Monday, April 8, 2024

G is for Games


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter G

I am in the process of sorting through everything in my parents' home, and in so doing, I have been looking through all my childhood memorabilia, the majority of which I hadn't seen since my parents packed up my belongings and moved them from the home I grew up in to this house some 45 years ago. My 2024 A to Z Challenge theme is based on the treasures I have found in the boxes and the drawers and closets. Join me on my bittersweet journey back to my childhood.

I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, which, in retrospect, is quite interesting, since I spent most of my school career trying to figure out how to get OUT of going to class. But my mom was a teacher before she got married, and my grandma was a teacher in a one-room school, and since the only careers for women that I was aware of was teacher, nurse, or secretary, I went with teacher.

I would carefully place my plethora of dolls into rows on the floor of my parents' bedroom (I had a really tiny bedroom that didn't have room for an entire classroom in it, even with dolls; it barely held a twin bed, a dresser, and a chest of drawers), short ones in the front, tall ones in the back. I taught them lessons, read books to them, made little math worksheets that I then answered and graded. Remember in my post "B is for Becky With The Good Hair" I told how I would beg my brother to play dolls with me? He would sometimes agree to play school, name himself Principal, then shut himself up in his room/office, never to be seen or heard from again.

I  majored in Elementary Education in college, of course, and after the general education requirements were fulfilled, my schedule was filled with classes like Music for Elementary Teachers, Art for Elementary Teachers, Movement for Elementary Teachers. It was assumed we were all going to teach in rural schools with no support staff and it was imperative that we could lead children in song while playing a recorder, make collages, and do the polka.

We also took methods classes, such as Math for Elementary Teachers, Physics for Elementary Teachers, Reading for Elementary Teachers (sense a pattern here?). We did group projects. We did individual projects. We learned how to write detailed lesson plans, which I never had to write again in my entire teaching career and were a monumental waste of time, as were the group projects. And playing the recorder.

And then there were the games. Every methods class professor assigned a project where we had to make games to enhance unit objectives. Folder games were big at the time; you used a regular ol' file folder and library pockets and construction paper to make some kind of literacy or math game that was self-checking. The thought was students who finished their work early could take one of these games to their desks and play quietly until the rest of the class was finished. Hahahahahahaaaahahaaaaaaa. Another favorite assignment by professors who obviously hadn't set foot inside an elementary classroom since they WERE in elementary school was to make a board game. I'm not even kidding here. A BOARD game, with game pieces and cards and spinners or dice.

While cleaning out closets upstairs, I pulled out a large plastic bag from the back of one. It was behind some old clothes in the far back, and when I looked in the bag, I found these:

This is a phonics game for identifying beginning sounds. Now that I read the game rules,
it's not a horrible.

Visual discrimination activity. Each envelope had felt shapes and the objective was to replicate each picture on the flannel board. It would have taken them about 30 seconds to mix up every single piece, losing at least one in the process, and shove all of the pieces into one envelope.

They were in pristine condition because I never, not ever used these in my classroom. Because even in the 1980s, kids were savvy and weren't impressed with anything homemade other than cookies.

Now, you would think some 40 years later that professors would no longer require elementary ed majors to make homemade educational games or write lesson plans, wouldn't you? But from working at a university child development center that employs college students to be teacher assistants, many of them elementary ed majors, I can state that yes, they still make them write detailed lesson plans that they will never do again once they start teaching AND they have to make stupid games that will most likely end up in the back of a closet and forgotten about.


  1. Maybe making up games, even if they will not be used, is a way of training the mind of the teacher. I hope there's sound pedagogy behind it, rather than just laziness or stubbornness.

  2. Your beother would sometimes agree to play school, name himself Principal, then shut himself up in his room/office, never to be seen or heard from again.

    That's quite typical of kids, no?

  3. Wow...just wow. Hard to imagine that things haven't changed in all these years. I know two gals, both mid 30's, who went through our education program to become teachers - they were discouraged with what they learned and had to do (like you did) and then had a hard time getting jobs due to an over abundance of teachers. Kinda sad, if you ask me.

    Great post. I'm living vicariously through your treasure hunting journey.
    With smiles, Jenny

  4. One of my daughters is a third grade teacher. I think she has to do lesson plans. I will ask.
    I remember when I was an art student, the art education department was on the floor below us. They didn't seem to take actual art classes, unless as an elective. I'm not sure about that, but I do remember my print making teacher commenting on how good it was that one of them was taking actual art classes and that they should do more of it.
    One of my aunts was an art teacher, but she had already majored in art. My mother was an elementary social studies teacher and then a reading teacher. She did have to do lesson plans.
    I feel like those lesson plans were especially if a substitute had to take the class. At one point I know my daughter had to turn them in. To the principal? Anyway, although I taught pre-k for a year, I did not go into teaching.

  5. It's the old, if I had to go through the torture when I was in college, I'm going to make my students go through it, too, attitude. Ugh.

  6. I should ask my dad if he had to make homemade board games. If so, I never saw them.