Kids today are certainly different from those I taught in my first classes in 1968. I’m sure all older adults feel or have felt that way about children at one time or another. However, I have very good memories of how I have had to change my teaching to better cope with changes in our nation’s school children. Let me make a few observations.
When I started teaching, many of Oklahoma’s children lived on farms and took an active role in harvesting the crops. Because of this, school started after Labor Day and ended as early in May as was possible (175 days). Likewise, many of our students rose before daylight, did chores, bathed, ate breakfast at the family table, and arrived at school by 8:00 a.m. Today, quite a few of our children barely manage to drag in late… sometime after the 8:15 start time. Many of these children are gobbling down the last bit of their breakfast sandwiches. None of them had chores like milking, feeding, or barn cleaning to do before dawn.
I remember sometime about 2010 or so, hearing the cosmetics companies pitch their products to “tweens” for the first time. Now, girls as young as first graders wear lipstick and other makeup as well as change the colors of their hair. Gone are the days of “Only her hairdresser knows for sure…” It is quite obvious that the green, blue, and rainbow colors these children sport are not their natural colors!
I don’t remember having seen more than one or two autistic spectrum students during my first thirty years of teaching. Now, I am amazed at how many students are diagnosed somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. It is also amazing that only a few of these are female students.
I’ve noticed that students of today are generally much larger physically than students in the past. Oh yes, we still get those petite children…there just seems to be more children whose parents tell us their children placed in the 90th percentile in height and or weight. I often wonder if the processes of our manufacturing and storage containers aren’t leaching chemicals into their bodies which cause these changes in size.
Children today don’t seem to have the interest in money that their counterparts had in days gone by. Children were very aware of coins, value, and prices. Today, there is not the interest or desire for the coins…so much so that I often find dimes, nickels, and quarters lying in plain sight on the ground where children just seem to ignore their presence. Perhaps this is due to more use of credit cards by families these days.
I’ve noticed the desire for and attention to “fad” clothing, accessories, etc. is very strong, but it would appear today’s parents are more willing to pay for these things than parents of old. However, it just could be that wages are better today than in the past when families struggled to meet the budget for needs.
Kids today are more interested in being famous and having a moment of fame on the Internet than the dreamers of the past who hoped to grow up to be a movie star. Little five and six-year-olds can do the latest popular dance or sing the latest rap and popular music, and all with the flair of seasoned models.
In the past, we received counsel to not create a “hurried child.” We were told to let the child be young and relax. Today, there is not much rhetoric about that problem, and children seem more and more “adult-like” in their desires. Thanks to technology, students listen almost non-stop to music over their earbuds. My problem with this is that many parents seem to be unaware of the lyrics that even my youngest students sing gladly…some of these are quite explicit. Perhaps there will be no real under-standing of the risqué lyrics by these children, but then again…who really knows?
Kids today seem to be into multi-tasking. Some, it appears, are quite good at it. Their understanding of using technology and adapting to new updates is mind boggling to me. This skill is their “faster than a speeding bullet” talent. I just wish it carried over into doing math and learning to read.
Kids today have managed to break codes and passwords, and they laugh as they know how to get past their parental safeguards to view websites of their own choosing. Yes, even our eight to ten-year-olds can do this amazing manipulation of the Internet!