As we start back to school, I would like to take a moment to mourn… I mean cry… I mean reflect on our students and the expectations we have for them.
Pay attention because this may be the only time that I take the students’ side.
Of course that’s not true because I am extremely pro-student. But I will be watching them. And their friends. Especially during the lunch hour… and between classes… and before school… and at dances… and during games (I think you get the point).
It is relatively common to hear older generations (that would be us) say kids these days are lazy, unmotivated, and not as interested in school (or anything else) as we were.
I am here to make the case that this isn’t true. In fact, they may be more ambitious and open to obtaining knowledge than we were as kids.
I believe this to be true because during my teenage years I was completely uninterested in work, waking up, breathing, reading, school, and anything else that required effort (other than sports… I loved sports… and girls, but unfortunately they were something called “frightened and disgusted” by me).
I think kids in 2008 are so far advanced of our generation that it makes us nervous. Consequently, we label them as lazy or worthless just because they have different interests than we did.
It is important for us old folks to keep in mind that the “good old days” weren’t all that great.
No computers, no video games, no air conditioning in my parents’ station wagon (with the fake wood paneling on the side… don’t kid yourself, it was sweet), me always having to sit on the hump in the back seat of the hot station wagon, no cable TV (or Dish Network, just an antenna that pulled in 3 stations… one of which was PBS, so it didn’t even count), no watching movies in the car (or ever: see crappy TV), no internet, no vacations, no ice cream, no pizza delivery, no electricity, 18 hours of chores every morning, Christmas got cancelled twice… so again you get the point… no anything fun, ever.
When I was a kid we walked 87 miles uphill to school (both ways… usually in the snow), slept on the floor, ate dirt for dinner, went to bed at 6:30 p.m. (because our parents were sick of us by then), sweat all night in the summer, and froze to death in the winter.
And worst of all, I had to wear clothes that were hand-me-downs. That isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is I don’t have brothers. Only 2 sisters. Try explaining the frilling jeans with sequin purple flowers on the back pockets to your buddies (I do miss the fashions of the 70’s, but maybe this partially explains the “frightened and disgusted” reaction I so often received from the ladies).
Today’s kids grow up in a world that I barely recognize. And I try to stay somewhat current.
Sure, they don’t play outside as much, do as many chores, or ride their bikes 20 miles a day. But this isn’t laziness, it’s because they have more exciting things to do.
If my generation was so smart, why did we follow the truck on Saturday night that was spraying for mosquitoes in the summer? And I mean right behind, where we could breathe in as much of the chemicals as possible (any chance that explains my frequent blackouts and night terrors?).
We did things like that because we were trying to amuse ourselves. And trust me, after speaking to my doctor, a Nintendo Wii or laptop computer is much safer.
We shouldn’t try to convince students that computers, cell phones, texting, video games, Google, YouTube, etc. are bad. It is just different.
It is called choices. And they have lots of them. So when they are given these opportunities to make a choice, naturally they choose whatever is the most fun and exciting.
Don’t kid yourself. If we had the chance to play video games for 5 hours straight rather than skip rocks across a pond, we would have chosen the video games every time.
We played Cowboys and Indians outside in the heat. This generation plays computer games where they get to shoot things without leaving their air conditioned family rooms. Who do you think is smarter?
As educators we need to stop fighting progress and embrace it.
Kids aren’t lazy; they are just simply used to instant gratification. They aren’t dumb because they don’t read newspapers. They are smarter because they get their information online, immediately as events happen.
Sure they choose to stare at a computer instead of going outside. But they are learning, just in a different way.
We can’t expect them to come to school and go backwards. So we can’t be surprised when they find a whiteboard or an overhead projector painfully boring. They need to be fed information at a faster pace than we were taught. It is the way we are raising them and all of the caffeine they drink (trust me, if we could have bought a 64 ounce Big Gulp for 79 cents… we would have).
How would we feel when attending a workshop where the speaker wrote their speech on a chalkboard…in longhand…and we had to take notes?
Our reaction would probably indicate the presenter needing to catch up with the times.
And that is how kids view us.
Progress is good. And inevitable.
As old people, we need to jump aboard with technology or get out of the way.
Students are coming to school smarter. And they want to learn. And they want technology. And lots of it.
The next time I hear a student complain about a SMARTBoard, a computer assignment, or anything related to technology being boring… it will be the first time.
In a perfect world, education would be out front leading the changes. In the real world, education has to change because the students already have.