Today's youth are too often maligned. But there must be something great about them, right? And who better to ask than teachers, who are constantly in contact with these kids?
Here were some of those answers.
Kindness: Never Overrated.Giphy
Students are not afraid to just be nice to each other. I teach elementary art and it is so nice when a kid who is pretty unskilled in art show another kid their work, and instead of getting laughed at (like when I was in school) kids are just so sweet and will say things like "Wow, I really love that!".
I hear kids telling other kids "I think your work is beautiful" or "I really like your ideas!" and I just think of when I was in art kids made fun of my work. In general I really don't see kids being bullies as much as they were when I was a kid. I went to school in a really nice district too with few problems but I was bullied. Kids here have a MUCH worse home life than kids at my old school and while they could choose to take it out on others.. they don't. Kids help each other too. They know if a student is "special" and will try to help that student out. They'll offer to walk them to the bathroom, or help them with their drawing, or very politely tell them to be careful with things.
I worried about my son, who has mild autism, for the first ten years of his life. I kept telling him that middle school would be hard, kids would tease him, etc. and that high school would be even harder in the same respect. 15 years ago, I would have been right.
Fast forward to now, and I'm constantly amazed and grateful for how well he is treated. Even the "jock" kids and big snotty idiot kids who would make perfect bullies are inclusive, kind, and even sometimes protective of my son.
I've told all of them how appreciative I am, and even got a few of them Christmas presents this year. Love those kids.
They are generally independent and self-reflective. When I first started teaching I thought I had simply lucked out getting students who were consistently bright, engaged and curious, but having now taught at 3 different universities on 2 different continents, it seems to be a general trend across universities.
They are also, as noted elsewhere, generally kind and empathetic, and both my male and female students are usually pretty emotionally mature.
Spouse to a high school teacher, she had to say: they were born into the internet and social media, it is not something they had to learn. Also as a result of which, they are also more self reliant with research.
And most importantly, contrary to the largest complaints, today's kids are extremely hard working, and are less judge-y of nerds (less judgmental in general).
Meme Culture HelpsGiphy
I'm not a teacher but my GF's mom is a teacher and it sparked a dialogue.
With the dawn of meme culture, kids are getting competitive with comedy at an early age. When I was a kid, I had un-diagnosed mental health issues so I was bullied a lot, and the only thing that kept me alive was developing my sense of humor. Sad as it is, young people have a pecking order and cliques, but a few things can transcend those boundaries and one of those is humor. Coincidentally, I was into internet humor, meme culture, and PC games way before my peers were.
Wanna hear something crazy? I was bullied for that. Specifically and mercilessly. If you ran a meme page and had a nice gaming pc at 10 today you would be a GOD. It's honestly made a lot of kids that don't fit in have at least SOMETHING in common with their peers. All you have to do is yell FORTNITE or whatever meme is going around that week and boom you have a friend.
I had one time where I was able to make friends like that and that was when Pokemon came out, similar concept. You might think that kind of stuff is "cringe" or annoying or stupid, but if it can prevent someone from wanting to kill themselves at 12 like I was, I'll allow it. Of course I don't need to have it anywhere near me, but that's a different matter.
The Healthiest Kind Of Kid
Not a teacher, but a former after school care counselor. Even though it may have just been the schools rules/conditioning, the kids were generally so good at apologizing, owning up to their actions, and being accepting of others apologies. (After whatever situation transpired has calmed down, of course.)
They always knew to kindly and carefully approach whoever they hurt, make eye contact, and word their apologies in such a way that effectively communicated their apology for the correct reasons. And those being apologized to always knew to say "I accept your apology" as opposed to "it's ok". Kids in my day couldn't figure those kind of communication skills out until at least middle school or high school. The only time I would get a sarcastic "sorry" accompanied with an eye roll and running away would be from a kindergartener, or an older child facing other difficulties.
Work To Succeed
As a student currently in high school, the big thing for our generation, at least in decent schools, is that failure isn't cool. Sure if you suck up to the teacher and obsess over studying you'll get made fun of a bit, but the kids getting Fs get made fun of a lot more. A lot of the 'popular' kids are actually really smart and get top grades. There's a general awareness that we all need to do well and a lot of aspiration for the future.
Kindness Never Goes Out Of Style
The majority of my students are in the 18-22 age range. I'm 37, for reference. Students are far kinder than they ever where when I was a student. They go out of their way to help each other, and they are much less judgmental than my cohort was. For the most part, they are really polite and respectful. I know a lot of professors deal with problems from cell phones, but I find that if I tell them to use their phones respectfully and only for class purposes, they do. The only real problem I seem to have with this cohort is the constant headphone wearing, but I think that's a battle I'm just going to lose.
Technology Is Useful
Taught art for a spell a while back:
I know that a lot of people say sh*t like "oh these children and their all consuming technology", but a lot of kids are so excited about learning to make things using their devices.
A big part of the sculpture class I taught was to make a statement using a 3D printed sculpture.
Even take something like Minecraft, I know it's a big meme, but it's a huge sandbox to build things. I remember being a young teen when I came out- we would get so complex with our builds.
Kids are learning to create in an incredibly different way. It can be really irritating when they latch onto something and run it into the ground, but they love learning new things, and creating new things, in an increasingly relevant way.
Just A Basic NeedGiphy
The high school students I work with today seem significantly more emotionally intelligent than those of my generation, especially the young men. They are aware of their own feelings and are better at separating their feelings from fact (i.e., they're more likely to say "I'm feeling X,Y,Z, negative emotion right now" than "Ugh, this teacher just hates me, what a b!tch"). They're also better at seeing and accommodating emotions in other people. There's more awareness of and sympathy for mental health issues.
Here's an illustration: The other day, some of the students I coach were conversing and one young man asked how frequently they had a good cry. They all answered. And he said, "I think I'm overdue for a good cry," and his peers started suggesting good movies to induce tears.
It was an utterly shocking scene for me! Great, but nothing I would ever have expected.
Kids can be stunningly introspective and empathetic when you ask them to talk about their interpersonal issues. There's a real effort to perspective-taking that goes beyond what I encountered at that age.
Also, the students I work with have some selection bias, to be fair, but the ones I encounter as a whole care a lot about current events. It's like it's actually cool to know and care what's going on, and it's uncool not to. This is very different from how I grew up. I think a lot of them would agree with the statement "Being smart is cool and learning new things is fun" which seems simplistic, but isn't true to everyone. I think it's related to the pressure to get into college. This pressure to be more well-rounded in your interests is a double-edged sword: kids get social capital from being exposed to different ideas and cultivating interests, but it's also a difficult race to model yourself into some ideal.