Because Games Matter – A Teachable Moment: Kingdom Hearts in the Classroom – Extra Credits
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Because Games Matter – A Teachable Moment: Kingdom Hearts in the Classroom – Extra Credits

We all know that games don’t always get the best rap, Especially when it comes to educators who might not have grown up with them. But today, we want to share the story of our teacher friend Patrick, Who used this medium to encourage inclusion in his classroom. My name is Patrick and I’m a high school English teacher. I’m humbled by how often I hear the phrase, “Teachers can change lives”. Education does have a transformative power that can sent young minds on a path unforeseen By unlocking skills or talents that kids didn’t even know were there. But, can video games change lives? The perennial time-waster, the notorious brain rotter, The scourge of parents and teachers everywhere. Well, after what happened in my classroom, I can without a doubt, I can without a doubt, say yes they can. Two years ago. I taught a group of freshmen first thing in the morning. Normally, period one is a little rough, since most of the kids are still waking up. But this group was different as soon as that bell rang on the first day. I could clearly see this was a spirited bunch They were chatty but respectful and full of character and energy to start things off We played an icebreaker game to learn everyone’s names and to share something interesting about ourselves One kid was the goalie for our hockey team? One kid loved Bob Marley one kid was training to be a professional ice skater and one kid well She didn’t have much to say I had to ask her for her name twice because I couldn’t hear her the first time To be honest, I think she felt overwhelmed by all of the big personalities in the room, so I didn’t push too hard I thought to myself no problem. It’s only the first day I’m sure she just needs a little time to settle in and she’ll come out of her shell when she feels ready So, the first few weeks of school go by, and period one continued to be the brightest and loudest part of my day. One kid had a meme of the day for the entire year. Another kid had an impressive collection of bowties. And one kid still didn’t have much to say. By now it was the middle of October, and I still knew next to nothing about this young woman. Everyday, I tried to make a connection with her and every day I could barely get a word out. I watched helplessly as her grade in my class began to drop. I knew she was struggling with the reading, but she wouldn’t respond to my offers for extra help. I was beginning to lose hope. When at last, the answer came to me on the first cold day of the school year The bell rang as it always did at 7:41. And the kids came into the room as they always do. Some kids clutch styrofoam coffee cups. Some kids chatted about the football game from the night before. And one kid was wearing a very special hoodie. It was a swirl of dark blues and purples, There was some lettering I couldn’t quite make out and, ‘Was that- stained glass on the back?’ And then I saw the spiky hair, big yellow shoes, And of course, the Keyblade. I knew just what to do. At the time we were studying The Odyssey and I was teaching the traits of the epic hero. We were nearing the end of Odysseus’s tale, And their assignment was to compare a modern character with Odysseus, and the stages of the hero’s journey. As the class began brainstorming, and prewriting, My shy student flipped through her notes absently. I pulled up a chair and asked her if she had any characters in mind. She reluctantly shook her head I then asked if she knew of a character who had to travel far from home and became separated from his loved ones. A character who had to face a series of difficult trials in order to get back to them. She hesitated and shrugged her shoulders again. I could sense that she did have a character in mind, but was too embarrassed to admit it. Then I leaned in and said quietly just so she could hear: “Are you sure?” “What if that character possesed a very special weapon, “Maybe- I don’t know, in the shape of a key?” I will never forget the look of surprise, recognition, and relief in her face. She realized what I was doing. She looked up from her notes, and actually made eye contact with me for the first time. “Kingdom Hearts!” When she said the title, she was confirming that I was indeed hinting at her favorite video game, But also, she was asking if video games could actually have a place in the classroom and her writing. My answer was this: “You know, I once wrote a paper in college comparing Jason and the Argonauts to Commander Shepard and his crew in Mass Effect.” Her jaw hit the floor. I believe this was truly a revelation for her that she could use video games as a way to make connections in the classroom. And not only that, her teacher was encouraging it. She began writing faster than I had ever seen before. It was as if a floodgate had opened and her mind and her hands had been unshackled. And from then on, she was one of my most active students in my class And her grades improved significantly. She was noticeably more comfortable around others. She shared her world with us and she felt vindicated. A videogame changed this girl’s life. Not because her grades got better, But because through it, she learned to become much more confident overall. And by the time she was a senior She was heavily involved in our theater program and is now pursuing a degree in stagecraft. As a teacher, it’s always my goal to help change my students lives for the better But in this case, it was actually Sora and the Keyblade that unlocked her true potential. Thanks, Patrick for sharing your story with us. We think educators like you who know how positive of force games can be, and who take the time to engage in individual students interests are pretty darn heroic in their own right. Even Sam’s Keyblade.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Because Games Matter – A Teachable Moment: Kingdom Hearts in the Classroom – Extra Credits

  1. Happy holidays from the Extra Credits team! We'll be back with more game design and industry episodes on Wednesdays starting January 9. What's YOUR "because games matter" story? Share it with others in the comments below!

  2. The problem is that most parents and Teachers don't look beyond what they see on TV. 'Oh a boy owned GTA V and now he went on a rampage.' (He went on a rampage because he was bullied and harrassed NOT because of a video game), Fortnite dances everywhere!(parents don't realize that not everyone likes Fortnite and that it will come and go just like flappy bird did). Games are forms of art. Art expresses in different ways. Art shouldn't be censored because 'the poor kids will get violent'. If you think your kind is so impressionable don't let them play. If a kid takes an example from a video game to do bad stuff its not the video games fault that is YOUR fault. You as a authority have the duty to check what your kid is playing. If you don't thats on you. Look at me for example. I'm 15 and I've been allowed to play games that have a 18+ age rating since I'm 13. Why? Because my mother trusts me and knows that I wouldn't take examples and that I can differentiate Reality from a videogame.

    Another thing that popped up is that 'it hurts your social life' and 'its a waste of time' No to both. Games like World of Warcraft, Sea of Thieves, GTA and many more actually helped me make friends. It helped me with learning teamwork, it helped me socialize. It isn't a waste of time, its simply my way of spending time. I could go out yes, but I don't want to do that. If I went out without wanting to and just wandered around wouldn't THAT be a waste of time?

    Lastly we as gamers also have a job, to introduce our elders to games. My mom really enjoyed Breath of the Wild and Mario, my grandmother found GTA V hilarious and I sometimes catch my father playing on my moms DSI.

    Video games are art. Art that connects. Art that builds communities. Art that helps people get through rough times ans art, that helps us all grow.

  3. Damn I wish anyone in school knew what Kingdom Hearts is it’s such an amazing game too bad the only game they seem to know is fortnite.

  4. I always love stories like this. Lots of people dismiss Kingdom Hearts as being a stupid Disney children's game, just like they dismiss other games. And yeah, often they have a point, but as long as there's even ONE person touched by KH or literally any other game out there, if just one person benefited from it and was inspired in some way, then what does it matter if they're just stupid kid's games? They're worth having in our lives and deserve recognition.

  5. This is great and amazing but there’s also more to this, education needs to change to get people like her and me more into school, while the teachers effort should be commended, it shouldn’t have taken that kind of effort for that girl, the system needs to work for everyone all the time

  6. This isn't the game changing the life, it's this amazing teacher helping the student to make connections in ways they understand.

  7. I relate to that girl a little too much 😅 I wish I had a teacher like that in high school! This is wholesome <3

  8. 0:41
    As garbage as the dance is, the animation and how much it caught me off-guard and made me laugh way more than it should have.
    Congrats animation team!

  9. That almost made me cry. Games are such a beautiful art-form. All of my respect to you, Patrick, thank you for sharing

  10. As a probable future french teacher, I find this anecdote very inspiring. Thank you for showing what is teaching at his best !

  11. I hope when I become a teacher (In English mind you!), (It's my dream job) that I can create an experience just as magical. 🙂

  12. This episode gave almost had me teared up, it's so sweet and I have had relatable experiences. Also the Outro gave me goosebumps. Good job guys!

  13. I love this so much!! When I was in high school (and even before I dropped out of university) I used video games as reference texts all the time!! It helped me so much in terms of motivation, I actually started caring about assignments and essays because I could talk about the things I loved. I really wish video games could get a better rep from those who don't play them and see them as a waste of time 🙁

  14. mmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee mmmmmmmmmmooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeee

  15. I was watching one of your videos where you were talking about why certain games’ stories don’t hold you interest. I was questing on Elder scrolls online, a new quest I’ve never done, and just skipping through the dialogue when I heard “Ever find yourself just skipping through the dialogue text to just get through the quest?” And I felt so called out XD

  16. I wish my teachers were this cool growing up.
    That connection between kingdom hearts and the Odyssey was pretty good •u•

  17. Man i got goosebumps man. And those damn ninja-cutting onions?! I’m not crying, you’re crying… “Sora and the keyblade unlocked her true potential.”

  18. Don't know how much this has to do with the fact that I am becoming a teacher too, but this story really touched my heart

  19. "I'm a High school english teacher"
    Public, private, or charter?

    If you say
    public: respect+= 1000
    charter: respect +=100
    private: += 10

  20. I know I'm 3 weeks late to this party but bear with me.

    I am an ex college student (high school for the imperials in America). When I was in college I took a class in Web design and app design. I personally specialised in Web design.

    My teacher at one point 3 years ago said we could make a site on whatever we wanted, if we had copyright information, and can use at least 3 elements of the curriculum. At the time I used Java Queries and HTML5 while the rest used less advanced tools out of laziness. I was extremely excited when games came up as an option. For a bit of back story I've been playing games since I was 3 so their important. At the time I was obcessed with Terraria.

    I cranked out the best website I have ever produced. I had pages and pages of work shoved in there, not to mention the 100 lines of code in there styling the site. While games didn't directly help me they focused me into a direct path for success. The following years I made a Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf site and a Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.

    Games are great.

  21. Such a wonderful story. I work with kids and sometimes I’ll ask what they like, many will say “video games.”

    I’ll ask “what kinds?”

    For example, if the response is “shooter” (which I don’t play much these days, but I know enough even at age 50) I’ll toss out a few examples (“Overwatch? One of the Call of Duty games? A Battlefield maybe? Fortnite?”)

    (I’m more of an aRPG or conventional CRPG player, but even then, they get a little shocked. Hey, I’ve been playing video games since, well, Pong, as well as games like Telengard and Temple of Apshai, and I’m not stopping now.)

  22. Holy crap, I actually got choked up. I relate to her so much as I’ve always been the quiet one and being my worst enemy I’ve shut my self closed thinking my thoughts and ideas weren’t worth anyone’s time. And kingdom hearts is one of my favorite game series ever.

  23. I talk about games in my classroom a lot, but one of my best moments came from catching an obscure anime reference. It was the weekend after the Madoka Magica Rebellion movie came out in the US, and I had seen it in the theater with a friend. On Monday, a student in study hall just would not focus at all, and after nagging her a few times, she exclaimed, "You have to understand, my favorite character turned into the devil this weekend!" And I said, "Homura is my favorite, too, and that broke my heart, but (science teacher) won't accept that excuse for your homework being late." The look on her face, and the faces of her group of friends, still makes me grin to think about.

  24. I don't know what's more interesting, the fact that I once wrote a schoolwork about titanfall 2 on a course about love, or the fact that my school had a course about love (a mandatory, one semester course at the end of which everyone got an A for just handing in some kind of work. Probably the best place to experiment with the idea of writing school works on video games).

  25. As an autistic individual with a speical interest in gaming, I have used writing about games and related subjects often. I would not have been able to pass college English (1 or 2) without being able to do so.

    I am happy to hear that she is being inspired and encouraged in high school unlike my time their were I was regularly shot down and told to be the same.

  26. This story resonates with me so much! I'm also a shy young woman who grew up playing videogames and I still consider them one of the best ways for me to connect with other people. Despite this I have had a parent figure tell me not to express my love for gaming to other kids because "they might get turned off". Thankfully I didn't take her seriously.

    It's so disheartening to feel like you need to hide the things you love the most.

  27. This reminds me of my brother. He's a special ed. paraeducator at an alternative school for kids in 6-12 grades and many of the kids there have anxiety, extreme home situations, or mental illnesses. This one 9th grade girl had such severe anxiety that she never talked and would just hide behind her hair. The most he got out of her was a small smile (and those days were huge). Well, he noticed that she had Pokemon keychain plushes attached to her backpack and that's when he realized that he could connect to her through Pokemon. So he started talking to her about it and he even found brought her some of his old Pokemon Adventures comic books for her to read. And this girl, who hadn't read an entire book in years, read all those Pokemon comics and her teacher counted them towards her Language Arts grade. This video game connection also helped with her motivation. My brother brought her some of his old Pokemon trading cards and original Gameboy games for her to play in her free time if she got her classwork done. Video games do matter.

  28. I wrote about Bastion in an economics class because of how the world has been torn asunder, and the very few ways that trade can even work after so much has been destroyed.
    I honestly cannot remember how I managed to pull that off, but I got an A! Makes me want to teach, and encourage people to write about any subject matter that interests them most. I would LOVE to read about people who apply their knowledge and experiences and hobbies in really creative ways!

  29. I mean of course they can! My role model has always been Alm from Shadows of Valentia… And whenever people would say foul things about games I try to remind them. Games are story's like books and movies but with these games, your just taking the steering wheel.

  30. I work with autistic students, and I've found that finding ways to connect their special interests to the curriculum is the best way to get them to open up and engage with the content and their peers.

  31. I have written so many essays on Kingdom Hearts, and now I write video game analysis essays in my spare time. I hope to one day start a YouTube channel

  32. Loved the story who brought me to tears… Scrolled in the comments to get more great stories like this one !
    This restaures my faith in humanity

  33. Ok now I’m gonna use the Dark World in Deltarune for my school project.
    “Rouxls Kaard uses Old English to not let go of his past, and Jevil stays in a secret room for a prison for how strange he was” or “how the 3 kings got locked away by the KNIGHT and the King of Spades” or “How Ralsei being alone in Empty Town affected his personality” or “How puzzles in games affect puzzles in reality”

  34. As someone who's between career choices, I've been entertaining the thought of becoming a teacher. If I can use my love of games, anime and pop culture to inspire someone like this guy did even once, it would make everything worth it.

  35. Its sickening how much our community and families shun videogames to the point where some of us our less confident in our pastime or worse in ourselves. Glad to see more people seeing the light 🙂

  36. As both a Kingdom Hearts fan and an aspiring teacher, I enjoyed your story here. Jesus Christ be with you friends, and Merry Christmas!

  37. LOVE THIS!!! Reminds me of how very recently I was able to connect the film Coco to what I was learning in a social communication class. As well as how I connected the Escape from Furnace book series to government classes

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