Tag: teaching

32 years and I’ve learned a bit

I just finished up 32 years in the teaching profession. No, I’m not retiring yet. I only have 23 years or so in TRS (Illinois teacher retirement system) and you need A LOT more than that for full retirement. Anywho, retirement isn’t really what I wanted to write about.

I’ve learned a lot about kids over the last 32 years. Today, I hear so many people now complaining about the way kids are raised or how the schools are failing. Texting and social media are ruining this generation. They have no respect. They feel entitled. They are too easily offended. They are snowflakes. While a bit of this has some truth, I’m going to respectfully disagree.

A very long time ago when I was in high school, I distinctly remember one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Gibson, saying that this generation (us) was the “Me generation”. All we cared about was me, me, me. We didn’t care about the world general, that we were selfish, that all we cared about was money. We were rude. We felt entitled. We weren’t satisfied with simplicity. We wanted others to do our work for us.

She was right. She was also wrong.

Here’s my argument. It isn’t the generation that lacks the morals of previous generations, it’s simply the nature of teenagers to be selfish. AND THEY CAN BE!! This is how they learn. According to the stages of psychological development adolescence is a time of “storm and stress” where the teen learns how to deal with all kinds of stress factors. Some of those internal stresses can include puberty, sexuality, gender identiy, self discovery, decision making, boyfriend/girlfriend, religious beliefs and more. External stressers can include homework, understanding parents, friends, divorced parents, high stakes testing, choosing a college, sex, meeting challenges set by parents and teachers, jobs, homework, and so much more. Personally, I’m thankful NOT to be teenager!!

I just looked it up – the average age for a person to lose his/her virginity is 16.9.  Holy Cow!! That’s the average!! Back in the 1980s it was closer to 18 years old.  While one year may not seem like that big of a difference, it really is when we’re talking about maturity levels.

Expectations for teens have also changed over the years. Back in the 1980s, kids were expected to have good grades, decent ACT score (average was 18), maybe have a part time (15-20 hour a week) job, and be active in church or school events. We started looking at colleges when we were seniors. Some of us would need loans, which might take up to 10 years to pay back in order to afford college. We were also, generally, expected to be home for dinner most days. Now, kids are expected to have good grades, get an excellent grade on the ACT (average is now 21) or SAT, decide on a college or career by the beginning of senior year, navigate the turbulent waters of financial aid, know that if they take out a loan, it might take 20-30 years to pay it off, have a job, have a car, have a computer, navigate social media, fend for themselves for dinner, handle money and credit or debit cars, and so much more.

So, are kids today worse than they were 35 years ago? I really don’t think so. I think the real difference in all of this is social media and too much protection from natural consequences. I’m not saying this is bad, but it is tricky. Kids, by nature, are impulsive. They say and do things today that they regret tomorrow. When we did that, we could apologize and move on. Now, kids say and do things on SM and it’s THERE for the world to see. Kids today, just like us back in the day, don’t really understand consequences and we (teachers, parents, society) want to protect them from consequences. However, too much protection can insulate them from growing up. A major difference, though, is that our mistakes could be erased as time went on. Their mistakes are often put out there for the world to see.

Think for a minute about the body. If you want your body to become stronger, you exercise. This puts natural stress on the muscles which causes growth. Take that same scenario and apply it to the mind and maturity levels. Yes, kids today have  lot of stress, but if they are never allowed to feel that stress, deal with it (and with adult guidance at times), and grow from it, how will they ever gain maturity?

I know I’ve rambled, and I apologize. Bottom line. Kids today and not all that different from us. Each generation is convinced that the next generation is the worst ever. They aren’t. They just need guidance to help them learn how to cope with natural consequences, be allowed to screw up and learn from those screw ups, and to see just how far the influence of social media can go which is something they truly don’t understand.

Yes, I have concerns for teens of today, but I certainly do not think that they are the worst generation ever. What they are, are kids who need guidance and support, not quick fixes or cover ups, in order to become active, mature adults.

 

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Gardening

My family were gardeners. Not the tiny little “isn’t that a cute tomato plant” type of gardeners, but the “We’ve got a duplex of ten people to feed and only 2 men bringing in wages” type. The garden was a family affair, even for me, the youngest. On the first warm day at the end of February or beginning of March, my dad or grandpa would roto-till up the garden area – which was huge – 1/2 an acre or so I think. He’d work in all the leaves and dead plant material from the winter. Then, wait another week or two and till it again. It was after this second tilling that the real work started. All the women and children- MeeMaw, Aunt Rose, Aunt Blanche, my mom, Terry, and me – would follow behind the tiller carrying hoes (the garden variety) and hack away at the big clumps. Next, Grandpa would put stacks at the front and back of the garden area, marking the rows. I’ll never know how he managed Image result for vegetable gardento make the rows straight since he just eyeballed everything – no measuring. He’d string cotton string between the stakes then we – the Hoe Pack – would make little mountains beneath the strings. By early April MeeMaw would have planted potatoes, onions, and lettuce. By mid-May she’d have in cucumbers, tomatoes, kohlrabi, radishes, zucchini, beans, and sometimes peas. One year, we even had corn. We all helped with this, but she was really the one to decide where everything went and when it would be planted. She was the Garden Whisperer. Throughout the spring I’d watch eagerly for the first green shoots to push through the dark earth. I’d badger her with “can we eat it now” until she finally would let me pinch off baby lettuce leaves and eat them right there in the garden. (Now, don’t think we starved or anything – I just really liked eating those tasty little leaves even if I did get a bit of dirt along with the greenery.)

I loved gardening. Everything from watering the rows to digging up the radishes to snapping the beans. The idea that one little seed buried in nothing but dirt could produce a vine with a whole crop of cucumbers fascinated me. There is something primordially beautiful about eating a meal almost totally made up of food products you yourself have nurtured. One of the few disappointing aspects of my house now is that the ground is too clay ridden, there is too much shade, and there is not enough yard to have a decent garden.

MeeMaw also taught me that sometimes, no matter how carefully you plan, plant, and nurture, the product turns out wrong. Maybe there’s a drought. Maybe a flood. Maybe a bad seed. Maybe pests. When this happens, it’s best just to cut that plant out, toss it into the compost pile, and use it to help nurture the other plants. I  I watched her do this year after year and it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I understood the metaphor.

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you plan, learn, and prepare, life turns out wrong. When I first entered college, I thought I wanted to teach business skills – secretarial to be precise. I had taken secretarial courses in high school, worked as a secreImage result for ibm selectrictary for a few years, was an ace typist, knew a little about shorthand, could keep a calendar, had a nice voice, could enunciate when I spoke, could use a dictaphone (this WAS 1982, so this was top technology at the time!), and wasn’t afraid to use the new word processors like Wang. As it turns out, no matter how hard I wanted to like the business world, I hated it. My grades plummeted, I became depressed, and I generally hated life. That was when I changed majors to English, which, in the long run, has worked out much better for me. I was also able to “compost” many of my secretarial skills to nurture my new career choice. Typing papers and lesson plans was a breeze. Notetaking posed no problems, Keeping a plan book is much like keeping a calendar, and I could project my voice well enough to get the attention of a classroom full of rowdy teenagers.

MeeMaw taught me many, many things. One of the most important, however, was that no effort was ever wasted and no knowledge was ever useless.