Monday, September 4, 2017

The 1900's: Don't Stop Believin'

Recently my nine year old daughter said to me during a family conversation, “Well you did grow up in the 1900’s, Mom.”  Ha!  I almost fell over laughing because she is right! But when I think of the 1900's, I think of the early 1900's when my grandmother was born or when Laura Ingalls Wilder published Little House on the Prairie. (I wonder if one of Laura's students commented about her growing up in the 1800's!)  I think flappers, prairie skirts, bobs and buns. I think jazz and blues. I certainly don't think of myself growing up in the 1900's. Then last week during a class conversation with my students, I asked when Journey's song "Don't Stop Believin'" was released. A student answered in a serious tone, "The song was definitely released during the 1900s." There we go again! (The answer is 1981.) So I was born in the 70’s, experienced my childhood in the 80’s and graduated high school and college in the 1990's.  Oh damn, I guess I did grow up in the 1900’s!  

In 2017, I often reflect on my youthfulness as I began teaching in the mid-90s.  I was only three years older than my seniors and only seven years older than my freshmen.  I had students who had siblings who were older than I was.  Heck, I had one student whose boyfriend was older than I was. Today I have former students who now have their own families, and although I haven’t taught a former student’s child yet, I have taught their nieces and nephews.  

I share this information because I do believe in some ways a lot has changed in the past twenty years of teaching. For example, I no longer write on a chalkboard to articulate information.  I use the info projector, googleclassroom, an app called Remind 101, etc.  I no longer try to use the updated vernacular. "Dab" or "Lit" are currently popular words and they do not roll off my tongue like "wicked awesome" or "cool" used to. Recently a colleague jokingly called me out when I told my students to tape their broadcast interviews. She whispered, "I think you mean, record your interviews."  Oh yes, VCR tapes are long gone!  I have my middle school Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet album on my whiteboard tray in my classroom to remind me I was a teenager once too.  One of my students asked if that was the dad of the Bon Jovi who is still performing today.  "No!" I shouted, "He is the same Bon Jovi!"

As we know, generational studies show the current generation of teenagers are influenced heavily by technology, namely their cell phones and social media. We know that students can access information within seconds that sometimes took us (people of the 1900's) days and weeks to research. We know depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide are on the rise. And yet, the stigma of mental illness is arguably decreasing. Those of us who lived during the 1900's may not fully be able to relate and connect to the seeming necessity of technology which can create a generation gap; however, I would contend that whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 ,we can relate and connect to one another's feelings. We all know what it feels like to be lonely, happy, sad, frustrated, elated, etc. We remember what it was like to win a high school basketball game, what it was like to break up with a significant other. We know what it was like to earn an A on an English paper or fail a physics test. We know what it was like to rebel against our parents and share a connection with our best friends. And it is those feelings in which we can build empathy and support for one another bridging our generation gap. And of course, music, food, and dance span generations--all of my students could sing the lyrics to "Don't Stop Believin'" even though it was from the 1900's.

Last week I started my 22nd year of teaching, and I am excited. I may have spent the first part of my life in the 1900's, but I'm definitely grateful to be in 2017 teaching my millennials about how we are more alike than we are different.