Run, don’t walk, to “Eighth Grade”

download“Eighth grade,” the movie, by YouTube star Bo Burnham was touching, emotional, realistic and absolutely worth it. My daughter and I went to the theater yesterday and together we laughed, giggled, wiped a few tears and felt awkwardly uncomfortable. The movie is so realistic and the acting by Elsie Fisher as Kayla was perfect. Complete with pimples, baby fat and an unbearable shyness, you felt her pain during her last few weeks at school as she tried to come out of her shell and fit in.

Here’s part of a review in USA Today by Taylor Seely:

Bo Burnham’s ‘Eighth Grade’ isn’t trying to teach you anything, and that’s the beauty of it

The modern coming-of-age movie “Eighth Grade” has been praised by just about every news outlet or magazine.

Written and directed by YouTuber-turned-stand-up-comedian Bo Burnham, the film’s been lauded for its realistic, no-holds-barred look into the teen experience.

It portrays timeless themes like body-image, romance and fitting in. But it also elegantly hones in on the dynamic, and perhaps inseparability, between digital culture and Generation Z. 

The funny thing is that the film is neither for nor against social media. There’s no takeaway lesson that Burnham’s forcing down your throat. He’s just trying to capture real life. 

Essentially, the movie has no agenda, Burnham told All The Moms.

And that’s the beauty of it.

So what’s ‘Eighth Grade’ about?

Note: Spoilers ahead!

The movie opens with teenager Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher, speaking into a camera for her YouTube channel. A little nervous, a little pimply, and a whole lot relatable, she’s talking about how she doesn’t have many likes on her videos yet and how people tend to see her as quiet and shy, even though she’s really outgoing but just doesn’t talk much at school.

During the film, we stay with Kayla for her last few weeks of middle school.

download-1In the Arizona Daily Sun, Dan Stoffel wrote a review: Eighth Grade, a remarkably poignant movie.”

Eighth-grader Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is shy and quiet around other people, but in her YouTube videos, she gives great advice about how to put yourself out there with confidence. It’s just too bad she can’t practice what she preaches and her attempts to fit in with the cool kids—or with any kids for that matter—crash and burn.

Writer-director Bo Burnham, at the helm of his first feature, takes us into Kayla’s world as she tries to get through the end of the school year with high school on the horizon. Eighth Grade is funny, sad and at times uncomfortable, exactly like poor Kayla, who really wants to come out of her shell but just can’t seem to get things right. Her single dad (Josh Hamilton) tries to help but, like many 13-year-old girls, Kayla doesn’t really want to know what he thinks.

With a simple narrative and no splashy film-making tricks, Burnham has crafted a remarkably poignant movie by relying on the authenticity of Fisher, Hamilton and the rest of the cast of relatively unknowns. The on-screen chemistry between them seems so real it’s almost as if Burnham were filming a reality show but with better (and less obvious) scripting. I thankfully don’t have a great idea of how 13-year-olds talk, but I have to think it’s exactly like these kids. And Eighth Grade stealthily emphasizes how different their world is from when folks like me were growing up. For example, some high schoolers, just four years older than Kayla, talk about how she’s from an entirely different generation than they are. To me, that was a much longer period of time—like the era of black-and-white vs. color television, not the age at which I got Snapchat.

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“Eighth Grade” had my daughter reminiscing about that awkward age before high school when you’re trying to figure out who you are. She remembered going to a couple birthday parties where everyone was on their phones and nobody was talking to each other. The movie did an amazing job showing how social media plays such a big part of our kids’ lives today. Literally, every scene had kids on their phones or computers, sharing and portraying themselves as they wanted to be seen. The movie doesn’t preach about technology but rather shows it realistically. It reminded me of a reality show but with a captivating character, you’re really rooting for. It was a great movie to share with my daughter.

If you’ve seen “Eighth Grade” what are your thoughts about it? 

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Are parents over the top for hiring video game tutors?

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Personally, I prefer my kids being outside instead of sitting in front of a screen.

A WSJ article called “Ready, Aim, Hire a ‘Fortnite’ Coach: Parents Enlist Videogame Tutors for Their Children” by Sarah E. Needleman, caused a furor this week. I’ll admit I stopped paying attention to gaming after my kids left home. The extent of my own video game experience was Mario Brothers and tennis on the Wii. My son liked to play Zelda and he used his GameBoy Color to play Pokemon. I guess you could say we weren’t a big video game family.

When my dad emailed me an article about parents hiring coaches for “Fortnite,” I realized I had no idea what Fortnite was! Since then I’ve learned that it’s a hugely popular video game with millions playing worldwide. Parents are hiring online tutors so their kids get better at the game, much as we hired Coach Todd to help my kids with their stroke technique in swimming. Why would parents hire tutors to help their kids play a game? There are many reasons including huge monetary rewards and even college scholarships. Who knew? Even my daughter’s college the University of Utah introduced Varsity Esports as a thing.

“The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program announced today that it is forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry leading League of Legends as its first game with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school out of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, director of operations for the U’s new esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE video game development program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review.”

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ:

“It’s not the violence or the addiction of the hit game that bothers mom and dad—it’s the losing.”

Ally Hicks fretted over her 10-year-old son playing the hugely popular shoot-em-up videogame “Fortnite.”

This is for your own good

It wasn’t the violence or the amount of time she was worried about. It was the result. He wasn’t winning.

So she hired him a coach. For about $50, Ms. Hicks purchased four hours of online lessons from a player she found through a freelance labor website.

For many children, “Fortnite” has become a social proving ground. More than 125 million people play it world-wide, according to its maker, mostly in a free mode pitting 100 combatants against each other until one person or team is left standing.

Winning bestows the kind of bragging rights that used to be reserved for the local Little League baseball champ. Just like eager dugout dads opening their wallets for pitching lessons, videogame parents are more than willing to pay for their offspring to gain an edge.

Nick Mennen was happy to pay $20 an hour for his 12-year-old son, Noble, to take “Fortnite” lessons. The dad is already dreaming of a scholarship—or at least some tournament money. (“Fortnite” creator Epic Games Inc. recently pledged $100 million in tournament prizes. Some colleges court gamers with financial incentives to join their varsity teams.)

Noble used to win “Fortnite” infrequently before he began taking about six hours of lessons a month. “Now he’ll throw down 10 to 20 wins,” said Mr. Mennen, a software developer in Cedar Park, Texas.

The success has made Noble competitive with his dad. “I should be the one charging him,” Noble said. “He’s not as good as me.”

Coaches can be found on social media or through contracting sites such as Gamer Sensei and Bidvine, which said it has hired out more than 1,400 “Fortnite” coaches since early March. Some coaches can’t believe parents want to sign up their children for lessons.

“It’s really surreal to me,” said Logan Werner, an 18-year-old “Fortnite” coach in Roy, Utah, who plays the combat game on a professional team called Gankstars. “My dad would have never paid for me to take videogame lessons.”

Hiring a “Fortnite” coach for a child is no different than enlisting an expert to help a child excel at basketball or chess, parents say. Some sit in on lessons to make sure coaches are professional and that their children, well, level up.

“I want them to excel at what they enjoy,” Euan Robertson said of his sons Alexander, 10, and Andrew, 12. He hired them a “Fortnite” coach in June, who can stay as long as the children keep up their grades.

Here’s a video from Good Morning America about the phenomenon of hiring tutors to help kids improve at Fortnite. According to their story, tournament play has up to $100 million in prizes. 

In USA Today, “Fortnite tutors are a thing. And yes, parents are paying them,” written by Caroline Blackmon, writes that the craze over Fortnite is like Beatlemania. Really?

It’s turned kids into couch potatoes.

It’s caused professional athletes to crash and burn at their jobs.

It’s even infiltrated daily conversations with its own vocabulary.

Fortnite arrived on the scene last July as a free-to-play shooter by Epic Games. But it started off as less than a success when first released.

Then, in September 2017, Epic added a free-to-play “battle royale” mode, in which 100 players on a large island fight for survival.

That’s when things went crazy.

It captured the Minecraft generation with its free play, bright graphics and ridiculous costumes. It even overtook Minecraft in March as the most-watched video game in YouTube history.

“In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis and the ingestion of Tide Pods,” according to the New Yorker.

Now instead of pushing back against the addictive nature of the game, some parents are doubling down on Fortnite by hiring tutors for their kids.

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I prefer this view to a video game.

What are your thoughts about hiring tutors for video games? Do you think it’s a reasonable thing for parents to do or not? Are parents going way over the top, or is it fine to give our kids all the reasonable advantages to help their self-esteem and perhaps earn a college scholarship?

How can parents help with college recruiting?

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Signing day.

There’s a balance we need to find as parents during the exciting, whirlwind process of recruiting for college athletics. I look back on my daughter’s recruiting experience as a great memory. We helped her but didn’t overtake the process. There is a fine line, and often parents don’t do enough—or do too much.

In USA Today, I read a valuable article about college athletic recruiting by Jaimie Duffek, NCSA Head Recruiting Coach, called “How college coaches recommend parents help with recruiting.” Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes who are part of the Next College Student-Athlete team, a top recruiting network.

Joyce Wellhoefer, a former Division I, Division II, and NAIA college coach for more than 20 years, recalls a recruit she removed from her prospect list, even though she was a top athlete.

“We invited her on a visit, but the whole time she was there, I never got a chance to connect—or really even talk to her—because her mom kept answering questions for her,” she says.

College coaches evaluate a student-athlete’s personality just as much as their athletic skill set. At the end of the day, they want to recruit someone who is going to be the right fit for the team’s chemistry, and who is coach-able. The best way to learn that? By talking to the student-athlete.

When the parent is the one calling the coach, sending emails, and answering their questions on visits, it doesn’t give the coach a chance to bond with the student-athlete. College coaches know that you want the best for your child, just like they want the best fit for their team. So don’t hesitate to sit back a little and encourage your athlete—especially a shy teenager—to be confident enough to talk directly to the coach.

How parents can help their student-athlete in the recruiting process
Now, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “That all sounds great, but there’s no way my child can do this on their own.” You’re right. Not a lot of teenagers have the time to take on their recruiting on top of all their many responsibilities. And college coaches recognize that you’re a big part of the process. In fact, getting to know the parents is important, too.

“Having support from parents is extremely beneficial for college coaches,” says Emily Johnson, who coached at Division II and III schools over a 17-year span. “As a coach, you are recruiting the whole family. It’s important to talk to the parents and get to know them.”

Bottom line—coaches know this is a big decision for the whole family, and they’re looking for parents who are invested but who don’t own the recruiting process. They support their athlete but give them the responsibility. So, here are ways you can do that according to our coaches.

 

Here are a few headings from the article of how parents can help:

Introduce yourself at the right time

Help your athlete stay organized

Help them explore their college options

I’ve interviewed many collegiate swim coaches for SwimSwam magazine and they do look at parents during the recruiting process. Overall they say that parents can be extremely helpful, especially in research. With all the universities’ information online, it’s a lot of material to sift through. That’s one thing that parents can help with. They agree that parents shouldn’t be the ones sending the emails to coaches and answering them. Coaches can tell when it’s a student or a parent’s voice, regardless who’s name or email it’s coming from. Also, two coaches told me that it was especially informative to see the relationship between the student-athlete and parents. For example, during one recruit trip, a coach listened to a student berate her mom over the cell phone. That coach said she had no interest in a swimmer who was so disrespectful to adults because she said she would refuse to be treated that way and her role eventually evolves to that as a surrogate mother.

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My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

What are your suggestions for parents duties during the recruiting process?