Six Word Slice of Life: Keyboard Symphony

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: We’re winding down an essay project on inventions. The other day, as every student in my entire class was working hard at moving from rough draft to final draft on the laptops, I noticed the sound of fingers on keys, clicking. When it’s just you, alone, you may notice the sound of your own starts and stops. When it’s a classroom of 20 sixth graders, the rhythm of writing takes hold in interesting ways, as a sort of collective writing symphony.

Six Word SOL Symphony

Peace (make writing into music),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Reading Days

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: It was a typical March day here in New England. Drizzling rain. Some sleet. A cold that seeped into the bones, staved off by tea and coffee. A perfect day to get some deep reading done. Which I did. Lots of it (Finished Magnus Chase: Ship of the Dead, and Vinyl Me, Please, and started Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8.) It was great.

Six Word SOL Reading

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: The Neighborhood

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Last night was our annual gathering of the Neighborhood to celebrate with a Winter Blues Party, full of food and raffles and laughter. A new subdivision off the main neighborhood in recent years has really expanded the number of neighbors, and babies!

Six Word SOL Neighbors

Peace (in the hood),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Make Music

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: I had yesterday off, due to the snow in the higher elevations of our school district. The rest of my family did not. That meant I had time and space to write and record some music here at home.

Six Word SOL Make Music

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: All-Star

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Six Word SOL Track Star

Context: My high school senior son was presented with the coach’s Most Valuable Player award at his Indoor Track Team’s ceremonies last night, for being a leader on the team and for volunteering to do events, and then excelling at them, to help his team win. (He now holds the school record for Long Jump, even though he is a relay sprinter).

Peace (and pride),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Eleven Years and Counting …

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays — and many join in to write every day in March for the Slice of Life Challenge — about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This is the eleventh year of the Slice of Life March Challenge, and I guess I’ve been here since the start, thanks to an invitation from my friend, Bonnie, to write. I’m not committing to writing for Slice of Life every day this March. I’m not quite feeling it, for whatever reason.

Part of this reluctance to sign up and commit is that what used to be a small writing community of teachers has become a huge writing community of teachers. Which is great. Wonderful. Amazing. All those teachers writing? Magical. Yet I miss some of the regular, sustained interactions among a small group of folks. I feel less in the flow. Maybe that’s the natural course of things over time.

It has nothing to do with the fine folks at Two Writing Teachers. With a handful of projects underway and some regular writing in a slice-like vein on Mastodon, I’m feeling like I have my writing time covered.

But maybe I say this every year (I think I do, in some form, hedging my commitment) and then find myself writing a Slice every day anyway. Just, no promises, I’m telling myself.

So … eleven years ago:

  • My oldest son was 9 years old. He was in fourth grade. He’s now in his second year of college. His is a fleeting presence in our lives for much of the year — he’s not a big on one regular contact from the parents while he’s at college. He’s still making movies and producing media.
  • My middle son was 6 years old. He was in first grade. Now he’s a high school senior, contemplating where he wants to go to college next year. We just found out yesterday that all four of the schools he applied to have accepted him and offered him some scholarship money. He’s stressing about the decision as we try to keep him calm and centered.
  • My youngest son was 2 years old, in preschool. He’s now in seventh grade — in the heart of our city’s middle school year, juggling the different social terrain of being a budding teenager. Lately, he’s been writing and producing music. It’s been interesting to watch that talent develop.

Eleven years from now … who knows where we will be …

Peace (slicing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: I’m Tall(er)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays — and some do every day in March for the Slice of Life Challenge — about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It was the end of the day, yesterday, the first day back after February break. All the kids were looking tired. I felt it. We were waiting by the door for the bus kids to be called. Walkers and pick-ups had already gone.

“I feel tall,” she said, looking at me. “As if I grew over the weekend. I think I did. I think I got taller over the weekend.”

“Can you dunk?”

“What?”

“Can you dunk at the hoop? How about the ceiling? Can you touch the ceiling yet? I bet you’re tall enough for that.”

She smiled, and shook her head at my absurd reaction.

“Mr. H.”

“Try on your tippy toes!”

“Mr. H!”

Her voice contained exaggerated exasperation, the result of our light-hearted give and take that has been going on since September at the end of most days, waiting for the bus announcement, as if Godot might be arriving at any moment. Beckett would have approved of the absurdity of most of our end-of-day conversations.

Then.

“Really, though, everything looks … different … and I think it’s because I’m taller.”

I nodded, now in serious agreement. She did seem taller, if only in perspective. The speaker announced the busses, and she certainly walked a lot quicker than I remember.

Peace (in the look),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Gaming the Gaming System

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I am always impressed when my students find new ways to “hack” or game a system. Last week, one of my students created a new video game in Gamestar Mechanic that everyone in the grade began playing. Not because it is a good game or a fun game or a challenging game. In fact, quite the opposite.

The game is called Spam Enter, and as soon as you hit play, you win the game. Hit replay. You win again. Again and again. No, the “game” my students were playing, which began with one or two kids and soon became a viral challenge across classes, was to help the game achieve more than 10,000 plays.

This morning, when I looked, it had more than 13,o00 plays.

One on hand, it’s nonsense. This means a bunch of kids were just hitting replay on the computer. They were. And it was rather funny, as kids had their fingers on the return button of their computer keyboards while holding conversations with each other about the coming vacation and the Olympics and such.

On the other hand, they saw the activity as a way to game the Gamestar System, to see what would happen if a single game suddenly got thousands of plays. One student starting telling others to rate the game high. Their informal plan was to move the game into the Gamestar Mechanic featured game section of what is known as Game Alley.

Did it work? I don’t know. But they keep hitting play.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Meme Walks Into the Classroom

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Most mornings, we have a Circle of Power and Respect in our sixth grade classroom. It’s a version of Morning Meeting, aimed more for older students. At this point in the year, I have my students lead all aspects of our morning.

One element of Circle of Power is the initial greeting, and there are all sorts of variations of activities that one could do, and I encourage my students to invent their own way of saying hello to every students in the classroom community, and making sure everyone feels welcome into the day.

The other day, the student leader — a bit of a goofball who straddles the line between serious and goofy on a regular basis — told us that the way we would greet each other is with the phrase “Do you know the way?”

Or, as he pronounced it with exaggerated emotion: “Do you know de wae?”

I did a little double-take because as soon as he said it, there was a lot of laughter in the room. I had never heard the phrase, but I could sense immediately this was some sort of online joke, video, game or meme that was outside my field of vision.

I had three options as teacher at that moment:

  • I could say, find another greeting, but that seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to youth culture
  • Stop everything and search online, but that would have gummed up the morning meeting time
  • Ask for more information, which I did

The student told me the phrase was from a game that became a meme, and he assured me it was not inappropriate for school. I decided to trust him, and the phrase of “Do you know de wae?” made its way around the circle.

Later, I immediately went into Know Your Meme, a database in which memes are deconstructed and traced back to their origins. According to Know Your Meme, the “Do you know de wae?” and found that it originated from a character in a Sonic the Hedgehog game called Uganda Knuckles.

From Know Your Meme:

Ugandan Knuckles is the nickname given to a depiction of the character Knuckles from the Sonic franchise created by YouTuber Gregzilla, which is often used as an avatar by players in the multiplayer game VRChat who repeat phrases like “do you know the way” and memes associated with the country Uganda, most notably the film Who Killed Captain Alex? and Zulul. The character is associated with the expression “do you know the way”, which is typically spoken in a mock African accent and phonetically spelled as “do you know de wey.”

The meme has gone in all sorts of strange directions.

There have been accusations that the meme has racist overtones, however, with the pronunciation in fake African accent and may be built upon African stereotypes. Roblox, a very popular gaming platform site, apparently even banned the character from its server games because of concerns about negative stereotypes.

After talking some more with my students about using the meme, now that I had some information to speak from, I realized that they were not even aware of the racist possibilities. They were just amused by the funny character who repeats the same ridiculous phrase over and over again. Still, a discussion helped frame the meme, and I haven’t heard it in the classroom since then.

I did ask my own 13 year old son when I got home that same day if he had heard of the “Do you know de wae?” meme. He goes to a different school in a different community, with a different crowd of kids, and he immediately knew of the meme, too. (A year or so ago, we had a long discussion with him about using Pepe the Frog and he was startled by the how the far-right had appropriated that meme for its own dark purposes.) Needless to say, he immediately knew the meme and said many kids in his school were saying it in the hallways, as they moved from lockers to classrooms — sort of as a directional sarcasm of the school-day experience.

All this goes to show the cultural power of memes and the difficulty we adults have in understanding their stickiness, never mind the origins and the mad rush of social sharing across platforms. Memes often are part of the language of youth, even if they don’t always comprehend the underlying cultural appropriations and potentially negative messages embedded in the memes they use.

Peace (meme-ing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: You Call That Cheating?

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I live in the heart of New England, surrounded by New England Patriots fans. Yesterday was a somber day in the classroom. Many tired eyes following the defeat in the Super Bowl to the Eagles.

I’m no Eagles fan. Neither am I a Patriots fan. I am, alas (this year, anyway), a New York Giants fan, and my students know this. (They also know I am a Yankees fan, which is a kind of blasphemy here in New England but I stand proud in the storm).

The first student to arrive yesterday is my most competitive. He has often has trouble shaking off events from recess. He’s an athlete, a star football player. He came in shaking his head.

“They cheated,” he mumbled as he passed me, and I could see it was a phrase he probably had on his mind since the game ended the night before. “The Eagles cheated.”

He looked at me, calculating that a Giants fan could not be an Eagles fan. Surely, he was thinking, I’d agree with his post-game analysis. He was looking for affirmation.

“Don’t you think the Eagles cheated in the Super Bowl, Mr. H?”

He was looking in the wrong place.

“Nope. Nobody cheated. There were some … interesting plays, but the Eagles won, fair and square. They outplayed the Pats. It was a great game to watch.”

This quieted him. For a second. He clearly didn’t want to hear me. When another student, another athlete, came in and said, “They cheated,” the first student echoed, “I know. They did. Right?”

Which led to a discussion in our Circle of Power morning meeting about sports, and competition, and losing gracefully, and being humble when winning, and a reminder of how we are moving into our annual Quidditch season at our school, where bragging and accusations of cheating and more between classes and students will not be tolerated.

I thought I reached them, with some perspective on fandom and sports and maybe a view of the biases of reality that exist in favor of those ideas which we already support (ie, my team lost, therefore, the other team cheated). But, maybe not. As the class was moving out the door, I could hear the conversation going again. “I know, right? Even the refs were in on it.”

Sigh.

Peace (need not be competitive),
Kevin