I have something to say about kids today. Obviously, so do lots of other people. It’s the nature of the beast in my job. Either I hear from teachers or parents or community members who have nothing nice to say about “kids today” and the things they don’t have going for them or I hear how scared people are for our future.
Quite frankly, I’m as concerned for the generic “future” as the next person but there’s not a whole hell of a lot of great things going on in the world. I know, that sounded very pessimistic and I’m not that person. What I need, in the midst of working-school-family life-school-basketball games-school is to just be still and count my blessings. First and foremost, I work at a top notch school with some incredibly talented and hard-working teachers. This year we won a National Blue Ribbon from the State Department of Education and that’s about as high as you can get. Secondly, we have a great beautification project going on the street in front of us from a grant and, while the construction was a nightmare traffic-wise, it’s almost finished and looking fabulous. Finally, we just received our fourth Apple Distinguished School commendation. So, we’re sitting pretty in a lot of ways.
But I don’t work in your typical school. I work at a magnet school for technology where the focus of using innovative solutions is embedded into our curriculum by using technology every day. Whether it’s by using what we call “the clickers” to take a quiz electronically (everyone has a hand held device and the teacher asks a question but gets the answers when students “click” either A,B,C, or D) or creating an iMovie to discuss the depletion of natural resources of our earth, our students are doing some really amazing projects created and perfected each year by teachers.
We use a lottery system for admission into the school that has a very long waiting list. We don’t discriminate on the basis of previous test scores or special education needs. If you want to get a spot at my school you must apply. I say this because I constantly tell people that we don’t get to choose who comes to school here. We don’t just serve a gifted population or a gender-specific program. If you get in, we take you and if you come with low achievement and assessment scores we figure out what supports and interventions you need and go from there.
Many schools do this. My school isn’t “special” because of that. It’s what educators do.
So, when I hear that kids aren’t smart enough or innovative enough or that they are, god forbid, “lazy” (one of the WORST words in the vocabulary of the education system) I have to argue that point. This year, we have some crackerjack little 6th graders who have come to us from the 24 elementary schools in our district. Not only are they hard workers, they are compassionate and come from families that want to be involved in their education. But it’s the kids who are most impressive.
The first month of school a student (and later, his mom) contacted me about getting an astronomy club started after school. They wanted to partner with one of the universities here and had a clear plan about it. After getting approval, those kids started this week by staying after school for another hour and a half to learn about the universe and planets and constellations. They did this because one kid, an 11-year old, had an idea and ran with it.
Not long after that, another student, this time a girl, brought me a written proposal for a book club for girls. She is aiming it at girls because, in her words, “girls are more honest when it’s just us and I don’t want the boys stopping us from having our own thoughts about things”. This young lady blew me away. Her proposal called for a set of 10 books for each of the 10 titles and said she hoped everyone would be able to buy them on their own. I convinced her that this is a tough economy for families and we might consider asking for outside help in the form of donations.
Then came the drama club proposal. A fashion club/sewing club proposal. All the 6th graders are talking about things in which they’re interested but there’s no outlet for them.
To which I say to the naysayers: kids today are more awesome than you can possibly imagine. They are more innovative in the short span of this current school year than I believed they could be. They want guidance and support and a safe place to learn skills and grow at their own pace.
They are going to rule the world. Just you wait and see.