If you have been anywhere near a teacher in Illinois, you know that this past week was ISAT week. A week in which students take multiple tests daily to measure how much we, as their educators have taught them. It is hard for me to explain to them why, exactly, they should do their best on these tests, particularly for the eighth graders, whose high school placements have come and gone, but I try. Many of my kids struggle- the linguistically modified version of the test does not appear to be particularly modified, and my people all read below grade level. It is stressful. But that's not really what this post is about- I'm trying not to dwell on the bs I can't change. It's a new thing I'm doing. I'll let you know how it works out.
testing weeks, the students test in the morning and the rest of the day
is truncated. The students are fried when they leave testing. Different
teachers do different things with these slush days. Some show movies
related to the curriculum. Others (like me) give a bigger, long term
assignment for the week and lots of work time, so that the students can
proceed at their own pace. However, on the Friday after testing, you can
always find my students and I doing one thing: playing games.
my kiddos didn't grow up in the United States, they are missing some
crucial experiences with Americana. They've never felt the sheer joy of
bumping another pawn while delivering a sarcastically drawn out "Sorry."
They've never agonized over which home to purchase in Life. They've
never tried to cheat and use words creatively in Scattergories, or tried
to figure out whether a classmate would deem Albert Einstein or bees
are more cheerful in Apples to Apples. They don't know how to trash
talk. I would bet none of them have ever threatened to flip a board game
in sheer anger over the outcome of a game.
is, when I stop to think about it, that I'm not sure how many "real"
American kids have these experiences any more, either. Yes, my husband
and I adore playing Monopoly on the iPad (it's fast! it does the math
for you! you can auto mortgage), but in doing so, we miss out on the
experience of actively plotting against one another. Of calculating and
recalculating what to mortgage just to strategize based on the
intricacies of the other's game. Games on the iPad feel cleaner, so the
trash talking by extension becomes more clinical. Minimal. Cold.
I'm nostalgic, but when I think back of visiting my grandparents, we
always played real honest-to-goodness playing cards. One of the few
memories I have of my paternal grandfather is him teaching me how to
play chess, slowly. Thoughtfully. Deliberately. Kev and I still play Gin
Rummy at the highs and lows of our lives: everywhere from on our
honeymoon to waiting in the doctor's office for scary news. When you are
sitting and looking your opponent in the eye without turn timers and
with literal objects with which you can defeat them, you gain an
experience of shared joy and triumph that playing the same game on an
iPad or tablet may not offer. It's more personal. You are more invested
in the outcome because you've really seen every reaction to your moves.
we play. I get to appreciate my students in new and different lights.
Turns out, the girl who cheated on a major test last week is a strategic
whiz kid at Sorry, who can beat me handily twice before I even get one
piece out of start. The quietest kid in my room is the best at reading
people, and always collects the most green Apples to Apples cards. It
might not help these peanuts pass the ISAT, but I'll fight hard for the
opportunity for an occasional "brain break" any day. Playing a
physically present game allows them to present their thinking to me in a
whole new light.
Plus, sometimes I get to kick their butts.