WTF? What’s That For?

A couple of months ago, I had a birthday. It wasn’t one of those birthdays that people consider BIG, but when you’re my age, I guess just making it to your next birthday is a big deal. Birthdays remind you that you’re still alive…at least for a little while longer.

Anyway, with this birthday, I began thinking back to my school years…which by the way, ended about a million years ago—at least according to the middle schoolers. As I closed my eyes, images started tumbling through my mind—things kids today would never understand—things even new teachers wouldn’t understand. For years, technology stood still…and then, within the last few years it exploded. Nothing is the same, not the way we access and share information, the way we read books, or even the way a toilet flushes…up for number 1 and down for number 2…or better yet, the thinking toilet. “I’ll just figure out when you’re done with your business and flush for you. Who cares if you’re not done and your butt gets a swirly?” I don’t have to climb stairs or walk down a long hallway at the airport, and I don’t even have to type messages on my phone. (Siri and I are tight.) Heck, my car even tells when if I’m going to ram into something when I back up. It also tells me to take my hands off the wheel when I want to park. (Even my car’s figured out that I need “old people” help.)

So, with that being said, I thought I would share with my middle schoolers what school was like when I was a student. Their responses were priceless. I laughed…and then I cried. I didn’t realize how old I had gotten!

Here are real student responses for WTF…What’s that for?

Filmstrip projectors: “What? Seriously, the pictures didn’t move? What good is that? It’s like staring at a bunch of photos. And you had to turn the crank yourself? Wow! I bet that sucked!”

Reel to Reel Tape Recorder: “Whoa! Don’t tell me you had to carry that thing around when you wanted to record something. Are you serious? How stupid is that? You could hurt yourself!”

Paper Lunch Tickets: “No way! You had to carry a small piece of paper with you to lunch every day, and they would punch out a number so you could eat? How would you ever keep track of such a small thing? What moron came up with that idea?”

Dittos: “What do you mean they smelled good? Paper doesn’t smell! Why would you smell paper, anyway?”

Desks with lids: “Are you kidding me? The top of the desk lifted up? How stupid is that? Every time you wanted to take something out, you’d open the lid and all your crap would fall on the floor. That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

Bomb Drills: “Wait! You mean to tell me that you practiced getting on the floor and sitting under your desk in case a nuclear bomb hit the school? OMG! Which government official came up with that brilliant plan? You’re a goner one way or another! What a waste of time!”

Dick and Jane Books: (I read them a section of a book.) “Really? That’s what kids read back then. ‘Come, Spot, come!’ That’s about as interesting as reading the outside of a toilet paper wrapper.”

Paste: “You’re telling me it came in a jar and you spread it on your picture with a STICK? And you loved the smell and some kids even ate it? Gross! Just gross!”

Butter: “What are you talking about? They scooped potatoes on your plate and then used an ice cream scoop full of melted butter and dumped it on top of the potatoes? That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.”

And the list went on and on: opaque projectors, overhead projectors, reel to reel film projectors, fat crayons, etc… They couldn’t see how anything about how my school life was even remotely connected to theirs. They viewed my school experience as boring and archaic.

“Well,” I stated, “the thing is, when you have kids, and you tell them about your experiences in school, they will think what you had and did was stupid, too. They’ll say things like ‘What do you mean you hid your phone in your Ugg Boots?’ or ‘You had a what? A Smartboard…and it ONLY did what?’“

They couldn’t let it go. “No way, we live in the age of technology. We’re on the cutting edge. The stuff we have won’t be outdated for like 40 years or so.”

“Exactly,” I spouted. “I was 13 years old 40 years ago…and those were the things we had. So, when you’ve been out of school for 30 to 40 years, your children will say the same things. WTF? What’s that for? They’ll think that everything about your life was outdated and boring—not to mention, just plain stupid.”

Silence followed. Then one little boy in the far back corner said, “Geesh, Mrs. P, did you have to walk to school…uphill…both ways? Did you have to cut your own stick to dunk in little jars of ink? Did you have twelve kids who rode in a car without seatbelts, sitting on top of one another? Did you get a nickel once every two weeks for your allowance? ‘Cause that’s what my great grandpa said his life was like…so maybe you didn’t really have it so bad!” A few students snickered!

I stood there in deep thought. Maybe not. I guess we all see how different our lives were than the current generation. With advances in technology, that is the way is will always be. Younger people will claim their life is so much better…or maybe not. Maybe simpler was better. I mean, I don’t want to go back to pounding my clothes with a rock at the edge of a stream or force my brother to wear tinfoil on the top of his head while holding the antenna just so I can watch the Partridge Family, but I would like the back-up camera on my car to stop caking-over with mud on rainy days. And I’d really like Diane, the voice on my navigation, to quit mispronouncing my last name.

And so, even though the kids made me feel old…really old, I have come to believe that the Beetles knew what they were talking about when they sang, “Oo-bla-dee, oo-bla-da, life goes on, oh, la-la-la-la, life goes on.” Life will go on; things will change, and I will continue to ask my son stupid questions about technology…like, “The little cup holder on the side of my computer is stuck. Can you come over and get it out for me?” And he will tell me the same thing for the hundredth time, “Mom, it’s not a drink holder. It’s a disc drive.”

Oo-bla-dee! Oo-bla-da!

Fat/Phat Teacher,

Mary

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