math at school today because he was so intent on his writing. I’m glad his teacher didn’t yell at him.
I think of my students watching their peers show off their game. I’m glad I didn’t yell at them, either.
This is what learning should look like.