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Lessons to Learn From Pac-Man

August 18, 2019 - 3 minute read

Red, green ghosts from Pac Man

Complete transparency here…I did not like playing Pac-Man as a kid. I just wasn’t a fan of it at all. I know I am supposed to think it is amazing as one of the founding video games; I just didn’t care for it much.

But looking back on it, I think there are a number of daily lessons we can learn as educators from our little yellow circle friend.:

  • Pac-Man was extremely focused on his goal.
  • Pac-Man was aggressive when it was smart to be aggressive.
  • Pac-Man had an amazing amount of perseverance.
  • Pac-Man kept it simple.

Pac-Man was extremely focused on his goal. His only purpose in life was to eat all the dots and not get killed by the ghosts. He was not created to do anything else. That is it.

Many times as educators, we can get sidetracked with so many things [many that are good] that we lose sight of our true goal. I cannot tell you what your goal is for your students, staff, school site, or career, but I am pretty confident that you have distractions.

The more you can focus on your goal and lessen your distractions, the more effective you will be.

Pac-Man was aggressive when it was smart to be aggressive. He had a goal that was not a quick task and he had opposition, but the slow-play was sometimes the best. Pac-Man did not try to eat a ghost when they were not blinking. He knew this would not end well. But when it was time to go after them, he did.

As an educator, you cannot always go full tilt after a goal/initiative/idea. It just doesn’t work that way. There are times when the slow play makes much more sense, and in the long-term, it is often more effective.

Be aggressive towards your goal when it is smart to do so.

Pac-Man had an amazing amount of perseverance. This little yellow circle guy has one task, eat all the dots, and yet there are these ghosts trying to eat him. Why, who knows, but they are. There is technically no end to Pac-Man even though a glitch makes it so the game does end, so Pac-Man is in a never-ending maze of dots with ghosts trying to eat him and he just keeps going.

I can promise you this, if you are an educator or are thinking of becoming one, IT NEVER STOPS! The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day, speaks 16,000 words per day, and walks 5200 steps per day. Various research has shown educators make anywhere from 1500 to 5000 extra decisions a day, depending on their role, and use more than 30,000 words per day.

Point is, you will be very busy and need to persevere in order to be effective.

Pac-Man kept it simple. Pac-Man is a round circle, trying to eat dots in a maze. It is not rocket science, yet there is something very alluring about the simplicity.

I know the longer I have been an educator, the more I have tried to simplify, the better I have become at my role. People do not like things that are complex. They like the stability of knowing the task at hand.

The more you can simplify for your staff or students, the more effective both you and they can be.

Keep chasing your dots like our little yellow friend.

Joseph Clark is a husband, a father (of two awesome girls), a past radio DJ (Clark after Dark), and came into education as a CTE teacher.

Currently, he is a vice principal in the Sacramento area. Over the years, Clark has worked at an affluent charter school, a locked youth prison facility, a comprehensive high school, in a core model middle school setting, and served on the Board of Directors for Westlake Charter School in Sacramento. Now, he teaches at Concordia University Irvine in their MAEd Program.

Clark’s Core Values guiding his daily practice are: a) Value people [over programs] – Treat everyone with respect-everyday-all the time. b) Be a faucet [not a drain] – Each moment matters so make each one positive. c) Be a filter – my positive [or negative] attitude will become that of those around me. d) Behavior then Beliefs – Can’t make anyone change his beliefs, but can set expected behavior.

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