One of the stories I taught to my 10th graders this week (“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker) prompted a discussion of what makes things valuable, and what one possession they would choose to save if they could only save one thing. So, I told them about when our house burned when I was 19 years old.
When I told them the year it happened, (1982) you would have thought I had said I was alive in the 18th century! “Whaaaat?!” They were shocked and astounded; one of them put his hand on his chest and leaned back like he was having a heart attack. Then — once they finally absorbed the fact that I was actually alive in the 1980s — they were fascinated. And what was the first thing they wanted to know about? In more than one class period mind you, when faced with this mysterious time traveler from the magical 80s – this was the big question: “Did you have those bangs?”
Yeah. They wanted to know if I had those crazy 80s bangs. I told them, “Well, that was a little later in the 80s, but . . . yes, and if I can find the picture I’ll show you later.” They are looking forward to that.
Then . . . the story mentioned Johnny Carson.
Who is that?
What? . . . Raise your hand if you know who Johnny Carson is.
Not one. Approximately 130 students (I asked in each class period) all around age 15, had never heard of the dude.
So, I asked, “Do you know who Conan O’Brien is?” Yes. At least some had heard of him, or Jay Leno or David Letterman. So I explained that Johnny was them before they were them. I showed them a picture of Johnny and the intro to the old Tonight Show – “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”
Funny the things a good story will lead to.
Funny how old teenagers can make you feel.