Tuesday, January 26, 2016

From the Teacher's Desk

So lately my mind has been churning through some thoughts that all seem alarmingly interrelated. Thoughts from my personal life- the unhappiness that I've been working through in my "Joy Project" and "Citizenship" posts. Thoughts from professional development articles that have been sent my way by my awesome principal. Thoughts from my BSF study about Revelation. And, finally, thoughts from my interpersonal interactions- with my students and with my young mom friends.

It's only been in the past couple of days that things have started to crystallize for me. And I think that picking a place to start is like trying to find the beginning of a circle. I could probably pick anywhere, and it would take just as long to get the pieces to interconnect and make sense. So I think that, today, I'm going to pick the most current application, and I'll build from there.

So here goes nothing...

I'm grading tests right now. As I grade, I'm making myself not put down the correct answer for questions missed. I'm also gearing myself up for one class that will probably have a failing average. I'm not going to curve. I already told them that I'm not going to curve.

Some of you might be thinking, "Well, obviously... I never got a curve on any of my tests. Why should you give a curve?" Some of you have education experience and you understand the "risk" involved in "letting" students fail. Adults, it's different now than it was when you were in school. Let me explain...

Let me introduce you to the most anxious generation of all time. "Generation Z," as they are called, are children born in the late 90's and early 2000's. They grew up post 9-11, in a world that has seen (note the emphasis) economic downturn, a decade-long war, and an information explosion unlike anything in human history. I emphasized the word seen because it's quite literally the seeing that makes this generation so completely unique. War, economic hardship and information have always existed but it is the literal act of seeing these things on TV and the internet that makes this generation of humans unlike any previous generations.

Students today are self- absorbed, stressed-out, overly busy, entitled, distracted and unenthusiastic about anything that isn't their choice. With a mindset like that you might question how I can stomach interacting with them on a daily basis. Here's why- I love them. I really do. The presence of honesty doesn't mean a lack of love. I love them- entitled, distracted and vain as they are. Also, don't be fooled- there are some serious upsides to this generation. The self-absorption thing actually makes them very introspective. Where their grandparents were willing to ignore familial problems that ushered their parents into therapy, Generation Z is a generation who are willing to look deeply into themselves and figure out that things aren't right in there. That's a really good thing. I think it will lead to an end to some damaging cycles in families and cultures... here's hoping. The stressed out thing comes from being overly busy, but the upside of that is that these kids are really talented. All those infant swim lessons, baby music classes and sessions with personal trainers have paid off. They're really good at a lot of stuff. They're entitled, but that can also be a good thing too. Entitlement has an upside, believe it or not. Malcolm Gladwell taught me that in Outliers. When students feel entitled to a good eduction, good jobs, good healthcare or a just legal system, they're willing to speak up when they feel like they're not getting what they "deserve." The outcome can actually produce more good that ultimately could come to more people. They're distracted because of what we all know is happening in our world- instant gratification RULES. The upside of this is that with all of the information that's available to them, these kids can have an extraordinarily broad knowledge base. It's a challenge to keep up! I don't have a positive side about the lack of enthusiasm thing. There's an apathy to this generation that is sickening and I have no positive spin to offer on that. I'll extrapolate more on the negatives in subsequent posts.

I'm not saying that every kid demonstrates all of these characteristics, but, as a generation, they do. I've been around them for a minute or two, and I know what I'm talking about. Parents, you might disagree. ("Not my child!) But teachers, can I get an "Amen!"

My goal here is to talk about what's going on, and to consider my role in it. As a part of Gen Y, I'm just a few degrees away from the description above. (I've attached a fun link at the bottom of the page to give you some more insight into Gen Y- So funny. Please read.)

So I'm sitting at my desk with these tests, but  I'm thinking about my Bible study. We've read the prophecy in Revelation 12 about Satan attacking the people of God. The Bible says that the people will resist by the power of His blood and the word of His testimony. No matter how you interpret this prophecy, most believers are in agreement that Satan has throughout history attacked, undermined, preyed upon, confused and discouraged believers. Even if you're not a Christian, I think that most people see that good and evil are in conflict in the world. And the majority of us definitely want the good to prevail. But think of the people throughout history who have resisted all sorts of evil because they were focused, disciplined, determined, faithful and unselfish- The early church martyrs, Holocaust survivors, missionaries, civil rights leaders. Now, think about this generation... how are they going to fare when faced with the very real evil that we know is allowed in the world by our Sovereign God? Positive "spin" aside, if we don't do something about the negative things going on in this generation, then we're doing nothing to equip the next generation to do what God has said that His people will need to be able to do. We cannot do it for them.

So, here's the thing with the tests. Here's a practical application of being a part of the solution because I am so aware of the problem. I curve too much. I make it too easy... this is part of my contribution to the entitlement, the self-absorption, the lack of enthusiasm. It's going to take more words and more time to explain this further, so I leave you with this thought. Part of what I absolutely have to do is to give kids accurate feedback. When I curve tests, I'm giving them feedback on a false reality... a reality in which someone buffers everything for them. In such a reality, there is no failure, no consequences and therefore no need to grow or improve. The problem is.. no such reality exists. When you mess up in actual reality, it hurts. Not just you. It hurts other people too. Expecting someone to sweep up the crumbs for you all the time is not only ridiculous, it's dangerous. I'm not saying that there's never a time and place to buffer. It takes time to acclimate teacher expectations with student ability. But this isn't my first rodeo. I know how to teach this stuff. I know how to give students tools so that they can prepare themselves to succeed. So if they can't succeed because they're unprepared or are unable to because, at this time, they're not cognitively ready to perform this task, then what good does it do to lie to them about it? None. A bad grade should be a means, not an end. It's a communication that should alert students and parents to one thing and one thing only... we need to grow in this area. Not giving them the grade they actually earned and not giving them the opportunity to correct their own mistakes (for a grade or not) means that I'm not issuing that warning.  I'm pretending like the need for growth doesn't exist. And that opens up cans of worms that will wiggle their way into future generations.

WAY more to come later. For now, I'm back to my tests.

Here's the link about Gen Y- technically my peeps, and if we're this bad... imagine what our kids are like...


1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to hear the rest cause I say "Amen" to this! Thanks for sharing…your ability to verbalize the internal conflict is refreshing!