When I started teaching a decade ago, I was in my early twenties, a smidge older than my students. As a result, I cultivated a pretty hefty list of pop culture references that helped kids connect to and make sense of our texts.
Gatsby’s green light is like Plato’s Cave is like The Matrix!
Allegory in The Crucible operates like allegory in District 9!
Let’s learn about semi-colons and commas using a Taylor Swift song!
Let’s study the Hero’s Journey in The Lion King!
I knew that many of my own childhood touchstones — movies, songs, and TV shows from the late 80s and 90s — didn’t mean the same thing to my students those first few years. In many ways, they were like what pop culture from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s was when I was a kid; I knew about these things from my parents, friends’ siblings, my older cousins.
Over time, however, my references are getting dated. Like, really dated. Today, when I was teaching the “story-within-a-story” framing structure of Their Eyes Were Watching God, I started referring to films that also used the structure. The Princess Bride, Titanic — wait, a bunch of you have never seen Titanic?!
There’s something sort of strange about teaching teenagers year after year. Because they “stay the same age” I sort of feel like I am perpetually stuck at 24.
This is clearly not true, at least according to my crow’s feet, the grey hairs that seem to multiply, and the fact that my knees hurt every morning when I get out of bed. Not to mention, that I’m now responsible for the survival of a tiny human.
Speaking of–last night, my sister-in-law came over for dinner. During the meal, she, my husband J, and I chatted about all the milestone ages our family members are hitting in the upcoming years: their brother is turning 30, their mom will be 60 next year, they can’t believe their dad is almost 65.
At one point, I turned to K and said, “You’re going to be TWO this year!”
His face broke out in a giant grin. “OLD!” he yelped. Then his face got serious. “Pop-pop. Nana.”
“Oh, are Pops and Nana old?” I asked, turning to look incredulously at J and his sister.
“Yeah,” K shrugged. We all chuckled.
“Are Grandma and Grandpa [my parents] old?”
“Hmmm… is Mama old?” I asked.
“No!” He grinned again, and we burst out laughing. Apparently Dada isn’t old, either!
So, I think we’ll keep him. I mean, it’s going to be an awful lot of fun to watch him get old.