Two news articles got me thinking about kids again recently. I’ve been out of the loop of educational discussion lately, so it was good to jump back into thinking about kids’ world views. I went to The Badass Teachers and The Badass Parents Facebook groups to brush up on how they’re all feeling as well.
The take aways for me: We have still not progressed, adults in charge of policy completely miss the mark in meeting children’s needs, and teachers and children are suffering.
I mentioned the idea of stressed kids to a friend. The response was a quick one. “Kids claim they’re stressed because they hear their parents complaining about being stressed.”
“I disagree strongly.”
“You think they’re more stressed than the eleven year-old in the 1930s who was forced to help his parents keep the farm by toiling and plowing every day?”
At least 1930s Junior was doing something he felt was productive and valued.
Today’s kids might be spoiled with junk food, too many screen-time hours, and lack of strenuous manual labor, but they do not feel productive and valued unless they have a Badass Teacher willing to fight for them.
Rather than feeling like their education is impactful, today’s kids spend the vast majority of their time being fed meaningless content, pressured with memorization of information, and surviving the workload of testables and then more testables. They are overwhelmed with irrelevant requirements of their time and their intellect. They do not feel their voices matter, and they don’t even necessarily know that this is all happening to them.
They are required to juggle their home-lives giving up family time, time for self-reflection of any sort, and social activity for rigid and irrelevant school requirements.
I ran a successful private school for almost a decade. It was a place free of standards, tests, and unnecessary requirements. It was a place where our mission was to meet kids’ needs–to truly meet their needs. The school was a dedicated study in children’s needs.
We learned that two of the most powerful needs were: 1) A sense of purpose, and 2) Feeling valued. These elements lead to an energetic and engaged student. These elements lead to productivity and working hard for the sake of working hard–intrinsic motives. These two elements lead to better community and belonging, as each student feels a sense of purpose and pride, creating confidence and a diminished need to one-up his classmates, or hide in the shadows.
Today’s kids are stressed and frustrated in unhealthy and unproductive ways, and they have been for a half a century, at least. That’s a lot of emotional/social damage, and it’s a lot of unnecessary angst.