Are Our Students Really The Lost Generation?

There’s a lot of buzz going around our communities about the “lost generation” of students. Everyone talks about this group of students currently in school, whether that be elementary school, high school, college, or graduate school students as if they are getting lesser of an education. 

The stance is that since learning is taking place over video calls, sometimes half in-person and half virtual. Each day protocol is changing and sometimes students don’t even know if they are supposed to be physically in their school or if they need to open up their laptop and log into online learning for the day. Because of this, they aren’t gaining the knowledge and education that everyone else has been offered up until this point, therefore, we will have a generation of incompetent beings running our world.

But what if they aren’t the lost generation? What if these students are exactly what our future needs? 

Adaptable. 

Able to work well with technology. 

Figuring out how to learn virtually when they do better in-person. 

Personal skills to work with new teachers as needed. 

Ability to use multiple platforms of learning for multiple subjects in school.

Our society is correct, these students aren’t obtaining the same education we did, but I would argue that they are receiving a better education. They are put through more changes and learning platforms than we could ever imagine as students. 

Teaching and learning during a pandemic are hard, it’s a level of hard that no one can understand unless they are there in the moment doing it. But our teachers and students are working harder than ever to continue on the education system, and they should be commended for that! 

Let’s stop calling them the lost generation and start recognizing that they may just be the generation our world needs someday. 

Final Thoughts On Feature Friday

For a good part of this year, I did a segment called Feature Friday where I interviewed different educators from all different backgrounds. I interviewed teachers from elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college professors. There was a vast array of subjects these teachers cover and a diversity of students, communities, and backgrounds. 

I had one teacher focus on COVID shutdowns in her interview. 

I interviewed a mother and daughter duo that both teach second grade in different parts of Idaho. 

One of my favorite professors from my undergrad.

And even our very own Mary Wade, the one and only that built this blog from the ground up! 

You can see all of my interviews here.

Feature Friday naturally came to a close when school began and teachers were overwhelmed with navigating teaching online and in-person and hybrid and all of the above. Adding in an additional email to their ever-growing list of to-dos wasn’t helping anyone. It felt like a good time to retire Feature Friday and keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day. 

I learned a lot from all of these teachers. What I found interesting is that oftentimes I asked the same question to multiple teachers and received a different response from each one. Different book recommendations, ways to use technology in the classroom, how they’ve seen the education system change, etc. We all have different ideas and views on teaching and it was fun to compile these into interviews. 

There were also teachers that believed in fun, exciting classrooms, and teachers that believed in no posters on the walls and just connecting on a personal level with students. Teachers that value technology and those that don’t particularly find it necessary in the classroom. 

But when it came down to it, all of them had one thing in common- They were there for the students. Not the pay, not the summers off, not anything other than their love of teaching students. 

A Life-Changing Professor Teaching All Of Us

In college, I had this professor. You know the one that changes your life and puts you right on course for where you need to be? Yep, she’s the one. 

Dr. Mecham was my professor for my level two practicum (level four is student teaching, for perspective). On the very first day of class, she stood up in front of the roughly 150 students currently in the practicum and said, “This semester is going to be really hard. It will push you to a lot of limits and we will expect a lot from you. So if you feel like you need to switch to an easier major, perhaps engineering, then go ahead and talk to us and we can direct you to the correct advisors to help you make this switch.” 

I was blown away that she had the audacity to state that majoring in engineering would be an easier route than an education degree. I’ve never taken any engineering classes, so I cannot confirm or deny that her statements were true, but I will say that we were worked very hard by our professors and we were expected to perform to the highest standard that semester. 

During my practicum, it not only required 14 hours of classes a week but also being in an elementary school classroom every day of the semester working with a teacher to provide classroom experience. This time in the classroom was focused on working with students in small groups and one-on-one to slowly introduce us to eventually student teaching.

My practicum experience in the classroom was less than ideal, with a teacher that often sent me to the copy room to do mindless copy work and rarely let me work with students. There were multiple other problems I ran into, most of which I wish I would have been bold enough to stand up for myself, but at the time I wasn’t. 

After a semester of feeling discouraged and not very adequate as a teacher, I had my final interview with my professor, Dr. Mecham. I accomplished all of my school work, had a 4.0 GPA, and according to the books, it looked like I was the perfect candidate to continue my education degree.  However, my mental state said otherwise. Dr. Mecham was ready to pass me off and tell me I was ready to continue, but before so, she asked her final question that went something like, “Do you feel ready to move on and that you passed your level two practicum?” 

With tears in my eyes, I told her I couldn’t. I said that being a teacher must not be what I am supposed to do as a career, because I felt so inadequate in the classroom, and that I possibly needed to consider a new degree. 

She comforted me with compassion, asked details on why I was feeling this way, and reassured me that I wasn’t the problem, my situation was the problem. 

I left her classroom with a warm hug and felt better and more confident than ever before. She truly had just changed my life and kept me on the path as a teacher, one that I am still so happy to be on, even if I’m not actively teaching at the moment! 

A handful of times I ran into Dr. Mecham in grocery stores and other places throughout town. Every time she saw me she always stopped to say hello with a warm, welcoming smile. She always was ready to take the time to acknowledge an old student, which made me feel like a million bucks! 

About a year after being in her class, I was walking through campus with a new haircut. I happened to pass Dr. Mecham on my walk and the first thing she said was, “Oh cute new haircut! I like that style on you!” 

I want you to realize that Dr. Mecham hadn’t had me as a student in a full year. I had only seen her very briefly in passing a handful of times. And still, she recognized that I changed my hair! If you want to know the true definition of personal teaching, she is the icon for it. She also asked about my experience at college how far along I was in my program. I was happy to tell her that I would be student teaching soon, ready to take my final step in the program to reach graduation. She was elated for me! She knew how hard it was for me to get through my level two practicum and I knew she was the only reason I continued on. 

I thanked her again for telling me how truly hard it would be and preparing me to work hard. And for knowing me and my struggles through it all. I wasn’t just another student walking the halls of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education at Utah State University, I was a student of Dr. Mecham, someone she knew and cared about. And that made all the difference for me. 

I try to remember Dr. Mecham in my teaching experience. I try to get to know each of my students personally and pay attention to them as a human, not just someone to teach the curriculum to. 

And I strongly suggest you teach like Dr. Mecham too. 

You can read an interview I did with her earlier this year. Read her advice to pre-service teachers, it’s so good! 

 

Dear Teacher: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Teacher, 

How are you? No, really. Take a minute to close your eyes and really think. How are you doing? 

This school year is unlike any other. Instead of walking into your classroom, putting up creative borders and posters around your classroom, and setting up for students, you sat at your computer waiting for emails, calls, or anything that would indicate how you would be teaching this year. 

Virtual? 

Hybrid? 

In-person? 

Masks? No masks? How much plexiglass would be installed in your classroom? 

It’s natural and okay to feel overwhelmed by the state of this school year. So many of you were told one thing, only to be changed last minute. Those expecting to be all online had to curate a socially distant classroom experience in a matter of hours because districts and higher-ups changed the protocol in the 11th hour. Some who spent all summer working on their socially distant classrooms were changed to all online and had to revamp their whole curriculum overnight. 

You’re expected to teach our “lost generation”, those who won’t have the opportunity at the same education as others have. It can put a certain level of guilt on you as their main source of education! 

But you’re a good teacher. 

You’re trying your best. 

The students are the center of your work. 

How do I know? Because it takes a special heart to be an educator, especially in today’s political world. And I know you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t care about your students as much as you do. 

Think back to one year ago, did you know the term “socially distant”? Would you have ever imagined teaching with a mask on all day? Did you ever see yourself on Zoom teaching concepts that really need to be taught in a personal setting? Like…. How to write….? 

No. No one saw this coming, no one could have prepared us for today. 

Your students are the same way, they were blindsided one day in March when nearly every school shut down with very little notice for an undisclosed amount of time. 

Doctors and nurses on the front lines treating COVID are heroes and need recognition. But maybe our teachers are being somewhat forgotten about. Here you are, putting in as much time and effort as these doctors. You’re working long shifts and giving your whole heart and soul to bring the education back to your communities, putting your life and your family’s lives at risk while you do it. 

Instead of nursing COVID patients back to health, you’re nursing our lost generation back to education. You’re providing our society as a whole a brighter future through your efforts. 

You are seen. You are of immeasurable value. You are the heroes we need right now. 

Thank you for your service. 

Never Ever Give Up

Someone shared this YouTube video with me of a group of 9 to 13 year olds singing a cover of this song to essential workers. They are thanking doctors, teachers, grocery store workers, and more, in the most tender-hearted way.

To all of you teachers out there on the front lines, sanitizing desks, iPads, and markers just to make it through the school day. The teachers navigating Zoom to teach students. To those early childhood educators working out creative ways to still make toys and play a part of the classroom. To the college professors doing everything they can to follow school protocol, and encouraging your students to do the same. The professors pre-recording lectures for students to watch online.

To those risking their lives.

To those who are starting their first year of teaching all over again (p.s. that’s all teacher’s this year).

To the overwhelmed and the underpaid.

Please listen to this song.

“No matter what you’re facing, you are my inspiration. You’re the fire that doesn’t know how to back down.”

Never. Ever. Give. Up.

These kids need you now more than ever. You’ve got this.


Please share with a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a delivery driver, a grocery store worker, or anyone else on the front lines who may need to hear this.

You Can’t Count The Apples In A Seed

Hi! Just me again, saying one thing and doing another. I wrote about my blog schedule just last week and was ready to get right to work on it! But on Monday, I strayed right away from the schedule and wrote about schools opening in the Fall because it felt so relevant and something teachers needed to be reading right now. 

I had every intention to dedicate today to introducing Enneagram types and why it can be important in education, but again, another topic came up that I truly felt compelled to write about. I appreciate that I am not getting any hate emails because I’m not following the set schedule I just gave myself. Thanks for letting my intuition take the lead for now. 

Setting up fun, educational activities for my daughter has been a side job and hobby of mine for about two years now. She’s well trained in sensory bins and being responsible with paint, play dough, scissors, and more. I have also been well trained in when and where activities take place. When I’m making dinner it’s a perfect time for unsupervised activities she knows well and can do independently. When her little brother is napping it’s a great time to pull out something new when I can sit with her and walk her through, and help where needed. 

Usually, I am great at seeing the cues of when she needs something besides TV or her regular toys to entertain her. She gets a certain kind of antsy when I am busy and her brain just needs to think and create. But the other day I was so hyper-focused on what I was doing, I didn’t take the time to give her what she needed. She ended up finding some playdough in her bin of activities I keep organized and brought it to the kitchen table asking if she could play with it. She’s an extremely responsible three-year-old, I know! Within minutes she was bored and asking for something new, while I continued to work and ignore her needs. 

My husband was cleaning the kitchen and watching the interactions unfold, seeing both of our needs. I needed to work and my daughter needed an enriching, fun activity, not just play dough. He walked over with a container full of food picks, food stamps, measuring spoons, and my rolling pin and showed my daughter how to roll the playdough, then stamp the shapes or make the food picks stand up, They scooped the dough with the measuring spoons and packed them in tight to make 3D shapes. Less than 5 minutes of instruction and she was on her way to independent play. 

It made me realize that the activities I’ve set up around my house are maybe teaching more than just my daughter. My husband has seen enough of these setups to know what she needed to succeed, and I’m sure my son is picking up on the rules I’ve set by watching his older sister carry out her painting and sensory bins. I also thought about this quote I’ve seen often as a teacher. 

One seed that we plant as teachers will have lasting effects for generations and generations to come. A positive influence on one child can have lasting impressions on everyone they come in contact with, you never know what great work you are doing. 

This apple quote printable was made for me by Kelsie Housley. If you would like to download the PDF to print and hang in your classroom, the link is below. Do me a favor and leave her a comment of thanks if you downloaded it! I would love to show her our appreciation!

Amidst The Negative, You’re Doing A Good Job

One month before my first-grade year started, I received a letter from my teacher welcoming me to class. To start off my full career as a student, this was a great way to begin. I beamed with pride reading the words my soon-to-be teacher left for me in my mailbox. I knew this year would be extraordinary. 

Our first library trip as a first-grade class was overwhelming for me. I loved reading and I loved books, but I had a hard time choosing with all of the options in front of me. When library time was over and I was about to leave the room empty-handed of something I loved so much, tears overcame my little 6-year-old body. My teacher ran to my aid and led me straight to the shelf I never knew I needed. Books by Ann M. Martin. The Babysitters Club. She told me I would really enjoy them and that it was perfect based on my reading level. This simple act gave me the confidence in her that I could trust her judgment and that she would always be in my corner when I needed her. 

Fast forward to the winter. I was out playing in the snow with friends, too far from the school to hear the recess bell. I walked into the classroom 20 minutes late (it felt like over an hour to me). I felt bad for not following protocol and not paying closer attention to the bell, I knew I would be in trouble. However, it got worse when the blue board came into play… 

The blue board was a public shame. It was a big board with two columns and everyone’s name running down the left, white side. When an individual did something wrong (like come in from recess 20 minutes late), their name was moved to the other side of the board, the blue side. No one wanted to be on the blue board. But walking into my own fate, my name was moved for the first, and only time that year, and my soul was CRUSHED. I felt like my whole relationship and trust with my beloved teacher had shattered in seconds because of one mistake I made. 

Slowly throughout the year, the trust was rebuilt and I truly loved my teacher and the relationship I had with her, but I always held the blue board moment in the back of my mind. I held it so close that at the end of the school year I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to be a teacher, and I will never use a blue board. That’ll show her!” 

Fast forward even further to my experience as a pre-service teacher. Many college classes spoke of clip charts or “shame boards” and it solidified in me that what my teacher did in first-grade was wrong. I had a small run-in with a clip chart in a different classroom, you can read about the experience here.  During this very brief time of using a clip chart, I still held my resentment for my teacher’s use of the blue board in my heart. I knew how much it affected me, and I truly did not want that for any other student I taught. 

A few years later after I had graduated with my teaching degree and did my long term sub job in a first-grade classroom, I unexpectedly ran into my past teacher while on vacation. I sat and spoke with her for an hour and told her about my experience subbing the same age of kids that she taught for years and years. I asked her advice on certain situations, how she would have handled some of the harder kids I had to teach, and ultimately thanked her for being such an influence on my life, especially for helping me keep my love of reading. I never mentioned the blue board, because even though it was still something that I thought about often, I held no resentment 20 years later. 

But in the conversation, she said something that really stuck out to me. She said:  

“I didn’t teach in a time of educational blogs and information readily at our fingertips, learning new teaching methods took a lot of searching and dedication. I made a lot of mistakes and I worry that I negatively affected the kids that I taught. But then I hear from you the successes you’ve had and it makes me feel better, so thank you for sharing.” 

I found this so interesting that she spoke these words to me since I had not brought up the negative interaction I had with her. I held these words close and silently forgave her for putting my name on the blue board years and years ago. It also made me think about my own interactions with children. 

How have I negatively affected students? 

What positive interactions have I had? 

Also, how many more of my past teachers and professors out there are beating themselves up because they weren’t the perfect teacher every day, and could use an encouraging message from past students? 

Teachers invest their whole heart and soul into educating human beings and often focus on the bad days and interactions. Let’s all take a minute to remember that even if you made a mistake, you’re still a great teacher, and your students still love you. 

You’re doing a good job.