"This generation is a lost cause. They're lazy now, you know. They don't work as hard as we did, as our parents did. They're entitled, don't you think? Never done an honest day's work. Not like we did when we were young. Kids have it easy these days. Everything is served up to them on a platter, and they just sit there and it all comes to them. They don't respect their elders, they don't respect anyone, never mind us educators. They can't even talk any more! They would just as soon text to eachother than have a conversation, and heaven forbid we ask them to really spell a simple word like gr8, 4COL! (that means "for crying out loud", by the way) And this music these days, effing this, and motherbleeping that--they don't even respect themselves! Gawd, if we would have had it as easy as kids do today, imagine what we would have done. This "right now" generation isn't worth our time. I give up! I just hope the next generation is better."
Are comments like these familiar to you? Do you ever have friends who are not in education ask you "how you do it?"? Do you ever go to get your haircut, and when you tell people that you work in a school, you are subjected to an invective so intense that you are tempted just to go with the crew cut just to get out of there? Well, my question to you is--as an educator, do you do the right thing? Do you let society know the truth about students of today?
Over the past few weeks, I was asked by several students to write them letters of reference for various scholarships, bursaries, and university entrance applications. As part of the process for me to write letters of reference, I have a form that each student fills which details the activities they have participated in which they are proud of over the last five years at our school. After reading a dozen of these forms, I can tell you without equivocation that our world is in good hands.
Each of these students
- is a scholar (95% average or greater with highly demanding course loads)
- is a mentor (to junior students in our school as peer tutors or members of our LINK crew)
- is highly involved in extra-curricular activities (ranging from being the leads in arts performances, to performing at Carnegie Hall, to playing in the Provincial Honour Band or Choir, to winning awards in visual arts, to playing on multiple varsity sports teams)
- is a leader (everything from participating in National Leadership Conferences, Provincial Student Voice, Encounters with Canada, Student's Council)
- is a social activist (by being involved in clubs such as Global Awareness, building schools in Peru, coordinating activities to raise thousands of dollars for HIV awareness in third world countries, and recycling all of the cans in our large school three times per week and donating the money to food banks)
- is a volunteer (at local hospices, food banks, youth camps and shelters for the homeless)
- is selfless and unwavering in their focus to make their school and their world a better place for everyone.
Even as I read this list back to myself, I realize how humbled I am by these students. And I know that each of you has these students in your schools. Where do they get the drive? Where do they get the time? Why didn't I do all of these things when I was a student? And most importantly, why are we not telling the world about these students?
Now one might say, "Well, those are just your TOP students. What about all the others?" Those "others" are just as awesome. They too participate in many of the above activities. And they have jobs for 25 hours per week. And they take care of their kid brother after school because mom and dad are at work. Plus they volunteer to scorekeep at volleyball games, decorate dances, and wear Santa hats on the last day before Christmas while delivering hot chocolate to classrooms for their teachers. They shovel snow for elderly people in their PE classes, and bring guests to the office who might get lost in the school. They are GOOD. And we need to tell this to the public.
Some people choose to give up on this generation of students going through our K-12 education system. That is their loss. I believe we should put our support behind them, walk beside them, learn from them, and cheer for them. This generation WILL lead us through the quagmire of problems they have inherited (from US, by the way), including a fractured economy, a climate on the brink, world poverty, human rights issues, and a technological revolution that we can only pretend to grasp.
So when people start to talk about "the kids of today", as educators, we need to do the right thing. Let's stand up for our students and remind people that these "kids" in our schools that we can be so quick to castigate today are the ones that we will be COUNTING ON to solve the problems of tomorrow.