When people ask me, “So how’s your class this year?” I usually say “Great!” (Depending on the day.) I suppose another way I could describe them is … well, um … what’s the opposite of blindly compliant?
The current group of students I have right now are incredibly critical thinkers. They also have a reputation. They are not particularly well-liked by staff, and are the thing supply teacher’s nightmares are made of. Boundaries, in their view, are meant to be pushed, and they never let anything go. You know that one question you just wish your students wouldn’t ask because you’re tired today? Well, they always ask it.
I think they are going to be immensely successful once they leave the bricks and mortar of The Institution.
That is, if you define success as taking control of your life and realizing your destiny.
There are copious reasons why I think this, but the one I’m focussed on today is actually their disdain for Rules for the Sake of Rules.
The students in my class rarely take anything at face value. They want to see the underbelly, the implied meaning, the truth. They think in what you might call pre-Gramscian or Foucaudtian terms. Hegemony and ideology? They are ready to tackle this stuff.
If we were still talking about a 20th century world based on a factory economy and devoid of tools for self-creation and publishing, I would be worried about this group. Some of them might have to take the rock star or starving artist route to achieve their dreams.
But I don’t think that is the case now.
It is the very fact that they so vigourously defend their right to blaze their own trails rather than seeking time-honoured paths set for them that, in my view, will ultimately put them in good stead as grown ups.
Bad, my friends, may be the new Good.
This isn’t to say that they aren’t a work in progress. Many of my students need a lesson in rethinking their level of self-entitlement, and a few of them need some explicit instruction in self-discipline. But, please, give them a break. You probably had similar issues when you were going through puberty as well. In fact, I suspect the most ‘successful’ (intrinsically motivated, adequately compensated, happy) people you know had major problems with this at a young age.
For me, this school year has been a constant and perplexing dichotomy. On one hand, it is difficult for me to walk the halls of our own building without being stopped to discuss how, somehow somewhere, ‘bad’ one of my students has been. On the other, as an open learning centre classroom, and as someone who involves my students in leadership opportunities outside of the building, I rarely get anything but positive, sometimes amazed, feedback from educators and people about them.
There is a deep lesson to be learned from this paradox.
I am very optimistic about their future.
(PS. I apologize for the cliched use of Che Guevara’s iconic image. I simply couldn’t help it.)