I celebrated a birthday this week, and as I’ve done for many years, I set aside some time for reflection. I was thinking about all the things that were integral parts of my life that are totally unknown to my students: slide rules, adding machines, princess phones, remoteless television, typewriters, pagers, black boards and chalk, dittos, reel to reel tape recorders, encyclopedias, propeller planes …
I was thinking about the things they know that I’m not at all interested in and things they’ll know that I will never understand.
And then I was thinking about things that are the same. My students still have the insecurities, the hopes, the optimism that high school students have always had. They still believe in the American dream, family, opportunity and success.
They still think their parents aren’t very “with it” and their teachers and school are a necessary “evil.” Their insecurities are challenged on a much bigger level with social networking overtaking their lives. But they also want to find the right person to spend the rest of their lives with and the right job to bring financial stability and personal satisfaction. They want to be happy.
I was an army brat and in my high school years, my time on the telephone was limited to the length of time it took sand to pass through an egg timer. There were bigger matters than my social life and my father was on call 24/7. National safety took precedence over my friends and possible boyfriends.
In a time of incredible freedom and independence with our youths, I marvel at how much they remain the same as teenagers 40-plus years ago. They know things and take for granted things about drugs, promiscuity, violence, death — things I didn’t know about or think about until I was much older.
But they remain optimistic and fun-loving and kind.
My adult life hasn’t changed very much. I’ve always been a teacher — we are all teachers. My weekends — even my birthday weekend — have always been dominated by grading, planning and reading.
I’ve said several times that this year is almost like being a brand-new teacher again — except the kids are relatively the same. And that’s what brings my optimism and my happiness and my joy … and my gratitude!
As hard as I am on them, as frustrated as they might make me, as worried as I sometimes am for their safety and their future, they are a wonderful gift. It was a good birthday.
Wenatchee resident Nancy Coolidge is a classroom teacher, radio personality and director of several Sylvan Learning Centers. You can ask her a question by posting a comment on her Good Habits, Great Grades blog at wenatcheeworld.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.