Friday, January 5, 2018

Kids These Days...

I'm assuming if you've been in education for any length of time you'd hear a conversation that began with, "Kids these days..." Or maybe you don't need to be in education, isn't that a perennial comment? The older generation lamenting pitfalls of the younger generation. I've been thinking a lot about that of late. It seems that everywhere I turn, people are decrying that this generation of kids are not what "we" were. This is especially true when I look at Facebook. Friends share that their children have been treated poorly at school, kids are vicious, they have no manners, etc. When I talk to teachers across the country, friends that teach in urban settings and rural, they say the same. So is it true? Have kids changed?

I'm not sure. I'd say we all change, in some fashion. Technology has changed how we connect. Kids are addicted to the screen, but my teachers said that about us and TVs and the first gaming system. Kids today can be cruel, but I remember the things said to me when I was in school eons ago. Cruel doesn't even touch it. Kids can be lazy for certain, but so could we. Students fall back on the idea that they are entitled to things, yet I saw that from people around me growing up all the time. So why do we feel kids today are so different than we were?

I think the answer might be two fold, but both answers point to adults. One, from what I can tell from my students and from some of my friends on Facebook, parents seem to know far more about what is going on in their kid's life than my generation's set of parents did. Teenage years are filled with drama. Kids will have unkind words said to them, or said about them. Hearts will be broken, friendships will end, betrayals will occur. While I'm basing this on my own teen years, watching my oldest enter high school, I think it still holds true. They say that to be a parent is to have your heart walking around outside of your body. That seems to be an apt description. Watching your child hurt is so hard. You want to take over, right the wrongs, and smooth it all out. So far, what I've done instead is to step back and watch. I'm guessing this is all the training they need for life. No life is without bumps, I just have to trust that if I'm needed, they know I'm here. I don't know everything that goes on, and I don't think I should. I try to achieve the delicate balance of being involved, but also being removed. It is hard. When we know more about what goes on in our kids lives, it can be easier to lament the issues that are wrong with other kids, but if we reflect back, we might have seen some of those same "issues" with kids when we were growing up.

The bigger problem I see with kids and parents is kids not being held accountable. As I said before, I truly don't think kids have changed much since I grew up - there were problems then, there are problems now. The difference, I believe, is that when I was growing up if a parent was told their child wasn't behaving at school, the follow up at home was immediate. Don't get me wrong, I have been blessed with amazing parents of my students in teaching. But I've also wished I could whisper advice at some times. My parents, I am certain, didn't agree with every teacher I had. Heck, I don't think they even liked every teacher I had. I never would have known that. They might not have liked how I was taught a certain lesson, or the way a teacher treated me, but they taught me that the teacher was to be respected. Far too often, I'm seeing that slip. Or that parents want schools to enforce rules that they aren't willing to enforce at home. This is where the breakdown in norms is happening, I believe. I worry about my amazing students. If they aren't taught to respect authority, if they aren't taught to respect each other, if they aren't taught what work ethic is and how good it feels to do a job well, will they be successful? 

Being the "bad guy" is no fun - I know this as a teacher and a parent. But the problems with whatever term they are calling this generation aren't really the fault of the kids. Kids will push boundaries, make poor choices, frustrate us, be lazy, and more. They always have, they always will. The question is what the adults will do. Can we get back to being ok with not being liked? Can we see the fault in our children, know that those faults are normal, and not put our kids on some pedestal? Can we just value them for who they are and the amazing people they are become? I think we can.

My students astound me every single day. Middle schoolers get a bad rap, but I love them. I said to them today that I know they will change the world for the better, and I truly believe that. They are the most caring, kind, loving, and considerate people I know. They are also the funniest and most sarcastic. And they can, at times, be the most cruel. That dynamic is what it is to be a teen. I am firm, I tell them I love them. I correct them when they are wrong and lay on a huge dose of mom guilt. They accept it and grow. The problems with our kids do not lie with the kids, but with us. We need to change and allow them to grow.

Now, if they'd just get off my lawn.