There’s this odd thing happening in education where the “old school,” traditional style of teaching is being replaced by this technology-driven, almost uncomfortably relevant, super-streamlined…”new school.”

Gone are the days of overhead-projectors and chalkboards and the “classics” (heck, even paper & pencils are becoming superfluous).
What’s replacing them? You might be asking.
Turns out, it’s just lots…and lots…of acronyms.

If you were to walk into a teaching conference (like I did this week), not only would you be met with a series of embarrassing ways to applaud (sparkler, fire-cracker, rollercoaster) and high-five (salmon shake…milk the cow…) your friends, but you’d also be met with a series of morse code-like clicks and sounds that everyone seems to understand…but you.

I sat at a table with three other “veteran” teachers. They had all been teaching at least five times as long as me and they were all from the Southern California area.

Now, if you were to look at a map to find “Bakersfield,” you would see that it looks like it’s in the “southern” half of the state. Though it is deemed the “central valley,” it’s not actually quite that “central,” but I digress. It is what it is and I am who I am.

Another fun factoid about Bakersfield is that even though nearly every Californian (at least the southern half ones) have heard of it, every single one of them is under the impression that it’s the smallest, Podunk, hick-town to ever exist (think Greenacres or better yet…Pawnee).

So when I told my wise, sage table-mates that I was from Bakersfield they immediately gave me this face – D:

Now, I’m used to that face. Let’s be honest, if there was a Bakersfield emoji…it would probably be that face.

So I immediately go into Leslie Knope mode and start talking about how wonderful my school is and how great the people I’m working with are and how I’m so excited to be a part of the forensics program (which I then have to explain is not like CSI).

One guy then asks me if my school is Bakersfield High School. And I immediately realize it’s because he thinks there is only one high school in Bakersfield (a town of almost 400,000 people).

So I tell him no, that there are actually a lot of high schools in Bakersfield and that it’s the biggest high school district in the country.

The guy across the table then asks me, “So are the high schools separated by the different farms and villages?”

And then I think my face turns into – D:

Now Bakersfield isn’t some glamorous, modern, destination city. (We don’t even have a Whole Foods.)

But what it is, is something very uniquely…”it.” Bakersfield just is. It’s hard to explain, but I’m happy it’s my home. And I’m happy that despite all the changes that have occurred as long as I’ve been living there (we do have a Nordstrom Rack now…hello), the core of what it is has remained the same. It’s a place that feels like home, even if you don’t live there.

Education reminds me a lot of Bakersfield.
It’s had a bad rap for the last few years, so now we’re trying to jazz it up with fancy acronyms and shopping malls and “smart” boards that do all the work for you.

And that’s all fine and well, but I find that students (and visitors) can see right through the gimmicks. They can see when you’re being fake. We are teachers trying to be cruise directors or one of the Kardashians. We’re trying so hard to make things fun and relevant, that we’re losing the very core of what we are.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t evolve with the times. I’m happy that Bakersfield is continually evolving, but it can never be LA or San Francisco.

I’m happy with the evolution of education and the way technology is reaching students more than ever. However, I don’t think we should lose the core of what we really are because just like Bakersfield…they may not get it at first, but they’ll learn to love it…or at least appreciate it for what it is.

Invite students into your subject (or your town) and show the fascinating things about what it is, despite the fact that they may never love reading about Atticus Finch. (But let’s not try to turn Atticus into Kanye.)

And at the end of the day, don’t tell your students to “create a YouTube.”

It’s a video.

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