Posted by: bwoof | February 5, 2010

BJ Penn

It’s easy to quantify learning that comes from books, or multiple choice tests, or fill-in-the-blank quizzes.  It’s not so easy to measure one’s aptitude for understanding teen culture, but I’m fairly certain that despite my daily interaction with teens I’d score abysmally low.

For example, a boy who refuses to read a novel and prefers instead to fail his English course, said to me today, “Miss, if you bring BJ Penn to school I’ll read a book for sure.”  You have to understand that this is the same boy who finally (!!!) agreed to read if I would bring a Hamilton Tiger Cat to school (still working on that plan…and hope to hear back soon).

I smiled broadly, attempted to put on my best cool face, and lamely said, “Oh, yea sure, I’ll get right on that.”

Inside, however, I’m thinking who on earth is BJ Penn?  Since we had just talked about the Super Bowl (again, I was trying desperately to find something in common and thankfully at least knew who is playing in Sunday’s game) it made sense to imagine that BJ Penn is a football player. Makes sense, right?

Not!

When I got back to the office I quickly googled, only to be blocked by our board’s internet filter…uh oh! Not allowed to see the B J Penn main website! That could mean that by teen standards this guy is really ‘interesting.’ The wikipedia site, however, was open and I quickly learned that BJ is an Ultimate Fighting Championship hero, lightweight champ to be exact, and if you don’t know what UF is then, well, that’s a whole other learning curve.

So, it seems that BJ is a hero, someone the boys look up to, someone who scores high on the “I wanna be like him” scale.

And then I realized, reading is not intrinsically cool, even though I think it’s good for kids. It’s not even remotely practical unless…unless, someone I admire connects me to that activity and models for me that it’s OK to read.  For me, reading is natural, but then again, all the people in my early life who were wonderful read, not only by themselves, but to me. I’ve never known the world differently.

Today, well, all this week, I’m learning that I NEED to see the world differently.  And if finding a way to get BJ Penn to my school (even thought the entire concept of UFC is repulsive to  me), then maybe I should at least learn about him, if not find a way to contact him.

Oh…teenagers!  Have you any idea how much you teach me every day? And did you know that BJ Penn also plays the guitar?  

Grateful for:

  • naps
  • a long talk with a long-lost aquaintance

Curious about:

  • why ‘religious’ people so often disappoint
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