Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keeping Up with the Joneses, Teacher-Style

If you're around 40 years old, you probably sometimes feel that the world is swirling around you, neither fast nor slowly, but enough so that it's hard to keep up. If you're 55+, you might have already given up on that swirl, determined that you cannot learn the new stuff fast enough, uncomfortable with the pace of change. If you're in your 20s or 30s, you will, someday, feel the swirl. I guarantee it.

In the teaching world, the swirl contains everything our students, do, say, watch, listen to, read, participate in, eat, buy, wear, and feel passionately about. As younger teachers, we are close enough to the vortex, having just come out of it (or maybe not even yet), so that we can grasp what's there and ingest it ourselves. In our most veteran years, many of us see it all off in the distance, like a tornado barreling about, feeling that if it slams into us, we're doomed. We can't even come close to focusing on all that's there, never mind latching onto some of it. That's why those middle years are so critical, for it is then that we must muster up the courage to go there, into the swirl, and stay long enough to understand, and perhaps, to engage.

So what are the Joneses up to these days? They're tweeting. They're into parkour, they're reading The Hunger Games (on their Kindle Fires), they're listening to Nicki Minaj or Skrillex or something obscure, they're wearing Boobie bracelets (and they're suing school districts that say they can't). They're following Tavi. They don't use cash. They're drinking Starbucks and they're still eating their pizza with ranch. And as soon as I wrote all that, or before it even, it's already old. But hey, I'm old.

I do, however, try. And that's what's important here. If we are to keep up with our students' lives, both in and out of school, and understand what's in their heads and on their to-do or wish lists, we must face the swirl, step into that rush of newness, and try some of it out. I know that it sometimes feels uncomfortable when you first approach it, but there's no requirement for loving it, for taking it up, or even for getting it. We must, though, get that they get it. And that should be enough.

So, to those already testing the swirl's waters, bravo. Don't lose sight of what's on the horizon, even as your vision diminishes. To the rest of you, before it's too late, surf, Stumble, pin, or download. Or even better, ask a Jones kid what's new. Then check it out.

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