Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I have a dream.

Today in eighth grade we talked about the character of Abraham Lincoln. In a non-fiction selection called “Peculiarsome Abe” the students read about how everyone thought Abraham Lincoln was odd because he liked to read and learn so much. A great discussion ensued centering around the things they, as teenagers in the twenty-first century, do to fill their time. Unsurprisingly, these things centered on television, video games, and computer games. To be fair, many of them mentioned that they enjoy playing outside or with their friends as well, but in the reality of winter, they aren’t able to play outside or with their friends all the time…thus resorting to the technological conveniences mentioned above.

This, as stated before, isn’t a surprise. But it is still disturbing. After the class had tallied hours of TV watched in a week (average of ~15) one student asked me how much I watched. I told them I didn’t really get television, just fuzzy reception. I qualified that with the ability I have to get television off the internet, but that even with that I still usually watched less than 5 hours a week. One student, an unlikely one, responded “You are lucky.”
“Really? Why?”
“Because it’s not even available. It’d probably be better if we didn’t have it as an option.”

I’ll be the first to say that technology is amazing. I love a well-crafted movie or some down time watching a clever sit-com. Cell phones are remarkably convenient. The internet makes being a nerd infinitely exciting (as does ITunesU) and communication so easy. All that acknowledged, my dream would be to ditch all of it for a while…take all my students into the wilderness (in a properly chaperoned fashion) where they went without cell phone, television and internet for a month—even just two weeks would do. There we would read books and play board games and wander the wilderness. There we would take turns preparing meals, have thoughtful conversations by firelight and go on walks in the morning sunlight (or rain).

I know this is idealistic. I know that the students would be at each other’s throats in a week’s time or less. But at least when it was all said and done they would know that they could in fact exist without texting every hour, updating their facebook every evening and keeping up with their multiple television series.

If there is one thing I love about being poor it is the simplicity that comes with it. There isn’t television ready to be consumed any more than there are packaged snacks. There is the necessary, the planned, the prepared…nothing more.

Someday my life won’t be this simple, and I will relish large purchases of gum, cheese and lime flavored tortilla chips. I may pay for unlimited texting and television someday as well. I hope my students experience this simplicity someday with appreciation instead of frustration. Until I find that cabin-in-the-woods curriculum, I’ll continue to try and indoctrinate them with my agenda-filled discussions, hoping that someday they will pause a moment longer before consuming their favorite technological convenience, or maybe opt against consuming it at all.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My History of Falling

Running through the snow this afternoon I only slipped once. It was at the bottom of a hill as I prepared to turn a corner. As I shuffled for balance and arched my back in an attempt to maintain my composure I took a deep breath when I came to a stop. Victory. I had not fallen.

I thought of my history of falling as I finished my run home, running at a fraction of the pace I’d normally carry on dry ground. I smiled knowing that it didn’t really matter how far or fast I was running, after all I run because I want to. I’m not reporting to anyone.

Back to the history to falling. As my fingers regained their circulation, I began to remember all the times, occasions, circumstances and instances of falling. I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember certain repeating situations.

First, I learned to cross country ski my sophomore year of high school. I took it up because I couldn’t bear running all winter. It was also the pastime of many a good runner in the state. I also really like being outside. Anyway, learning to cross country ski involved a lot of falling. A lot. So much so that it was a year and a half before I made it through any day of skiing without falling. This included racing. I fell going uphill; I fell going down hill. I fell skiing quickly, slowly, straight and around corners. I fell close to people, into people, onto people, in front of people and all by myself. I fell on poles and broke them. This reminded me of falling in first grade at a roller rink when I broke the arm of Mrs. Morrisey. She was the mom of my friend Rebekah.

Second, I have had weak ankles for most of my life. Doing balance drills my junior year of college solved most of this problem, though I still wipe out once in a while. My most memorable locations for falling as a result of weak ankles include my high school hallway, the main hallway of Jackson High School during passing period (while there for field experience), in front of the entire 8th grade on the second day of school last year, and on the corner of 25th and Cleveland Ave while running. That was definitely the worst one. I scraped my knee open, and my chin, and my hands. I stumbled around for several days after because the scab on my knee made it difficult to bend my knee.

I also fell down the stairs at school last year. They were wet; I was in a skirt and heels. It was picture day which always leads to a day of lost productivity and distraction, both of which put me in a foul mood. The fall was the last straw…well, that or the fact that my phone broke in half in the course of the fall. I couldn’t use my right arm the next day because of the strain it took from holding onto the railing as I fell.

Last, but not least, I have fallen twice while running races. The first was in Kodiak, Alaska when I was a sophomore in high school. I was pushing for the lead and tripped and face planted in front of Curtis’s coach (NOTE: Didn’t know Curtis or his coach at this point). He started running toward me. I jumped up and kept going, as much as out of embarrassment as anything. I finished dirty and in second and distressed. The other racing fall of my running career came my very last cross country race. I face planted in the mud once again…and lost a lot of time and momentum. At that point I was used to falling, and relatively unsurprised. It’s not like it was the first time. :)