Teaching Profession

This Online Game Shows the Hard Choices Teachers Face Every Day

By Ross Brenneman — June 08, 2015 2 min read
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Everyone’s job is easy until you have to do it.

Teachers and administrators have to make dozens—even hundreds—of hard decisions every day, and some of those decisions can create major consequences, especially when dealing with student discipline. Parents face a lot of tough choices, too.

I’ve been thinking about this while reading pieces like Peter Greene’s “Showing Up,” where he describes how teachers build relationships with students, and the work doing so requires. And in a recent Twitter chat, a participant resurfaced a simulation that explores some of what Greene was writing about.

In March, PBS aired the second season of its documentary series “180 Days,” in which a camera crew follows life in a school over the entire school year. The school environments can be tumultuous. The first season, which I covered in 2013, focused on Washington, and the new season went rural, to Hartsville, S.C. (My colleague Mark Walsh wrote in depth about the newest iteration.) As part of the promotion for the program, the National Black Programming Consortium, a producer of the film, also helped create “180 Days: The Challenge,” which asks players to put themselves in the shoes of an educator or parent.

It’s a game, yes, but many educators and parents would probably see some truths in it. You start by selecting who you want to play as:

I chose teacher, and my first question was about handling a disruptive student:

Michael regularly gets up, walks out of class and roams the hallways without your permission. He enters and exits as he pleases, with no regard for your direction. What do you do?

The questions are multiple-choice: Do I sign up for a workshop that might teach me how to interact with children with behavioral needs? Do I ask the school to get me a classroom aide? Do I have Michael moved to another classroom? Or do I just keep plowing ahead? How many resources—time, money, energy—do the school or I have for Michael?

How players answer ultimately determines what students’ needs they prioritize: social, emotional, or intellectual. (It looks like I run more toward the social-emotional spectrum.) None of the available questions or responses are unreasonable situations for teachers, principals, or parents to find themselves in, so far as I can tell.

The game doesn’t reveal what ramifications might come of your decisions, but that’s part of life as an educator: A lot of quick decisions, then waiting for the consequences.

Try it out. Do the situations ring true? Do the responses? What can be learned from this simulation?

(H/T Sam Chaltain)

Other games you can learn something from:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.