Smells Like Teen-ification

My class is getting younger.  This isn’t a terrible thing, but it is a worrying thing.  I don’t want the influx of kids — mostly 17-year-olds with a couple of 16-year-olds thrown in for good measure — to chase away my ‘real’ adults.  We’ve already had a couple of moments that have made it clear that some of the older students aren’t loving the changing age landscape in the room.  And today I caught a hint of a negative ageist vibe from one of my new teens.  Not good.

It’s early days, of course, so there’s plenty of time for me to steer us back to smoother waters, but I’ve got to get to work now.  I don’t want to see this divide get wider.  I’m not overly worried, it’s just something I need to stay focused on.

A bigger worry might be the difference in pacing that my new kids seem to require.  “Miss.  We can’t stay focused for more than 15 minutes,” one told me yesterday.  “We all got ADD.”

Yeah.  Well, I don’t know if they actually do have ADD, but their attention spans are definitely stunted.  I’m used to planning for that from my night class, which was always all kids, so I can handle real or imagined ADD.  But my adults can stay focused for more than a few minutes, and I don’t think restyling the class to suit the kids is going to make the adults particularly happy.  “It’s a lot of change,” one older student told me last term.  “New location and a lot of children.  I’m glad you didn’t find a teacher.”  She was referring to the fact that this class is supposed to be taught by someone other than me, and I’m always starting the term telling the students that I’m still hoping to find them a teacher.  But maybe if I’d succeeded in finding a teacher I’d already have lost that student to the triple-blow of too much new.

Balance.  There’s a tricky one under the surface here.  I just have  find it.

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7 thoughts on “Smells Like Teen-ification

  1. Finding balance is sort of my life’s work. It’s a recurring theme for me that I just.don’t.have.it.

    It’s maddening, infuriating for me. I hope you find it.

    1. Thanks, Jade. In my personal life, there is certainly little balance (that’s another thing I’ll be working on now that I won’t be teaching at night), but I hope I’m able to navigate these waters with my students.

  2. As an educator who enjoys watching your teaching life, I’m wondering if this experience could make a great ed article for a publication, taking on learners of different ages and life experiences, pros and cons as it shakes out…
    Bonnie

    1. Interesting idea, Bonnie! I’ve got a “soon come” deadline for a book chapter that I haven’t even started thinking about yet, so I don’t think I’m ready to take this on just now, but after I get the other one written, maybe …

  3. molly

    I am curious to know if you would ever have a class discussion about this situation, and why you think that would be a good or a bad idea. I sometimes tell my students about an issue that I think has arisen in the class (making it very clear that I am the teacher and I will be making the ultimate decisions that fall within my zone of reponsibility as the teacher). They know I will listen to their opinions about just about anything (for what I consider to be a reasonable amount of time). Once the can of worms is opened, the group can at least refer to it. Could you and your students work together in some way on the idea for the article on mixed ages in the classroom? –I admit that sometimes it has happened that discussing class management issues was a big waste of valuable class time, and irritated the students who wanted to, say, study English.

    1. Having a discussion with the class is definitely part of the plan. I want to get a better feel for what’s going on, make sure that it’s “only” ageism and not a little religious/cultural intolerance in the mix, too. I hear your last point loud and clear, however. There’s another area where balance becomes and issue. The conversation is important, but the conversation isn’t the reason folks have signed up for this class. The “Is this going to be on the GED?” mantra that some students live by is always right under the surface when we stray from activities that are clearly “school.”

  4. molly

    You can always have them write a summary of the discussion, and compare visions of what was said. And follow up with an essay in which they take a position. This material could then be part of your chapter.

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