“Technology interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” –Steven Spielberg
My principal wants an email identifying any students who should move up a level next year. My supervisor wants me to log-on and complete my PDP, my SGOs, and sign off on my evals. Parents email questions about why their son got a zero (because he didn’t do the assignment) and how to cope with a B (celebrate? take your child out for ice cream? stop being crazy?). My document camera won’t focus, my classroom speaker constantly hums, the lights in my room shut off every seven minutes unless my students do aerobics. My phone buzzes incessantly.
I am ready to unplug from it all.
So this summer, my plan is to unplug entirely (or nearly) and in doing so, free up a bit of my brain for something better. Whether your summer is totally open, or you are working another job, I hope some of these help inspire you. In the process we might all be reminded of some lessons we want to (re)teach our students come fall.
1. I’m going to shut down technology entirely
Phones are hijackers–one minute you are enjoying a hammock and a cool breeze and the next you are lost in a terrifying world of emails and updates. I’m vacationing to a place this summer that has no wi-fi or cell service. Sometimes just cutting the cord completely is the way to go.
Lesson for Students: Don’t let your phone dictate your life. You don’t always have to count likes, or check to see how many people re-tweeted your tweet, or get your hair just right for a Snapchat. Sometimes you can just relax away from all the social pressures of social media.
2. I’m going to shut down the technology intermittently
Okay, realistically not many people are going to hide in the mountains like I am this summer. And I’m sure I’ll be connected during parts of the summer, so in this instances, I plan to use airplane mode. I will pick certain hours of the day when I won’t respond.
Lesson for Students: Phones ARE part of our daily lives, but they can be a corrosive force if you don’t control them properly. Set boundaries. Decide to look at your phone deliberately, and put it away just as deliberately because there is value in down time.
3. I’m going to go old school with a book
I know that a Kindle or a Nook will allow me to take unlimited books anywhere without any hassle, but I still love the feel of actual pages turning. I love the slightly musty smell of cheap second hand books promising escape.
Lesson for Students: Holding a book can be better than reading a digital copy. Doing so involves more of your senses as your hands feel the texture of the page and you inhale its scent. Real books are lovely things to pass from your actual hand to a friend’s actual hand. Watch their eyes light up as you tell them about why they must read it.
4. I’m going to seek out low-tech entertainment
I get the appeal of playing a little X-Box during free time, but most of the games are breathless endeavors that require total concentration. This summer I plan to switch it out for boardgames that can be managed right alongside conversation and eye-contact.
Lesson for Students: This is not a dead art, or something just for little kids. Whether it is the mysterious strategy of Go, or the sociability of cards, these games inevitably lead to greater interaction and conversation than their online counterparts.
5. I’m going to listen to Steven Spielberg
I plan to think, daydream, and imagine something wonderful about teaching. Too often the school year leaves us breathlessly running from classroom to classroom, wading through grading, or checking off administrative tasks. Once I disconnect a bit, I plan to actually have time to think about the next year. This will reinvigorate me and get me ready to go in the fall.
Lesson for Students: Thoughts and dreams and imagination need quiet and a little room to breathe. Technology is a wonderful addition to life as long as you keep it in check. Running rampant it can make your brain a cacophony of noise that risks drowning out the voice inside of you that is most important to hear.