Teaching With Joy

November 2002


What? No TV!
by Joy Jones

     How would it feel to go four days without the television or the computer? Would you feel desperate or would it make you free? My seventh and eighth graders could tell you how it felt, since that is the assignment I gave them.

     They cried, they screamed, they called me mean and unreasonable. But I didn't do it to torture them. My intent wasn't diabolical, it was meant to be inspirational. I teach creative writing and before the term was over, my students had to write a play. As someone who has written plays, stories and other creative pieces, I know that turning off the television helps the creative juices to flow. Not only does it stop a lot of distractions, it opens a creative space that is good for the imagination to flourish. My hope was that if they abstained from the grip of electronic entertainment, they'd have the same experience. Not only did I ask them to go without television, but I asked that they abstain for at least four days in a row from TV, video rentals and the Internet. Reading e-mails, seeing a movie at a theater, or using the computer for homework was permitted. Parents were asked to sign a log verifying that each student actually abstained.

     And for many of them it did generate positive activity. Some students told me that they spent more time working on their stories or getting homework done more quickly. Others played out-side or practiced their guitar or piano more. It was what I wanted to happen, yet I have to admit I was surprised when they complied and recounted the increase of their own creativity. The generation gap asserted itself with this assignment. Several students reported that they found for-going television fairly easy, it was saying no to the computer that was hard. It surprised me that young people are more mesmerized by PC's than TV's even though I know this is the digital age.

     I was really surprised by what happened at the end of the term. I typically ask students to give me a 'report card', to fill out a questionnaire rating the class. To the question, "What assignment was most interesting or helpful?", more students described the No TV assignment, even though by semester's end that assignment was months in the past and they had moaned bitterly about having to do it. Evidently, even rebellious, contrary adolescents could appreciate the power, peace and pleasure of a life with less television.

     You should try it with your class and see what the results are. Better yet, you should try it yourself.


Joy Jones is a third generation teacher, a playwright and the author of Between Black Women: Listening With the Third Ear, the acclaimed children’s book, Tambourine Moon, and Private Lessons: A Book of Meditations for Teachers.  You may view her web site at: www.JoyJonesOnline.com.

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