Monday, November 19, 2012

Making Connections

Common Ground
Finding common ground with our students and peers can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. It takes a great amount energy to learn personality types, find common interests and quite honestly be around others that are the complete opposite of ourselves. This is part of life however and great leaders, teachers, schools and communities will rise to this challenge and work hard to create relationships that allow them to be successful.

Classroom Connection
Making connections in the classroom with students is something every teacher works on daily. Walking into a classroom and observing a teacher who connects with each student is truly amazing and takes a special person. A high school teacher in the AJUSD where I work, shared an e-mail about her experience with her son while waiting in line to purchase Halo 4 recently.  I wanted to share her experience as it really sheds light into a world of technology that is just one more way to make connections with many of today's students.

Last night I got to spend seven lovely hours with a subculture of humans in a context that I had never been in....I got to camp out in front of  a Game Stop in a line filled with mostly male teens (and some not so young) with my youngest son waiting to buy the new version of a computer game which came out at midnight (we didn't get our copy until 2 AM)..  I fit in with these "gamers" as perfectly as a biker would at a knitting contest. I have seriously never ever played a computer game (unless you count PacMan in the 80's a couple of times). These typical kids like we see everyday, which we have to drag information from and shove motivation into, were gabbing (yes, actually communicating with expressive tones) for the entire seven hours! They were talking about the new game coming out, the new uniforms on the characters, the battles they had fought, the strategies they had used and were planning to use, the levels they had gone through, the goals they had for the new Halo 4, the expectations they had, the disappointments they'd experienced with the last Halo, the manner in which they would change the game if they were the designer, the gamers they had "met" on line, the best gamers, the worst gamers, their "battlefield" experiences, the planets they had visited, the weapons they would design...and on and on.....there were a lot of words and concepts in there that sounded like total neologisms to me.  The words "giddy with excitement" kept coming to mind... However, it hit me that this was their world.  I was being allowed a peak into it.  Then my brain cells must have started functioning again because I started to realize the potential that was in front of us as educators. If these kids were asked to write, debate, publicly share, design, create, explain, read about, plan, goal set or ANYTHING involving their computer games, I KNOW they would do an amazing job's my thought to any of you out there who are struggling to reach some of those kids that don't really seem to have much to say or couldn't care less about the subject matter in class or couldn't care less about anything at all.....maybe you want to try approaching it from a gaming standpoint???  Go into their world for a little bit and see what's in there.  I was truly impressed with the critical thinking that I was hearing while in line but I do think it is worth a try....and as educators, trying strategies seems to be what we do everyday to try to reach some of these kids.

Melissa Mel
Special Education Teacher
Apache Junction High School

At the end of the day we all know relationships will determine how successful we are in the classroom with our students. Finding common ground through the gaming world is just one way, but a different way that often we as adults my overlook or dismiss. Being an educator involves being in touch with what our students are doing outside of the classroom and we must explore their world. I leave you with a quote from Ms. Mel, "Go into their world for a little bit and see what's in there".