Friday, May 12, 2017

Why I Do Everything

I started playing Pokemon Go when the game was first introduced last summer. I was curious about the technology, but my main motivation was to "keep up with the kids." Several of them were already into Pokemon via the card game and cartoons and I thought it would be fun to be knowledgable in one of their interest areas, much in the way I can speak superhero having been an avid comic book reader in my youth, or baseball because of my own experiences as a fan and a coach.

I have continued playing the game in fits and starts, often using it to while away time while waiting in airports or as a way to add a layer to long urban hikes. But mostly, I've used the game as I originally intended, as a way to goof around with kids. I'd say I average two or three Pokemon conversations a week, fewer than I do about superheroes, but more than baseball.

A disproportionate number of these conversations take place with older siblings, one of whom is a former student and older brother of a current student. We've discussed the fact that we're on different teams -- he's red team and I'm yellow. He's boasted that the red team "holds" all the "gyms" in his neighborhood. I've boasted that I was planning to come to his neighborhood one weekend and take them all over in the name of team yellow. 

Their family recently returned from a trip to visit grandparents and upon their return, the younger brother, the one who is currently my student, ran up to me to ask, "What team are you on?"

Not sure what he was talking about, I replied, "I guess I'm on the Mariners."

"No, not baseball, Pokemon!"

"Team yellow."

He insisted, "But what is the name of your team?" Each of the three teams have names, "Valor," "Instinct," and "Mystic" (I think). I never remember which one is mine, so I answered, "I don't remember."

"Is it Instinct?"

"Yes, I think that's it."

He then ran off to find his mother who was standing some ways off. He returned with a cap. "We got this for you Teacher Tom. It's a Pokemon trainers hat. It's mostly black, not yellow, but it says Instinct! That's your team, right?"

"Thank you," I said, "I love it!" And it truly do. It touched me to know that he and his family had had this discussion about me while on their travels, thinking about me and what I might like. He had even spent emotional energy worrying about whether or not it was the right cap, even checking with me first to make sure I wouldn't be disappointed. He was so excited to give it to me and I've been proudly wearing it since.

Later in the day, I was sitting at the snack table, enjoying conversation over crisp carrot sticks and tart orange slices, when he sidled up to me. "Teacher Tom, did you say 'thank you' for the hat?"

"I did. And I want to say it again, thank you."

"Well, I forgot to say 'you're welcome'." He then embraced my arm, putting his cheek against my shoulder, still thinking about me and my feelings. I hugged him back, knowing that this is why I do everything, including playing Pokemon Go.

(If you are interested in pre-ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here if you are in North America. Click here for Australia. For the time being, those of you in New Zealand can email your order to We should be able to accept orders from the rest of the world next week. Please bear with us. Thank you!)

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