I have heard that the current generation is selfish and shallow, that they are the iGeneration, that they focus on MySpace, but rarely think about OurSpace. Students meet together, but they do not entirely connect. It seems that share a physical proximity, but each sends texts, listens to iPods and lives within a self-centered cocoon.
Maybe it’s the fact that I work in an urban environment, but I do not see the self-centeredness and selfishness that people describe. I see students seamlessly sharing music, texting in short sound-byte conversation, participating in social media – not to be selfish, but to regain some semblance of community in a culture of alienation. They are both more idealistic and more cautious about the world (perhaps because they were in the second grade when the 9-11 attacks occured).
I’ve noticed that most of my students rebel against a society drenched in amusement. They can sniff out phoniness and will challenge teachers who hand them stacks of mindless worksheets. I feel as if they come to me yearning for deep dialogue and a chance to tell their story. I get the sense that they thrive in being able to write poetry and narratives, becuase so many of their movies and music and t.v. shows are a cynical mockery of the sacred.
This morning, as I was grading papers, a kid wrote:
Nothing can describe what I felt like when I lost my brother. It’s like a piercing piece of scrap metal ripping through my heart. I won’t say that I’ve lost all hope, but I’ve learned to hope with a limp. You just want to die and forget this nightmare of pain. I push forward thinking maybe I’ll wake up from the nightmare. But I’m also scared of what will happen if I wake up and the nightmare will become too distant of a memory.
That was just one of many papers where students wrote about a powerful memory. I won’t lie. I’ve found myself crying a few different times. It feels so strange to read something so personal, when I really don’t know my students very well yet.