April 13, 2011

There is HOPE...

So many times, especially as a teacher, I hear people complain about this current generation of youngsters. How they're always connected to some electrical device, how they have no respect for their elders, how they don't know...nor seem to be challenged to ever know...the value of hard work. Heck, I've entertained some of those thoughts myself, and I've heard some words slightly akin to those same things be uttered out of my mouth.

Truth is, though, that there are some kids defying those expectations. They're breaking the stereotypes, and they give me hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, the nay-sayers and negative-trash-talkers might be wrong. I give you some evidence:

1. Boy #1. The other day we had an all-school assembly. Now, our school's not large by any measure, but we do have 900+ students. Those 900+ students, plus faculty, plus parental visitors were all crammed into our bleachers for the assembly. Seating was tight, so I made my way up the stairs and chose a spot to stand that was near my students. One boy looked up, from his space on the end, and said, "Ms. Doe! Here, have my seat!!" He proceeded to stand the rest of the assembly, and, I might add, he didn't goof off or distract anyone. Did I mention this youngster's only 11?

2. Boys #s 2 & 3: These two are best friends, and they're inseparable. Lately, their mission seems to be to rescue every book that's been left out in the elements. My classroom has become a "book hospital" with these boys bringing in sopping wet books, using a hairdryer (*ahem*...it's possibly mine. Why do I have a hairdryer in my classroom? Don't ask.) to gently dry the pages, and then using stacks of dictionaries to press the book back into its correct shape and thickness. They then will use packaging tape or contact paper to make sure the cover is properly on before they take the book to the Lost and Found. Yes, in some ways they're just boys being boys - exploring their "MacGyver" side; but it's more than that. It's the care they give to every book that demonstrates their respect for the things they have been given.

3. Boy #4: I have a serious inability to turn down BBQ chips. It's embarrassing how much I like them. Boy #4 hates them. He can't stand 'em, but his momma can't seem to remember, so she keeps packing them in his lunch. Almost every day, there's a zip-top baggie filled with BBQ potato-goodness left on my desk. He just walks by, smiles, and places them on my desk. Kinda like the apples of ages past, but this one is fat and MSG-filled, and they go straight to my hips. And I smile through every bite.

4. All of 'em: I was struggling to get them to remember (and use correctly!!) proper pronouns ("Johnny and I..." not "Me and Johnny...") as well as the proper verb (it's, "May I use the restroom," not, "Can I...?"), and I joked with the students that I would make them pay me a quarter every time they made the mistake. To my utter shock, they liked the idea (who knew?). Then, this conversation took place:

Kid: What are you going to do with the money?
Me: I dunno... (in my head: vacation???) ...spend it on you?
Kid: Why don't we donate it to the orphans you work with in Malawi?
Me: Absolute stunned silence...and then, maybe a couple tears.

I set about making the jar that very day. We've been at it for a few weeks now, and we've made a game of it. The kids do their best to NOT get caught using incorrect grammar (let me clarify - it's not that they've started using the proper words/phrases, it's that they still do it and hope I don't notice), and I have definitely upped my game. I just counted the money in the jar. We're at $23.00.

I know that these kids definitely aren't the norm. The youth of our nation is a hedonistic, selfish group, and I have more than enough examples to that fact - heck, I see it on a daily basis. But, there are some who are defying the trend, and it's possible that there are more out there than we know. Moments such as the ones I just described give me hope - that maybe the future isn't as bleak as it seems.