Monday, July 2, 2007

So this is how kids think?

Like a lot of teachers, I struggle with students who don't do their work. Since I've only ever taught at one school -- one that is in a fairly affluent area -- I've pretty much chalked my students' laziness and apathy up to the fact that many of them are simply spoiled children.

You know the drill: You call home, tell the parent that Johnny is failing, and the parent says, "I just don't know what to doooooooooo! Johnny always tells me he doesn't have any homework. And even when I know he does, he won't do it, so I just let him play his video games anyway. I don't know what else I can dooooooooooo!"

To which we all think: "YOU'RE THE PARENT!!!" Then we politely say, "Well, I just wanted you to know. Thanks for your time." And we hang up the phone shaking our heads.

Well, now I know it's not just a problem with me or my school or my students.

Check out this report at NPR from about a month ago. It talks about how managers in the workplace are growing increasingly frustrated with how needy employees in the 20-30 set are.

Companies are hiring consultants to help manage the "over-praised" Me Generation. The result? Kudos for showing up to work on time! Awards for getting a report in! Forget Employee of the Month — how about Employee of the Day! Some managers are resistant, saying the only praise they ever got was a paycheck.

I think this resonates with a lot of us teachers, who can't understand why students need a pat on the back every time they do something they're supposed to do. When I was in school, I never dreamed of not turning in a homework assignment. It might not have been my best work, but to simply not do it? No way.

Now, I rarely give homework in my classes because I know it's generally an exercise in futility.

Could understanding this "Me Generation" help us understand how to better motivate our students to do more, better work? We wonder why we should have to do this, but I think the question isn't so much "Why should we have to do this?" anymore, as it is "Are we willing to sink to that level in order to get the best out of our students?"

A lot of teachers will answer no. But is that really best practice?

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