Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Not the "young" teacher anymore. Authenticity is Relevance.

I have appreciated reading other educators' thoughts on their profession.  I am going to write my own blog, not because I think I know everything, but because I appreciate the opportunity to share thoughts with others.  Community is a good thing, especially in education.  I enjoy hearing what others think because, either it lets me know that I am not alone in my thinking, or it challenges me to see things from a different point of view.  Opening your mind to the fact that not everyone may see things the same way as you is a good thing, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, for my maiden voyage into the education blogosphere I figured I would write something that I had been pondering as of late.  I am 36, I think, hmmmm, yes, 1976 to 2012, yep, that's 36.  When I was a kid I could never understand how people could lose track of their age and yet, here I am.  You realize at some point that your specific age doesn't really matter, but the stage starts to.  Whether you are in the first or last half of the average life span of a human in your country is the thing that starts to hit me more than my specific age.  I digress.

We have some great young teachers at my high school, and I used to be one of them.  ('Young' is the part I was referring to, not the 'great' part, you can ask any former students if you want an unbiased opinion on that one...)  I was talking to a couple of my grade 12 students a couple days ago about next semester and they were asking me about a teacher new to our school and what they were like.  I described him as "young" but then I suddenly realized that I wasn't sure what my students defined as "young" anymore.  So I asked them if I was considered "young".  They thought about that, (maybe considering whether or not they would offend me...) and then said, "No, but you are not old."  I was good with that, but it was weird to me that I had turned "not young" in the eyes of my students at some point.  I wonder when that was?  This is my 12th year of teaching. 12 years ago, I thought that guys in their mid-thirties weren't old, but they definitely were well established.  I figured that they knew pretty much everything they needed to know about teaching.  Nope.  They were/still are awesome, and they never pretended to known everything, but that was the thought I had when I was "young".

I honestly don't care if students see me as young or not.  I do care whether or not I can relate to students though, and that got me thinking, "Do I relate to these kids now?"  I need to stay relevant to my students, but I also need to stay myself.  I don't think there is much worse than a teacher who is not "young" anymore and tries to act like they are, just because they think they need to prove to the students that they are still cool.  The thinking, "Hey kids, I'm still hip, still with it, right? RIGHT?", is bad thinking.  The other end of the spectrum is almost as bad though.  The crabby old guy/woman teacher who's bahumbugging any new thing that comes out just because, "We didn't need that when I was in school/when I first started teaching.  Kids these days, and their technology and music and the Facebook and the Twitter.  Going to hell in a handbasket we are, I tells ya..."  Those people are annoying.  I'm glad I don't have any people on my staff like that.

I think it is really important that students see what is important to you.  I think it is really important for students to know that you care about them and their world, even if you don't get it, or appreciate it.  You don't have to act as though you like some certain music or film genre or game, just because you want the kids to think that you are cool.  It is important to keep an open mind to new culture though, because you may just like it.  If you don't, at least you can have a good discussion with your students about life, and that's a good thing.  Students appreciate authenticity, and I will strive to be authentic the rest of my career, even when I get "old".  Authenticity is relevance.

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