Returning home this week after my in-office visit to Santa Monica, I found myself moving at a snail’s rate as I ventured south on the 101 Freeway during rush hour. A poor move on my part, I know. But after a few minutes of frustration, I began to see this unfortunate situation as a sort of gift (I try to always be an optimist) as it gave me ample time to recall and reflect on a conversation I had earlier that day with 7 Generation Games’ CEO, AnnMaria.
Eager to learn more about my professional ambitions, she asked what I plan on doing following graduation. I told her of my interest in becoming a teacher, especially in low-income districts. Then in a truly Socratic fashion she asked, why? For a moment I sat there frozen, like a deer in the headlights. “That’s a loaded question,” I thought to myself silently. Where to start? The complete abandonment of creativity in our learning institutions? The boring and scientifically-neglecting* nature of our traditional lecture-based classrooms, where students are forced to sit quietly for hours while a lone teacher tries to capture their elusive attention? The unhealthy cafeteria food? Fortunately, this chaotic web of thoughts soon subsided and clarity finally ensued. Seeking a simplified answer to AnnMaria’s difficult question, I tried to recall my recent experiences both as a student and a youth mentor. I then started by telling her how students’ unique talents and skills are too often marginalized by our archaic education system. Indeed if a student’s talent is not measurable on any standardized test, it is not encouraged, nor is it recognized and related back to any classroom material. I then explained that by entering this environment, I hope to inject a bit of energy and relevancy back into our lifeless learning institutions.
Amused by my convictions, AnnMaria swiftly added that students’ cognitive capabilities are too often underestimated–a mindset that produces low expectations and thus low results. The opposite, she said, is needed if learning barriers are to ever be transcended. This idea then lead to our mutual mentioning of the movie Stand and Deliver (a must-see for any current or prospective educator). The movie highlights Jamie Escalante, who taught low-income students college-level calculus at Garfield High School–one of the worst scoring schools in LA–and in 1987 helped his class achieve the the top AP scores in the nation. This did not come easy, of course. Indeed the movie shows Mr. Escalante struggling at first to connect with his students. However, after injecting a little life into his lessons and setting a high standard for his students, he was able to lead his class to unimaginable heights. And in a sense this is what we strive to accomplish here at 7 Generation Games. Through our interactive computer games we aim to make mathematics practical and we frequently challenge our users with new problems and exciting adventures.
Devoting time to an internship, I’ve learned, is a valuable way to understand the nuances of a particular industry. It also challenges you to engage in meaningful discussions with many leading professionals–people who have been where you are and who can serve as a mentor. It is for this reason that I am excited about being apart of 7 Generation Games. With this in mind, I continued to inch my way down the 101, a smile sweeping across my face, already eager for my next visit north.
*Note: In 1976, a study showed the ebb-and-flow like nature of students’ attention spans during traditional school lectures. It concluded that no matter how good the teacher was reported to be, students needed at least a three to five minute break following an eight to ten minute lecture. Despite this knowledge, our institutions still neglect to adopt this teaching method. However, with a recent rise in the number of educational technology companies (like 7 Generation Games), a transition towards this kind of methodology is becoming more and more feasible–a subject I will save for a future entry.