As educators we (for the most part) make every attempt to connect with our students on some level outside of the academics in the four walls we call home 8 hours of the day. If you think about it, and I’m sure you have, we spend more time with our students than they get to spend with their actual parents during the week. Sure they are with them 16 hours out of the 24 (or less due to parents’ work hours), but they sleep for 10-12 of those hours so teachers, librarians, aids and admin really must make the time we have with our students count.
I will say, I consider myself “young” and “hip” and assume I know everything there is to know about life outside the classroom for my school kids. I do have a six year old son who keeps me in the loop with video games, apps and what’s in on Youtube, and I’m pretty good at talking with my students about what they like, and what’s going on in their worlds, etc.. Despite those efforts though, I have had an epiphany that I’m still not 100% up to speed on their world. I have stepped up with my kids the past three years, going from third grade to fifth grade with them. We are all very close and I have a great relationship with my parents and students, especially since I was teaching in a 3A district with three schools total. Even with three years with my students, I came to realize just this week that things that are completely normal to them are foreign to me, and visa-versa, things that are normal to me, are foreign to them.
I came to this conclusion when one of my professors in my graduate program suggested a website to read. I had never heard of this site prior, but apparently it goes back to 2005 (the lists that is, which you will understand in a sec). The site is called The Mindset List. The first list I read about was The Mindset List: Class of 2022. These lists are lists that Ron Nief writes that contain things (people, places, events, etc.) that in a way define the college class of that year. So the list for the class of 2022 has norms and facts on it that have to do with those specific kids. After reading this list, I came to understand that there is a bigger gap than I thought between me and my students. I may know what kind of games are popular on the Playstation (1, 2, 3, 4…?) or Xbox and I may know that they like TikTok as a form of social media and just to lip sing on, but I wasn’t fully aware of things that were right in front of myself, but that I didn’t stop to pay attention to.
Here’s an example (using myself):
According to the list for the college class of 2022 (Nief, 2017), “Same-sex couples have always found marital bliss in the Netherlands,” meaning that same-sex marriage is a norm for this class; they know nothing different. However, when I was growing up homosexuality wasn’t talked about out in the open and here in the south (think Republic of Texas), same-sex marriage simply did not happen. For my mother (56), interracial relationships were taboo when she was little, but are nothing to think about for my generation.
I know this seems like a crazy example, but for people my age and older, same-sex marriage is still a political topic that causes blood pressure to rise and people to be mean and say hateful things. I use this example because this is what I want educators to understand and what I want my students to know:
My heart, my mind, my library will BE THE GOOD. No matter what my religious or political beliefs, no matter how old I am, no matter what it going on in society, I will make sure my library or classroom is a safe haven for whomever comes in. There will be no judging or ridicule, only love and goodness. As an educator, a teacher, a librarian, I am here to teach and I choose to make sure I teach all my students, colleagues, friends and even social media followers how to be a good person. That no matter how different we are and no matter how different we may see things, we all have good in us and it helps no one to be ugly or hateful just because they don’t see eye to eye.
I implore you to take a gander at the lists. Check them out and see how different your students are from you-the age gap, the celebrities, the wars, the tragedies, the politics, the digital age…check them all out. I think you might find it eye opening.
And feel free to share or comment! But please-be nice!