We…. What a word… But, here’s the challenge. Define it. What is “we”? It’s complicated. It’s even harder to cultivate a mindset of “we”. (We) live in a world that is so isolated and individualized. The consumption crisis that exists has created a society of “me” first attitudes and worse yet an attitude of “what is in it for ‘me’?” seems to be prevalent in every aspect of school and daily life. Even in my own home when I ask the kids to clean up the yard, I get hit back with “are you going to pay me?”
As a former coach and now a school superintendent who has grown up and spent a lifetime working within a “we” environment, it’s troubling. It is harder now than ever to get kids to be willing to sacrifice any of their own self-gratifying habits such as social media or cell phone time, in order to be a part of a greater whole. The phrase that those of us who grew up in the last generation that coaches and teachers and even parents would use that said “because I said so” just falls on a lot of deaf ears in today’s world.
University of South Carolina Basketball Coach Frank Martin addressed the notion of “we” in a press conference. He was asked how he has adjusted his style to how kids have changed over time. His reply was poignant. He basically said that kids have not changed, but adults have. He stated that kids are essentially the same. They beg for stimuli and attention. They want to be led. They want to be successful. Like the kids of a generation before, they need guidance and expectations. What he went on to explain is the only thing that has changed is the expectations adults have for kids. As a generation of adults, we have lowered our standards for our expectations of kids in an effort to ensure their happiness.
“We” are part of the problem. Parenting is being subsidized by Snapchat and Fortnite. School’s have been complicit when they allow loosened expectations for appearance and allow cell phones in schools without a comprehensive attempt to teach appropriate use. (The adults need some of that as well). This message may not be popular, but it’s not intended to be. In twenty years, none of these kids will remember or care about a single text message or video they shared today. I hope they remember playing in the big game, performing in the concert, and enough about the Algebra lesson to help them work out an issue in their career.
“We” must create more opportunities for kids to appreciate their “we” moments. When getting “likes” on Twitter or Facebook is more important than whether or not they’ve done what is right, we have to do better. As summer approaches, it’s time for a break. Our kids have worked extremely hard in the classroom this year to earn the right for a summer vacation. But as the summer plays out, we here at TISD are going to work extremely hard to create our very best “we”. I sleep well at night knowing our teachers believe in one another and they all truly believe in TISD and our kids. I also know that our kids have accomplished so much over time. I want to be able to continue to sleep at night knowing we’ve sent students out into the world knowing that there’s so much more than what they see on a screen.