Connecting with Kids- without technology

No sooner than school is underway, and I am finally starting to fall into a routine, the holiday season creeps into sight.

Let’s be honest. It really starts on October 31. Even my high school students go nuts for the leftover Halloween candy.

Wait. It really starts with football season, which really starts in August.


Who am I kidding? I have potentially lost my students before I even had them. So how do we keep kids engaged these days? Each year becomes more difficult, as kids become busier, yet paradoxically- lazier, due to all of the advancements in technology. I’m in my 11th year as a high school teacher, and each year is more of a challenge for this reason. Kids are so use to not having to work hard for things, that sometimes I half feel that they expect the teachers to do the work for them. I’m not trying to bash parents or kids, but only bring to mind some of the simpler things in life that we all tend to overlook due to a busy, changing world around us. I truly believe that success in the classroom begins at home. And I don’t mean what you HAVE at home. I mean the environment, the rules, and the attitudes. So I wonder, how would my classroom be different if my students…

  1. Had to walk 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, in the snow
  2. Wrote their grandparents letters, rather than picked up their cell phone
  3. Read a book each night in bed, rather than texting until the fell asleep
  4. Did chores around the house, because it’s the right thing to do, not for money

I know times have changed, but the day I had a senior ask me how to address an envelope for their college application, I began to realize we’re selling our kids short as parents and teachers. I used to love writing my Nana letters and I’m pretty sure she loved getting them. She always told me I had a way with words. While I did turn out to be a writer/English teacher, I’m sure every grandma has some compliment ready for their grandchild’s letter. The most common possibly being, “This made my day!”  I dread being a grandma if I never get a card with a toddler’s almost unidentifiable name on it or a hand-written letter from a fourth grader. Granted, once I’m a grandmother, I’m sure I will still text, e-mail, etc., but I’m sure my grand-kids will have moved on to something “better.” This just adds to my concern. If texting becomes “old school,” does letter writing then become a lost art? Well, maybe it is already. So, just remember, as you allow your child to have their first cell phone or iPod to not let it replace some of the more meaningful things in life. Yes, technology is wonderful; it can enhance education in so many ways, but nothing beats the simplicity of reading an actual book or hand-writing a message to a friend. Are our children and grandchildren going to have any tangible memories? Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but I save the little notes my husband writes me because, eventually, the sweet texts he has sent me will disappear into the technological abyss. I’m glad that I’ll have something to hold onto. This goes for pictures too. I love going to my Nana’s house and looking through her many photo albums. I already feel like I have fallen into the digital trap. The majority of my family photos are stored on my computer and go unprinted. It’s just not the same as flipping through that book with the yellow-stained pages and reliving those memories.

I have also fallen in to the e-book trap. I was resistant to the whole Nook/Kindle movement for so long. When my husband bought me one, I decided I would give it a go. I now love it, and as an avid reader, appreciate being able to access books wherever I am. If a Nook will help your child love reading, save up and buy one as soon as possible. Reading is reading and, along with writing, it is the most important skill a child can master. However, I still love strolling through a library or book store and hope that one day these aren’t replaced. I know your kids will look at you sideways if you ask them to use the card catalog, but take them to the library while they are still young, give them some responsibility by letting them get their own library card, and let them explore the worlds of Amelia Bedelia and Curious George. That’s one thing that time can’t change. The Amelia Bedelia that I loved in 1983 is still just as silly in 2012, whether you are reading her story on a Nook or in a paperback.

I overheard two children talking recently. One child was telling the other that her friend quit playing soccer because it was causing him to miss too many of his TV shows. What is this world coming to? What happened to the days of playing outside all day long in the summer, as demonstrated by one of my all-time favorite movies The Sandlot?I think we know the answer.

So, am I calling your child lazy? Am I anti-technology? No.

I just want to bring some simplicity back to the lives of our children. (Even if what I call simple seems like an arduous task to them.) What if handwriting a letter enhances a child’s patience? What if doing an unpaid chore makes a child more grateful for the roof over his head? What if forcing your child to put down the video-game controller and go play outside causes him to appreciate nature, or better yet, develop a healthier lifestyle? And if not, where’s the harm? I mean, the result couldn’t be bad, especially not for the parents and grandparents (and maybe even the teachers).


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