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.