I remember being a kid on Summer break. By the second week of June we were hot and bored. Mostly back in the late 70’s the neighborhood kids and I got together and spent our time amusing ourselves playing games.
We played tag with all the endless variations: There’s TV tag. Right before you get tagged you can get immunity by shouting the name of a TV show currently on TV. But, you can’t repeat a show that’s been called out. There was freeze tag where you were stuck in whatever position you were tagged in. And Statues was another fun variation kind of similar to Freeze Tag. It was way before Madonna and the Vogue rage, but it was the same basic idea. You had to strike a pose if you got tagged. The only way to become un-frozen was for someone to crawl through your legs. (This was slightly uncomfortable at times as I was a pretty petit little thing and the neighbor boy weighed three times what I did. God love him for always unfreezing me, though.) I recall playing Snake Tag where, if you got caught, you held on to the hand of “it” and continued making a long chain of people until there was only one poor shmuck (aka the winner) left.
We played “Red Light, Green Light” and “Mother May I,” and my personal favorite, “Simon Says.”
I love Simon Says, and I loved being Simon because I am, by nature, bossy and like to tell people what to do. (Also why I became a teacher) But I also enjoyed being a player because it was a challenge. I had to listen carefully, follow directions, and be smart so I didn’t get tricked into taking my pinky finger out of my ear when Simon didn’t say.
When I think back on it, this was probably one of the most significant games of my childhood because of those simple life lessons that it taught me.
Listen carefully: How many times in life have I “lost” something because I have failed to listen carefully to another person?
Follow (sometimes complicated) directions: Obviously this has numerous practical applications. All through high school, college, and graduate school I had to be careful to follow a teacher’s directions to complete assignments. Sometimes I thought those directions are dumb, but a lot of hoops that we have to jump through in this life are dumb, but we have to do it anyway. If you can’t think of any examples you should see an earlier post I did on the DMV and my doctor’s office.
Then there are the other “directions” I have to follow, like recipes. When I first got married and I could only cook ramen noodles and chocolate chip cookies from a refrigerated tube following a recipe was really important.
And even now in many social and work situations there are specific “directions” that must be followed. Unfortunately, though, these directions are occasionally not articulated and if you aren’t careful then you can get called “out” by dissing the wrong person or making the wrong suggestion on a committee (See HF’s coffee committee debacle)
And, finally, the game taught me to Be Smart. There are a lot of people out there who want you to believe everything you hear and everything you read. Unfortunately, too many of us Americans do just that. We adopt ideas before thinking critically about what they are or whether they are even valid. We form opinions with few facts, and basically we blow wherever the wind takes us.
As I come to the close of another school year and the time to grade research papers, it becomes clear to me that many of my students must not have played Simon Says or learned any of these lessons. It’s painfully clear that they have listened to little of what I’ve been saying all year. They don’t seem to be able (or is it willing) to follow directions on how to set up a paper using MLA style, and too many of them reveal through the contents of their papers that they have neglected to think critically about their issues.
I know that it is the end of the year and students are especially prone to “Senioritis” or “Schoolitis,” but I can’t help but feel a little bit disheartened at some of the results of the hard work I’ve done all year. I can only hope (and suggest) that this summer they all spend some time playing Simon Says.