This past week we had a wonderful guest, a friend from college. We keep in touch and see each other every few years. She is from Boston, and along with visiting her in Boston with my husband, I’ve been lucky enough to see her also when I traveled there with students. We spent the past four days visiting, catching up, sharing details about our own children and their spouses, and much about our grandchildren. Her oldest is now in college while mine is just finishing elementary school. It was great to re-connect and to have so many hours of talk, about old times we shared and some things I didn’t know she had accomplished in her career, about today’s times, and what is going on right now.
One funny story my friend told happened last year when she called a tech person to her house to help her connect the black box to her old TV so it could convert from analog to digital feeds. She said that he kept turning her TV off and on, off and on, and finally said he thought it was broken. She told him to just turn it on and wait a minute to give it time to warm up. He looked at her quizzically, not sure what she meant. He’d never heard the term, warming up. She did some quick calculations and realized that her TV was possibly older than this young man, and had never seen anything that wasn’t an immediate turn-on. We laughed and talked about some other things where this might possibly apply.
Since then, I’ve been wondering if I use any words in the classroom when students have no idea what I’m referring to? Could it be that connecting with certain old things metaphorically is so out of date that students today would have to do some quick research in order to understand, or need some quick explanation? It may be important as a teacher to understand that if one is a generation or more older than students, or even some colleagues, conversation can grow to be awkward sometimes. It’s like thinking about Clark Kent, and wondering where he might change into Superman when all the pay phone boxes have disappeared. What in our world will he do? Or, in the song “The Telephone Hour” from the musical “Bye, Bye Birdie” some of the lines wouldn’t make sense, except that because they are brief enough, I suppose today they could be sent in a text. The song can be found here. Does “pinning” still happen? Does anyone “go steady” today? I believe my middle school students just say “going with”. One final example concerns another form of communication, slow mail. From my earliest teen-age days, I remember a Pat Boone song, “Love Letters In The Sand”. Has someone already written a song about heartache from a tweet? I’m not sure, but when we teach about metaphor in our writing lessons, perhaps we should begin to find new connections for student lives today. I hope readers will think of other examples.