Let’s face it: it’s harder than we thought it would be. A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that most parents (62%) say that being a parent is harder than they expected, and more than one in four (26%) say it’s “a lot harder.” Unfortunately, those little tykes don’t come with an owner’s manual nor any training.
Teachers feel the same way.
According to Tech Advocate, “Teaching is arguably more difficult now than it has ever been for many reasons, including learner behavior, fast-changing technology, and poor compensation.” Almost one in ten quit their job last year and the average faculty member only lasts five years in their career. In fact, USA TODAY reported that the teacher shortage is so large that some schools are looking to bus drivers to fill the vacancies.
How tough have things become?
While I’m an optimist, teachers’ videos on social media are alarming. One teacher said on TikTok, “It’s hell out here.” He shared that most of his seventh-grade students came to class this year learning at a fourth-grade level. (The post got 3.8 million views). Another said people would be shocked to learn how far kids have fallen behind. He said, “The kids are 100% different (than before COVID) with behavior and classroom etiquette much worse.” (4.9 million views.)
Dropping grades. Poor conduct. Is it time to return to some fundamentals?
RELATIONSHIP + INSPIRATION = CONNECTION
As I’ve spoken with educators and parents on this topic, they agree they’re having a tough time genuinely connecting with kids. The disconnect seems to be:
- Student engagement at school
- Genuine conversation at home
Continuing those discussions, I believe the sparks we need to ignite these are:
- Authentic conversation
- Stretching inspiration
Over the last several years, I’ve been working on a tool to cultivate this conversation and inspiration. I believe students (children or teens) get engaged with stories — true stories of other kids who’ve done something incredible where they live. When they hear these stories, they benefit from a guide who leads a conversation about takeaways. Then, perhaps a video to watch of these incredible peers so they can hear more and go deeper.
I CAN’T WAIT!
I’ve been collecting and curating such stories and placed them in a book called I Can’t Wait: 52 Stories of Kids Who Changed Their World…That You Can Discuss Together. These short stories make up 52 chapters, one a week for an entire year. They include discussion questions and a link to a video about the young person in that chapter. They’re about people, ages five to twenty-four, who stepped up and did something rather than “veg” on the sofa binging Netflix shows or watching TikTok videos.
- Did you know that a 13-year-old boy saved seventeen lives during Hurricane Harvey? Or that a five-year old kid led a group of toddlers to safety after Hurricane Katrina?
- Did you realize that Isaac Newton created Calculus and discovered the law of gravity while in quarantine as a college student?
- Did you hear about a third-grade girl who sewed over 1,100 blankets for people in need?
- Did you know of the teen who invented a flashlight powered by human body heat? She was helping a friend who had no electricity.
- Did you know that Jim Henson came up with the “Muppets” as a kid when his mom and dad bought him socks to play with and create characters?
Normally, we only hear bad news about kids on TV. But young people have done fascinating things. Instead of thinking they had to wait until they were adults to change their world, they essentially said, “I can’t wait!”
To be honest, I can’t wait to put this book in your hands to better launch conversations at dinner time, bedtime or in the classroom. They will engage and inspire the kids near you. This could be a great gift for the holidays.