Never let it be said that I’m a perfect and infallible teacher – because that’s simply never going to be the case. We, as educators, are always under construction and learning every day as we teach. For me, a moment like this occurred a few weeks ago. I wrote this the day of through a twitter thread and then went to work on expanding it and exploring it in a deeper fashion. Check out the thread and then come back for my full draft of my memoir.
We’ve been doing quick writes to build a reserve of ideas for our memoir unit. Yesterday I made the move to temporarily ban using @FortniteGame as a subject in my student’s quick writes. Needless, they were less than thrilled. My reasoning was to have them dig deeper. The game is a very accessible subject for them (that’s a good thing), however I was (and remain) concerned that using a moment from the game for their memoir will leave them struggling to write an effective and dynamic memoir. Mind you, I play Fortnite as well. But the quandary is this – compared to other subjects/events/moments – can they extrapolate the experience into a strong memoir with a solid “So What?” that carries weight and impacts the reader?
I’m currently sitting in the “probably not” chair (I’m still not sure where I stand on this subject) but I will say this – I did my own quick write where I talked about @BethesdaStudios’s Skyrim and the first time I played it when it was released. I wrote about how I hadn’t really played video games since high school – which was back in 2001. Skyrim hit shelves on November 11th, 2011. I wrote about the moment when the music and the opening scene played, I felt something shake loose within me – that old gamer was awakened once more. As I created my character I began to insert parts of my identity into the character but there were other elements of the story that I was telling through my choices that were unique to this character. I began to tell my own story through the game and invest my time and creativity into carrying the story through the DLCs. This sparked my interest in @WWEgames. I created my own wrestling superstar character in those games. Mr. DeLay became “The Professor” – he was part me but also, he was something else – a muscle bound force for good in the squared circle. Taking a stand against the bad guys or “heels” in the ring. He was teaching them the lessons they needed to learn. He was the part of me that I’ve always wanted to be – the good guy or “face” who took on the evil in the world and stood his ground. He’s (The Professor) had all kinds of costume changes over the years and his entrance has continued to evolve but he’s always come back to his teacher roots – standing for what’s right and showing others how it’s done. So, that moment where I clicked on my PS3 and Skyrim filled the grainy box TV – it’s a significant moment in my life. I now have over 100 computer games via @steam_games. I found @dragonage and played all three games. I explored the @FarCrygame series. I fell in love with gaming all over again. And it started with that first day in the land of Skyrim and those first steps of my journeys.
I’ve told one story, but there are so many more to be created. Such is the power of games with role playing elements in them like Skyrim, or Dragon Age – you can become the story and write new history with each playthrough. For me, The Dragonborn story helped me see the great things that video games can offer. What can others imagine or create? What can our students build? There are few limits within these worlds. Perhaps this is the way we help a student see the power of writing stories – that they can come from anywhere, even from a flickering screen of a video game. When they begin to work on their memoirs it should be a thing of freedom, of open fields, and a blank map. There shouldn’t even be a predetermined key with restrictive requirements that hinder the expansive creativity that simmers just below the surface of the student. Sure, there’s an end point – the memoir must be written and it must be turned in for evaluation. But how the student gets there should be less “this way or that way” and more “your way”. A tough lesson to learn for a student teacher, but an important and necessary piece of being a successful educator is being a lifelong learner. I’ll be remembering that each morning when my classroom is empty and waiting to fill with the minds and ideas of my students.