Benjamin Nathan, Korianna Austera, Michael Weitz: Berkeley High School math teachers by weekday, and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) enthusiasts by weekend. Beginning during quarantine, they’ve been meeting semi-regularly to join in playing the game. The group initially started to play over Zoom and has continued to play since, now sometimes in person.
Nathan, the group’s founder, has been playing D&D off and on for years. He began in his adolescence, and really started to pursue the hobby over Zoom during the pandemic as a way to socialize despite the shelter in place mandate. D&D engages many of his varied interests.
“(So many) things … go into it, right? There’s the math… there’s the fantasy …, there’s the storytelling thing, which will get your theater people in …,” he said. “You’ve got all these different groups and every one of them, you’ve got to have an overbearing love for that thing.”
Contrary to her friends, Austera’s first exposure to playing D&D was during quarantine as a part of this group. The community and friendship based dynamic of the group helped her get involved. “It helps that a lot of us have known each other, in some capacity, for years,” she said.
Weitz is the group’s longest-playing member, having played since he was a student in middle and high school. He continued to play through college and began playing with his coworkers during quarantine. His experience with Dungeons & Dragons has had an impact on him in an academic setting.
“I think it made me a better reader … back then you had to do a lot of technical reading to understand the rules, paying attention to the turn of the phrase and of the sentence so you’d read the rules correctly. You had to learn some pretty precise reading, which is something I see my students struggling with today,” he said.
D&D is a very mathematical game, and it requires proficiency in quick computation and probability. “It also helped my math: I got really into probability because going through high school I thought about dice and chances to roll things … these were things I was just sitting around at the time and thinking about. I loved it when they would talk about probability in class,” said Weitz.
Weitz and Austera emphasized that they’d like to consider incorporating D&D into their teaching curriculums if given the necessary resources and time.
D&D has even influenced Nathan’s teaching. “(D&D is) very good for improvising and half of the time with teaching, you’re improvising,” he said. “If we’re trying to figure out something it’s like, ‘oh, you don’t get how that works? Okay, let me talk about this in a different way, let’s try a different method.”
Similarly, all teachers expressed that, at least on a surface level, they’ve been able to connect with students through a shared interest in D&D whether it be through Weitz’s prior position as the BHS D&D Club teacher sponsor, through Nathan’s anecdotal and D&D related T-Shirts or Austera’s casual shared experience with students.
Dungeons & Dragons has bonded these three teachers, with their students, with their teaching, and with each other.