The mother of one of my students is doing a course with my students on Fridays, and this past week she asked the kids to make an identity badge. On this badge, the students were to list adjectives describing their character, tell their top four values, and identify themselves by name, job, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social class. Each shared his badge on Friday.
It was good to hear that my students had positive views of themselves. Just the day before, their answers to a test I’d given had sent me into a slight depression! It always happens after the first test over The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You see, the last two questions deal with how closely they identify with nihilism and to what extent they believe religion and existentialism are often mixed today. I don’t know why, but the eighth grade students who take this test always seem to be hope-less. They question “the point” to anything, and I get sadder and sadder as I grade! Fortunately, my daughter is fantastic at helping me understand how my students’ lives are so very different than mine was at their age.
She pointed out that getting a job was a much simpler task when I was young. I wouldn’t say it was simple, but I do see her point. The pool from which to choose employees was limited by a file cabinet’s size when I was seeking employment. Now, employers literally have the world from which to choose. For us, it was a step-by-step plan to follow. Nowadays, If you don’t get hired through an internship, you have to depend upon networking to get your foot in the door. It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you. She also pointed out that hard work led to advancements in the job back then. Today, people actually lose their jobs because of too much experience… a younger, less experienced worker is cheaper for the company.
That same Internet that brings job candidates to the employer’s fingertips, lets your teen know that he is just one of millions. She’s not as talented as others; he’s not as brave as many. All of this information can make a kid question his worth. Furthermore, it can make him question if it’s “worth it.” Is it worth going through a break up to date? Is it worth going to college when all your money will go to student debt? Is it worth risking the pain that comes with real relationships when I can talk online with fellow Fortniters literally 24/7?
How do we work with a generation who one day sounds lost and the next seems self-confident? I think the key is not to quit asking. I think all teens have good days and bad days. I think some teens have figured out the answers to give us so we’ll think they’re fine and leave them alone. I encourage you to take the time to check how things are going with your teen. I know the older they get, the more they retreat to their room for the evening, but you must establish some fellowship time. The natural place is the dinner table, but that’s only if dinner is not out of a bag in between lessons and practices. Whatever time it is, I encourage you to MAKE a time to talk to your kids… all the way till they head off for college (and then by phone!) because they are definitely worth it!