Arrow. Knee. You know the rest…

As a rule, I don’t like it when bloggers start out by apologizing for not having written anything in a while. So I won’t. [1] So here’s a post about what I’ve been up to in the past… while.

No, kitty, that's my sweet roll. BAD KITTY!!

When Skyrim came out, I took one look at it and said, “Nope. This would be an unimaginably bad idea.” I know myself well enough to know that if I got into a game that immersive, that complex and that malleable in terms of how its played and how involved the player can be, it would come to dominate every bit of free time that I had. Any creative or otherwise productive thing I had going would no doubt wither away like an old fruit, left on the tree for far too long until it was nothing but a shriveled husk, good to no one.

I also knew that it was inevitable that I would play it eventually.

And I was right.

It’s a game that gets into your head and just sits there, taking up as much space as it can. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a lot of fun. There are so many different ways to play it, the world is mapped out and written to an amazing level of detail, and I will never – never – get tired of lurking in the shadows and clearing out caves of bandits with flaming arrows. That’s just more fun than I should be able to have.

But of the game itself I did eventually grow weary. At a certain point, your primary skills are too good for most enemies to challenge you, but those enemies will break you in half if you try to confront them using your less-fleshed out skills. So, as a sneaky archer I could wipe out a coven of necromancers in no time flat, but if I tried to work on, say, my destruction magic instead, they would have me for breakfast. Literally.

I seem to like the non-hominids. The implications are terrifying.

What this means is that I did eventually stop playing. I’ll go back to it, I’m sure. I have a skinny little Argonian lined up for future adventures. But it probably won’t be for a good long while.

The other thing taking up time, of course, is work. The new school year started last week, and that’s always exciting. Here’s a little fact for students: your teachers are just as nervous about the new year as you are. We don’t know who will be in the classes, what the dynamics will be, what the skill levels will be – all we can really do is plan our fingers to the bone and hope for the best. To borrow an old military aphorism, “No lesson plan survives contact with the students.” Once you’ve met everyone, then you can start figuring out what will actually work for that given class, and hope that you can find the best way to teach them. It’ll involve some trial and error, but that’s part of the adventure.

This makes perfect sense to me.

Things are off to a good start, though. I mainly teach first year students, fresh out of junior high school, and that’s a really interesting opportunity. It’s a chance to help them set their study habits and their learning methods early on, so that you don’t have to break them down again in the years to follow. Some of them are still eager to learn and be part of the class, although it is about the time where that teenage ennui sets in and the last thing they want is to be seen actually enjoying something that isn’t sports or pop culture. Starting from the first class, I try to get them to understand what I want to achieve in the class, and what I expect from them, in as clear and simple a way as possible. We’ll see if it works.

Pictured: Not a valid assessment technique.

As an aside: one of my teaching bugaboos is when students don’t understand things, but don’t tell me that they don’t understand. As if I can mind-meld with them and find out what they’re having trouble with. Often, they’ll turn to their classmates, but there’s no guarantee they can help either. So I spend time during the first couple of classes going over the basic comprehension phrases with them:

    Could you speak more slowly?
    Can you say that again?
    What does ~ mean?
    I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

And so on. Every year I try to get them to understand how very important this is to their learning, and this year my phrase is this: “If you do not understand me, then I have failed.”

Not entirely true, of course. It could be that they weren’t paying attention, sleeping, chatting with friends, thinking about football practice, whatever. But I’m giving this strategy a shot in the hopes that its novelty will catch their attention. Teachers are supposed to be the ones who know everything, the ones who are In Charge. The idea that a teacher could fail might just reduce the intimidation factor just enough to allow them to ask for help when they need it.

Or not. We’ll find out.

Other than that, though, life is life. My mother sometimes expresses frustration because we don’t email often enough [2], but she knows that it most likely means that everything is copacetic. Not every day is worth a blog post or a phone call or a long, drawn-out email. That’s what Twitter is for, and I’m pretty quiet even over there.

If, on the other hand, North Korea actually gets a missile that works, you’ll be hearing from me in no time flat, don’t worry about it. And I have a few ideas for some more blog posts that don’t amount to, “Hey, so I haven’t written a post in months…” [3]

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[1] Except that I just totally did.
[2] And I’m sure she’s not the only one.
[3] See what I did there?

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