I had a security system installed in my home recently. The installer, I’ll call him Stan, and I would get chatting every once in a while. Once he discovered that I was a teacher he wanted to pick my brain about “kids today”. Turns out he was a source of valuable information about our students.
“Do the kids listen to you in school?” was his lead off question. “Hmmm,” I thought aloud, forming my response. “It does take a lot of work to get and keep their attention,” my diplomatic reply. What I wanted to say was, “No! They don’t listen! It’s like every day is a new day and I have to go over and over what listening in school looks like and sounds like!” But I chose instead to maintain a more professional stance.
“Well let me tell you,” Stan continued. “They don’t listen to their parents. And they don’t respect their parents either. It’s like all parents want to do is be their kids’ friend. Instead of disciplining them, they negotiate with them when. Even my own daughter does it and that’s not how I raised her.” He went on to describe some scenes from homes he had been in. Children smacking their parents because they couldn’t get what they wanted and mom or dad explaining why they had to say no. Parents negotiating with their kids regarding whether they should be allowed to eat a cookie right before dinner and being allowed ‘half now and half later’. Moms and dads bargaining with their kids to try to get them to listen and behave.
As Stan spoke I began to get a picture of where the school behavior was coming from. Let’s use picking up behind yourself as an example. Every day I have to remind my class to pick things up off the floor. EVERY DAY! And when I walk down the hall after school lets out I see the garbage being swept out of classrooms. Pencils, crayons, erasers, highlighters, Expo markers, small toys, food wrappers, Post-its, stickers…all being swept out at the end of the day rather than being picked up by the children during the day! According to Stan, kids come in from school, throw down their backpacks, sweatshirts, shoes, jackets, and whatever and leave it there. An adult comes along and picks things up, not the kids.
Next time you get the opportunity, pick the brain of the people who see the families in action. I don’t know about you, but my colleagues and I are always trying to figure out what is different about our students these days. Is it the effects of hybrid learning due to Covid, is it the interruption they experienced to their education, is it too much screen time or parents trying to make up for all their children may have lost? We may not ever truly know, and it is probably a little of this and a little of that, but understanding what home life might look like right now for our kids may help us understand the new challenges we face as educators.