January 20, 2022- The spirited young woman minced few words in reacting to the make-work assignment which her class had been given. The classroom was replete with posters that tout “getting your hands dirty” and “outdoor experience”. Yet, on this day of sunshine and 50 degree weather, in the sixth month of the academic year-there was a class of a dozen people working on packets.
The biggest generational struggle is ever between those who are tired and want to promote passive learning, and those for whom the world is new; thus things to be experienced. I remember being part of the “Sit with your hands folded and listen” cadre of instructors-and when it was a drag on all concerned, I did make a concerted effort to change things up and craft a fair amount of hands-on activities. Then, being a caretaker happened, the Housing Bubble burst, and I came of age, alone.
Millennials, Generation Z and the Alphas have been my guardian angels, in more ways they can imagine-because of the much-needed propensity for flipping the script. As with any new way of seeing things, there is some overkill-mostly with regard to trying out “replacement phrases” for long-accepted words. (“Pregnant people”, instead of mothers, comes to mind. I do see mothers as people, first, because that is how I was raised. There is no reason to introduce opacity into the mix.) Overall, though, the forthrightness of these generations, and their willingness to stand up and speak eloquently, without looking down their noses at their elders, just for our being older, is a facet of generational personae that I find most gratifying.
In the debate about how students best acquire knowledge, let me take the side of those who eschew patronizing, or infantilizing, our charges. It is nothing new, this notion of seeing children and teenagers as people, first and foremost. The best teachers I had were those who looked me at eye level and spoke as if they expected me to carry myself with dignity. Following a script, or toeing a line, was the stuff of the insecure. I am grateful for every young person who says “I know what I’m doing” and goes on to prove it by their actions.
Let the circle be even more unbroken.