Learning how to teach the YouTube generation

Learning how to teach the YouTube generation

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No more allowances. We want our children to eat, sleep and live well.

Do we set a good example for our offspring? We know that what we do is more important than what we say. Do we want them to text or talk on the phone when they’re driving? Of course not. Do we engage in either activity when they’re in the car? All the time. When you’re at the next stop sign or red light, look at the cars coming toward you. How many of those people are on the phone? Put down that phone! It’s not only safer for you, but it also gives your kids the right idea.

OK, sorry, teachers this next one isn’t aimed at all of you. I’m tired of reading all the deductions on my son’s and daughter’s homework assignments from teachers whose writing deserves demerits. Sure, we all make mistakes and, yes, we can’t be right all the time. But this is ridiculous. The directions contain numerous errors. Are teachers setting the right example when they misspell words, repeat a word or — gasp — use the incorrect form of your? They should take an extra second to edit and proofread the material they give their students. The message the children get when they read their teachers’ writing is that grammar, word choice and rules of writing are only important for students and for grades and don’t count, even inside the classroom. Children can spot hypocrisy from across the school.

Years ago, at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, my seventh-grade math teacher, Mr. Braun, said we’d get an extra five points if we spotted an error in anything he did. He was challenging us and himself and was helping us learn — and benefit — from his mistakes. Did he not make errors because he knew we were watching carefully or did he only make that deal with us because he didn’t make many mistakes? Either way, we paid closer attention to his — and our — work.

OK, teachers, relax. I admire what you do and I appreciate the effort you put into your work. I know you have thousands of pages to grade. If you believe your writing matters, please lead by example.

Then there are coaches. We volunteers face a difficult task. We stand in front of a group of restless kids who want to score the winning basket, make their parents proud and be a hero. Everyone can’t play in every inning or in every second. We have difficult decisions. We also deal with parents who make unrealistic requests: “Yes, coach, can my daughter please bat first on Tuesday night games because she needs to leave early those nights.”

The kids watch us carefully, not only to see if we approve of how they do, but also to see how we react to difficult situations. We’ve coached in games where the other coach, the players on the other team or the referees are violating some written or unwritten sporting code. Maybe the other coach has told his pitchers not to throw strikes because it’s getting darker. If we can’t finish the game, the score reverts to the earlier inning when they were winning. This isn’t a hypothetical — I know of at least one case where this happened.

We could get angry, shout and throw equipment on the field. Is that the kind of behavior we should allow ourselves? Are we teaching our children how to deal with adversity? Do our allowances lead to their allowances later in life? Are we dooming them to repeat the actions we’re not proud of in the future?

Maybe one of the toughest parts about being a parent is learning how to grow beyond the limitations we’ve carried with us from childhood. Some of those spring from our adult allowances. How about if we take a moment to recognize the allowances we make for ourselves. That could be constructive for us and for the little eyes that record everything we do on their own version of YouTube.