I realize that blogging has gone the way of Groupon…. a very useful trend that had its heyday a good five years ago and is now preserved by semi-tradiitionalists, people like me who in their impulse to blog, are too verbose to tweet and yearn for the relative simplicity of the past.
I know I get nostalgic, especially when I reflect on what it’s like to teach during this ever so brave new world of digital madness.
I decided to become a teacher in the pre-internet age which was a good seven years BCE (Before cellphones existed).. I was sitting in a history class that I was on the verge of failing (ergo why I switched my major to English) and despite my lousy grades, I was so impressed that someone could be as passionate about teaching 19th European history as I was abut cheering for Larry Bird. I turned to my classmate and said, I think I want to do what he does.
My friend laughed, one of those incredulous chuckles. “Oh yea, well, you better start getting used to long weekends in the library”.
As I recall, I did not spend long weekends in the library, not unless there was a ton of snow and no one to play squash with. But I do remember that during my few periods of determined studying, my only bona fide distraction was a walkman (yes a walkman) on which I listened to the occasional game or alternative music mix tape.
It wasn’t until the internet was already past its embryonic stage that I actualized my plan to be a classroom teacher. But since it was still the 90’s, I can fairly accurately assert we were still in the analog age. Even when I was doing student teaching for middle schoolers, miscreants whose attention span was just slightly longer than it takes to munch a foot long from Subway, if you taught a good lesson and varied the instructional mode, you could more or less keep their attention on you and the material. In fact, there were a few eager beaver learners who seemed disappointed when the bell rang. In the evenings, my grad school teachers imparted valuable wisdom and my peers were full of rich suggestions for dynamic lesson plans.
Fast forward to the sweet spot of the digital age. I have a few hours of classroom teaching and tutoring experience. And despite watching an excessive amount of tennis and reruns of the Ali G show, my brain still “functions ” effectively. Most days, it seems I’ve gained a pearl of wisdom or two. Regardless , I know the nuances of teaching, when to lecture and when to turn the reins over to the students. Given a little bit of time, I can even create interactive, multi platform lessons. And best of all for maintaining a scholarly atmosphere, I mainly teach “adults”.
So during any given week, the seeds are planted for optimal teaching and learning. For the purpose of this blog, lets say my situation speaks for a large swatch of teachers who work at similar levels or age groups. And picture this, you have prepared a fantastic lesson that includes discussing the film The Big Short, creating a simulated activity that shows what was going on behind the scenes, even brought in examples that reflect similar activities in each of their host countries. Plus you have had your morning Joe.
…Except there is one minor impediment…
There stands a wall so large that not even Donald Trump could build it, a force field of interference so powerful not even the North Koreans could disable it. I feel it would be an insult to your intelligence to even spell it out. I’ll just use a few of the images. The adults and most of the teenagers caress, fondle, whisper sweet nothings and listen to its every utterance. Given the proper preparation and condiments, they would likely devour it whole. They can do the circuit training of swipe, punch in, press, upload, tag, send, log off, press and mute with their eyes closed.
And then there is the sobering side. Who is on the wrong side of the fence here? Or rather, who is on the wrong side of history? Is it Team Analog, within which we struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time, those of us who either paid attention most of the way through or fell asleep in class? Or Team Digital, able to rent an apartment, sell a couch, upload two pictures to Instagram, “poke” a friend, learn a new idiom and tag themselves in a post all in a single breath? Perhaps this is TBD, but we know which team is having more fun…
Still, team Analog is convinced that team Digital is losing out. That one day they will wonder why it was worth maxing their ICloud storage space when they could have been focused on reading The Alchemist or analyzing highly relevant op-ed articles from the New York Times. Team Analog is still convinced that one day these millennial behaving adults will be asked to spontaneously recite a verse from a Robert Frost poem and panic because they can’t get Wifi.
Team Digital, meanwhile, thinks Team Analog should wake up and smell the coffee, or if not, at least upload his Groupon purchase using a mobile app.
As I continue teaching to the underinspired, I steal a glance at my phone. I wonder if it’s okay, if it is suffering the pangs of childhood neglect (after all, he is just six months old). All alone on a naked side of the desk, with no one to talk to… oh well at least he is getting fed, legions of group messages and emails…. And then I wonder if I am ok, separation anxiety has not fully set in, but it might soon if I don’t stay focused on explaining the difference between selling a stock short and merely buying at a low price.
My students, on the other hand, need not ask such frivolous questions. They have pictures to tag, texts to send and condos to buy. Besides, their maternal instincts are much stronger. They know better than to leave what is apparently, a very needy child, all to his lonesome.