We Hope Player Six Shouted “Q”

, , , , | Learning | August 19, 2019

(I’m at a winter youth retreat for middle-schoolers. We’ve started playing a simple word game; the first person says a word, the second person says whatever word first pops into their head in relation to the first, the third repeats the pattern, and so on. We’re on our second time around the circle.)

Player #1: “Star.”

Player #2: “Astronaut.”

Player #3: “Space.”

Player #4: “Time.”

Player #5: “Continuum!”

(Everyone stopped to laugh. By far the most memorable combination I’ve heard while playing that game!)

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When In Doubt, Be Kind

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 18, 2019

I work at a public elementary school in an area characterized by opioid addiction and homelessness. I am working closely with one particular student who I know is experiencing homelessness. He lives alone with his mother, who is neglectful and borderline abusive. Whenever he says something about it I send in a report, but there’s nothing I can do beyond that. The school social worker visits their home regularly and is working with his mother on being more present, but I don’t know if that helped at all.

Additionally, though he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he shows many characteristics of autism and is frequently bullied by his classmates. We have been working together all school year on social-emotional health, finding ways to control his temper and articulate his emotional needs. He has been making incredible progress all year.

For one of our sessions, I decide to play a text-based computer game with him that simulates living in poverty. You have to balance work, rent, health emergencies, and other situations on a very limited budget. In the game, you have a child, and various scenarios regarding your child appear throughout the game; for example, your child is in a play, and you have to choose between going to the play and accepting an extra shift at work for some bonus money.

My student chooses the options that would best benefit the child, every. Single. Time. Even if it costs more money than he can realistically afford, he is so invested that he wants his imaginary child to have the best life possible. When we finish the game, he turns to me and says, “I’m a good dad.”

I still get choked up thinking about this child who had every reason to be angry at the world, but still chose kindness every. Single. Time.

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The Swag Bros Are Dead, Long Live The Swag Bros

, , , | Learning | August 15, 2019

(I am a student teacher at an elementary school. It is the end of the school year, and as a reward for turning in their homework every week, my partner teacher has me take a group of students out for an extra recess. We get outside and I notice two of the students, a pair of boys who are best friends, standing by the fence, crossing their arms, and bopping to some unheard tune.)

Me: “What are you guys doing?”

Boy #1: “We’re the Swag Bros!”

Boy #2: “We just dropped an album on YouTube and it already has seventy million likes.”

Me: “And this is… your swag dance?”

Boy #2: “Exactly.”

(I continue patrolling the playground. A few minutes later, I see that the boys aren’t playing together.)

Me: “What happened to the Swag Bros?”

Boy #2: “We broke up. The Swag Bros are no more.”

Me: “Oh, no, that’s so sad!”

(Not long after, I see the boys back together, along with a third boy. All three are doing the weird crossed-arms dance in unison.)

Me: “What’s going on here?”

Boy #1: “The Swag Bros are back together, and now we have [Boy #3]!”

Boy #3: “We just dropped our new mixtape and it already has a million gajillion hits!”

(Long live the Swag Bros.)

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They’re Probably Right

, , , , , | Learning | August 10, 2019

(I am working at a summer camp. As you can expect, the campers regularly freak out over insects and spiders.)

Me: “Calm down! It probably won’t hurt you!”

Camper: “I love how you say, ‘Probably.’”

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Seriously Flipped Out

, , , , , , | Learning | August 7, 2019

As a child, I was fairly quiet, a bit of a dreamer, and fairly easy to upset. Thus, when my first-grade teacher asked to speak to my mum one day after school, Mum figured I’d probably just had a run-in with a more brash child, or skinned a knee, or something like that.

Not quite.

In class, we’d been discussing what we wanted to be when we “grew up.” The usual occupations were brought up and discussed — teacher, firefighter, policeman, ambulance driver — and then my teacher made the mistake of asking me.

I said I wanted to be a dolphin.

“Oh, you mean a dolphin trainer?” my teacher asked.

Nope. I wanted to be a dolphin. 

When I was informed that I couldn’t actually be a dolphin, I started crying. Attempts to persuade me that I could work with dolphins or by dolphins were to no avail; I was determined to be a dolphin and only a dolphin, and nothing else would suffice.

While mum admitted — years later — that neither she nor the teacher could keep a straight face when discussing “the dolphin incident,” she — and the rest of my family — still take great delight in bringing up my early career choices at every opportunity.

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