December 5, 2010 by readlisaread
I’ve written about this before, but it’s on my mind still….
Teachers love a lot of things: Cheap Movie night (called Teacher Tuesday here), June 30th, the first paycheque after June 30th, and complaining about what a crappy bunch of students they have.
I’ve listened to the whinging, and participated in my share of it, after all, misery loves company, and being 89% extrovert, I’m all about the company. But I’m also getting a little jaded, as time passes, and I am starting to notice something about these staff-room conversations that begin with: “Kids these days have no idea how to…..” I’m starting to notice a trend, and it’s not a pretty one.
Now, of course I know it’s always the mien of the previous generation to kvetch about the younger one–the horrible fashions, the hideous music, the heinous morals. But teachers invariably take it to the next level–not only do Students Today parade about with the triple H threat, they are also getting dumber.
And here is where I say “Pardon?!” I’m not a scientist, so I can’t say for definite whether or not the Human Race is getting Dumber, but I tend to think it’s not, and until proof of the increase in Stupidity is pointed out to me, I’m going to go with that.
So, let’s look at the facts I do know:
- I’ve been teaching for over 15 years.
- I’ve been walking on this planet for 45
- I’ve spent most of my life either being a kid or working with kids
- I have a couple of degrees from 2 respected universities, so by all accounts, I’m not stupid.
Here are the Facts as reported by my colleagues:
- Students today are worse at spelling
- Students are constantly fiddling with some electronic equipment
- Students don’t know how to properly format a page, or show quotations in writing
- Students think they can copy and paste anything off of the Internet and call it their own
I’ve been saying, loudly and frequently and for some time now, that Kids Today are not the same as previous iterations. They are wired differently, and they have evolved. Now, I said earlier that I’m wasn’t a scientist, and I’m still not, but a lot of recent brain research backs up my strictly anecdotal evidence– these Kids we see in our classrooms now are a different kind of learner than we have seen before.
Here’s the kicker– teachers will agree with my theory, but then instantly revert to type: “Oh yes, I see what you mean, they do need information presented in different ways, and they do speak a different language, and they are motivated by digital information. But anyway, I think the answer is to get back to the basics– kids today need the Three R’s”
It’s not the kids that need to shift, it’s us. We need to show them how to access information, how to use it ethically, how a Mash-Up is a totally legit form of expression, as long as you cite your sources and understand how Creative Commons works. We all say “Educational Change Moves at a Glacial Pace” as if disgusted, yet, I seem to see a lot of teachers using that as an excuse to not need to effect their own change. We should be driving it from within, just like the kids are, yet we resist. Fear, I suppose.
Last year, I spoke up (ill-advisedly, it turns out) at staff meeting on this topic. An English teacher, a 35 year veteran, said he was finding it more and more difficult every year to get the kids interested in Shakespeare. I said I wasn’t surprised, given that they read from the original publishing run of MacBeth (Gutenberg Edition). I said to him “I thought it would be really fun to do an assignment where the students tell the story from a character’s point of view, but they retell the story digitally– you know, like, imagine what Juliet would have texted Romeo? ‘hi R. lks like N. is peep’n, so com to my balc. post-dark, k? <3′”
My Colleague’s response?
“That just makes me sad.”
Well, I get it, and considering what a tech-nerd I am, I still have an insatiable thirst for literature, and still only read books on paper. But….would I rather hammer on old skool, or would I rather introduce a new way to hook kids up with Shakespeare? I think he’d forgive a Podcast that starts: “hey kids, it’s DJ Bardy McFly here, and I’m going to lay down some serious Danish shenanigans for you tonight….”
I think it would not make him sad, at all…..