Life in the Fast Lane

Above all else, teaching is beautiful because of the potential for surprise, and wonder, with every class period of every day.

All this week, I couldn't get that article out of my head, so I did what every good teacher does -- puts her students to work on her problems.  Most of my Creative Writing students are working on their journal entry for the day even before the bell rings, so I linked to the article and asked what they thought.  How addicted were they?  What would be the consequences of trying a similar exercise?

I was fully prepared for great Sturm und Drang at the mere thought of giving up Facebook, so didn't intend to ask them to.  But from the start, they were overwhelmingly positive and energized by the thought of a challenge.  In fact, the one objection they all voiced was quite telling: they were worried about their grades, many of which depend on submitting typed papers and doing research online.  I hope this gives me pause the next time I tell them to check online for their assignments!

So I thought about it, and I talked to the vice principal, who voiced enthusiastic support for the idea.  To ease their fears about grades, I decided to start the fast tomorrow, on the last day of the quarter, when there would be fewer upcoming assignments and tests than usual.  The next two days were the weekend, and the final day would be a special gift: an additional day off in celebration of an award the school won recently.  So, four days, with the following ground rules:

  1. The fast begins at midnight today and ends at midnight on Monday. During that time, personal electronics (cell phones, iPods, computers, radios and televisions) must be turned off completely.

  2. "Shared" devices (landline phones, HVAC, refrigerators, lights and cars) are permitted.

  3. Exceptions are allowed for any reason, but must be documented: date, time, device, reason for use and whether the use was necessary.  (This ensures that even if they "cheat," they will have an idea of how dependent they are on these devices.  Tmatt's idea, not mine, and a fantastic one.)

All but one student wanted to participate, so I told her she didn't have to, but I think peer pressure (the good kind) caused her to cave before the period ended.  Of course there were questions, angles I hadn't considered: what about GPS?  (Probably not, I said.  In light of certainly-imminent eyerolling, I fought the urge to start the sentence, "When I was your age . . . " and settled for, "You can always look at a map.")  How about electric toothbrushes?  ("Can't you just use it without turning it on?"  Well, yeah, but it's annoying and clunky that way.  "Ooookay.  I'll leave that up to you.")

What were they looking forward to?  I wanted to know.  One girl was planning a party and said she thought it would be fun to call people to find out whether they were coming, instead of relying on Facebook notifications and last-minute texts.  Another said she watched too much TV most weekends and wanted to get outside to explore.  They planned get-togethers at the tire park with younger siblings, trips to see friends at college.  They were getting excited.  I was, too.  I'd have to submit my quarter grades and print the church bulletins early, and cross my fingers that nobody else's plans change, but I'm kind of excited about that.  You know, that uncertain moment when you're hoping hoping hoping that someone remembered you were having breakfast together, and your gaze is fixed to the door in anticipation, and then they walk in and look for you and your eyes lock and you both smile and hug and start chattering away?  I miss that.

As with any fast, there are numerous loopholes; for instance, I could simply write four posts and schedule them to go live each day I'm off the grid.  But I don't feel right about doing that.  Secretly, I'm hoping you might join us for a day or two.

Until Tuesday, my friends!