The Joy of Teaching in Precarious Times
It has been years since I last did anything that even remotely resembles teaching. As a pursuit about which I used to hold fairly romantic beliefs and thought that it may eventually become at least part of what I do with my life, it nevertheless tends to be on my mind from time to time. And thus, I was hardly surprised to see the initially unexpected teaching position at Garreg Mach Monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses become one of the many facets of this beautiful videogame that quickly left its mark on me. I cherish the memories of the fragile peace found in the opening part known as ‘White Clouds.’
I also feel an indisputable sense of parental pride derived from the rewarding experience of instructing the students of whichever house I choose and — by my imagined extension — guiding those affiliated with the other houses during the blissful hours I spend roaming the monastery. At the center of it all lies a kind of interpersonal bond I rarely feel these days. It is made of relationships born from the genuine desire to see these students grow into kind-hearted adults, realize their goals and ambitions, and, most importantly, find meaning and happiness.
Of course my time at the monastery is in many ways an idealized one. Yet it captures many of the same ideals I held about teaching when I was younger. Being able to witness my students with all of their compassion and drive build meaningful relationships with their classmates and me as their teacher speaks deeply to an abandoned part of me. Where reality fails to live up to such lofty expectations, Three Houses helps me temporarily recover a version of myself that could have been. And I get an opportunity to live through this version in its purest form.
My personal background as a developmental psychologist makes me remember Erik Erikson’s notion of generativity, the wish to give back, to reciprocate after having received guidance and support in the past. And this very idea evolves even further in what may be one of the most fulfilling details during the latter half of Three Houses when my students become teachers in their own right and instruct me in whichever skills they have mastered. The slumber into which I fall for five years is a clever storytelling device: While the students retain their unique personalities, they have undeniably grown and matured as well. In part, it is because they were forced to adjust to a new reality shaped by a cruel war. But I also feel proud to see the fruits of the time we spent together as teacher and pupils.
So I wonder how much closer this relationship can be explored in a videogame, how it may feel to share meaningful moments through teaching without the looming threat of battle that provides the ultimate reason for everything these young people learn in Three Houses. As I keep returning to the world of Fódlan, this thought is with me every time I am reintroduced to my bright and wonderful students.