A Hidden Perk of Working with (Middle School) Kids
In a 75 minute group here at Academy MetroWest, we spend about 60 – 65 minutes in our gym playing cooperative games with our kids. Cooperative physical activity is the primary focus of our program but during most sessions, we spend the last 10 minutes or so in our offices having snack and doing some quieter activities with our group members.
Snack time accomplishes a few goals for us. For one, it’s really not fair to parents to send their (often hyperactive) kids straight from an active, stimulating, loud gym straight into the car for the ride home. Kids would be bouncing off the walls of the car. So we try to bring the activity level down a bit before dismissal. Snack also serves as something of a bonding time for group members and helps to make the groups more cohesive. These intervals also tend to be more language-based and conversational than the gym-based segments of our groups. This gives us the opportunity to focus more intently on those skills.
Over the years, snack time has involved a number of “go-to” activities. We often do Mad-Libs together, or work on a lateral thinking or a situation puzzle. Sometimes we just chat. Awhile back, some kids started asking if we could watch videos on YouTube together. While I was reluctant to do so at first, watching YouTube videos has become a popular way for us to finish up our sessions. The process of working together as a group to come up with a video selection that’s fair and agreeable to everyone provides an opportunity to address issues around communication style, flexibility, and perspective taking. Kids need to be aware of what video genres the other group members are likely to enjoy. They also need to develop an awareness of what videos are likely to be viewed by their counselors as being inappropriate for their age group. Watching videos with kids has also given me a chance to develop another common frame of reference with my clients and to develop a better understanding of their perspectives and personalities.
Aside from having to shoot down videos that are way beyond the pale in terms of their language and subject matter, there are certain types of videos that I’m reluctant to watch because they’re just too ridiculous or boring. Personally, I don’t ever need to see another video about Minecraft. Most of the ones that kids have shared during group time have been videos created by other kids and are painfully boring for non-Minecraft aficionados. Ditto for most videos about video games in general.
On the other hand, many of the videos that kids have shown me have been eminently watchable and some have been very funny. With our quirky clientele, videos that center on the random, the marginally sick and twisted, parodies, and the unintentionally funny have been mainstays in the rotation. Most of these have been shared by kids of at least middle school age. I have some modest examples to share with you here.
The first category I’ll share with you is what I’ll call the “Pre-Historic.” In our internet age, pre-historic refers to those ancient videos that came out at or before the advent of YouTube.
The first internet series that I saw kids getting excited about was Home Star Runner. I watched a few of them and was mildly amused at first. One summer, however, a bunch of our campers started singing a song in a heavy metal vein about a dragon named Trogdor the Burninator. The song came from a Home Star Runner clip. I watched it and cracked up. Not a lot of kids we see today are big into Home Star Runner but whenever I show them the Trogdor video, they too are smitten.
Around the same time, an otherwise intelligent teenager I worked with for years came in raving about a video he had seen on YouTube (in its early days) and he insisted that I watch it and share in his glee. He’s a guy with a great sense of humor and I was optimistic that what he wanted to show me would be funny. I have to confess. Its appeal eluded me and, really, it still does. Over the years, I’ve warmed up to the Charlie the Unicorn series a bit although it’s still not one of my favorites. I include it here only because it’s pretty representative of the humor centering on the random and surreal that our kids find so compelling.
There’s also this nugget from the pre-YouTube days:
Other entries from the Random Humor category are:
and, on the still random but slightly more sick and twisted side:
Also on the Marginally Sick and Twisted side is the Cyanide and Happiness series, currently the rage among my middle school kids. Some C & H videos cross beyond the marginally sick and twisted to become downright dark and disturbing but I can usually manage a laugh or two regardless.
Among the parodies that have become favorites, most also blend into the marginally sick and twisted category. Of course, one of the best ones – only shared with and among groups of older kids of course – is the ever popular Honey Badger. Watching this one is always accompanied by my warnings about the imperative of not carrying the “colorful language” from the video to other aspects of our groups.
The True Facts series is also quite good. Take a look.
Unintentional humor occupies a good deal of space on YouTube and some of these videos have become favorites of mine. Again, these are best viewed by kids no younger than middle school age. Parental discretion is advised.
Most of the kids with whom I’ve watched that clip with have quickly pointed out the irony in the fact that although Ol’ Mary Sue brags about never cussing, she doesn’t hesitate to drop the N word over and over again.
But the one I’ve found myself coming back to again and again lately is this one, shown to me first by a very funny, enterprising young 7th grader. I’ll warn you in advance though, once you see it, you can never “un-see” it. It will stay with you forever.
I’m not sure what it is about that video that cracks me up so much but I’ve found myself approaching people who’ve watched it with me and telling them – “Hey – I respect you and chickens!”
Anyway, happy viewing everyone. Feel free to share some of your favorites as well.