When working with students on a day-to-day basis, I always try to put myself in their shoes and think back to what it was like when I was a rambunctious 5 th grader. (My young(ish) age allows us to have many similarities.) I loved video games, TV, music, sports, outdoors, and my friends. While some pieces always stay the same, I am amazed at the myriad of changes over the last 20 years. I am learning that each generation may keep similar core concepts, but students evolve in relation to societal and technological changes.
When I was in 5 th grade, portable technology was in its infancy. CD’s allowed us to no longer have to rewind to the “sweet spot” to find the beginning of a song. We could listen to music with our Discman, but it wouldn’t fit in a pocket and had to be carried it like a full cup of hot coffee or the music would skip. We still used cassettes to record songs from the radio, but it took anticipation and quick reactions… fitting 5 songs on a cassette and not cutting into another song was better than a jigsaw puzzle.
Texting was brand new, but of course, we didn’t have phones and our parents didn’t understand them. Email was still the hot new thing. I remember talking my mom into a certain phone because it was the first one to come with Snake and Tetris. I constantly dropped calls, which was usual, and my parents regretted getting rid of the “bag phones.” The days of ICQ (instant messaging) and Napster (downloading music) were still science fiction to me.
Looking back, it seemed like everything took patience and effort. If I lost track of time on Sunday morning, I missed the cartoons. Anyone who had a regular Nintendo remembers spending 5 minutes trying to get a game to work. School was easy for me because I was used to deliberate thinking and problem solving. Socially, I would have been in trouble if my thoughts and words were shared as they are now with social media.
These days, students are able to get instant gratification with downloading games or streaming music. Students can tune in to their portable entertainment any place, any time. It is easy for parents to not engage with a kid who is quietly playing on a tablet or phone. Looking back, I am happy my dad would not allow me to wear my headphones in the truck so we could talk about the day, play 21 questions, and “would you rather.” He would always point to things outside and ask me why I thought things were the way they are.
Now, I find myself thinking about my “to do” list while my daughter is tuned in to her iPad. While we all need a break and some quiet time, I learned how important it is to instill curiosity so kids learn in all four seasons, all their life. It is hard to have grit and perseverance in today’s on-demand society. Now, video games with mind-blowing graphics and high-definitions TV’s are everywhere. Today’s students receive much more stimuli than their predecessors, making it tougher to be interested and focused in a classroom.
Kids are growing up in a different world and with the exponential growth in technology, change will continue. The only way we can prepare our kids for a future we can’t see is to give them the foundations of success. If someone has curiosity, grit, and character, they will be able to take on any challenge and be successful. We have to let them see the importance of their choice in real life as well as social media. This will change kids from just being consumers or technology to creators with technology.
Raymond Junior/Senior High News
When I was doing my student teaching, the principal at the time made a point of telling me to travel. He stressed that whenever possible, I should do whatever it took to get out of Dodge. At the time, I just thought he wanted me to take advantage of my vacations. As rewarding as teaching is, there are times that it is stressful and thankless and we need time to “recharge.” Since then, I’ve come to realize there was a deeper purpose.
After several years of teaching, followed by four years in the Principal's chair, I have a better understanding of what he meant. RHS is a haven for people whose foundations are derived from many cultures from all over the world. He was telling me to seek to understand where our kids and their families come from, why they see the world as they do and how best to blend and serve the needs of everyone in our school.
A great example of this is how we literally look at each other. Many folks see direct eye contact as a way of showing respect and when their gaze is not returned they feel disrespected. Other cultures defer eye contact as a sign of respect. Without having experienced both and understanding where both are coming from, it would be easy to improperly place a label of indifference, obstinate behavior or aggressiveness on someone.
By traveling, or "getting out of Dodge" I have had my mind opened to other cultures and behaviors and have come to understand vacations, no matter how big or small, provide not just a needed break, but also serve as a looking glass into the customs, arts, social institutions and culture of other parts of the nation or world. Both kids and adults benefit by making an effort to see something they haven't seen before, traveling to places that are new and interesting, and opening our minds to new experiences and cultures.