New dimensions of normalcy
The global pandemic has driven the whole world to a new normal in all aspects of life. The phrase ‘new normal’ has become the buzz word, and well on the road to becoming a cliché.
However, that is not the topic of discussion in this article. I have been a teacher for two decades now. I can confidently say that I have taught three generations of teens in this period. The trigger for this write-up came from my current set of students.
At Abheek Academy, we have started an online book club for students of grade 7 and above. They have weekly meetings where they discuss books they have read. This has been going on for a few weeks. Today was the first time I attended this book club session. My observation during the session was that students were giggling and engaging in off-the-topic chats during the session. This was in stark contrast with their behaviour in their regular sessions.
Pondering on behaviour
It got me to thinking, should I call this disrespect or is this the new normal? After analysing the situation, I conclude that this is a new normal.
When I was a child, I was usually scared of my teachers and their influence in my life. Most of my kindergarten teachers knew my family. Everything I did at school was reported back home to my parents. In the present day, this does not happen often. There is not much daily or weekly reporting. Most reporting is relegated to the monthly PTM. There too, only serious infractions are considered. For the most part, what happens in school remains in school.
Also, as I was growing, the relationship between a teacher and a student was more formal. While we were friendly with some teachers, we still behaved in a formal way.
When I started teaching, I considered myself a progressive teacher. So, I encouraged my students to be more open in sharing their concerns and difficulties with me. I also had the privilege of engaging with my students more on an individual basis compared to a strict classroom setting. Owing to this, I have established various degrees of openness with my students over the years.
Comfort of communication
However, today’s session showed me a greater degree of confidence from my students than I have experienced before. While they were mindful of their limits, they also showed low inhibitions in expressing themselves confidently.
It appears to me that the teens of the present generation are more aware of their strengths and weakness. They are also more open to discuss that with their teachers. They are also more open to give you suggestions.
During the discussion, I shared that I do not like reading fiction. This is because I am overly critical of the narration and if I find even the slightest mistake, I chuck the book away. My student confidently told me, “Sir, keep your rational brain aside and read the book”. I have not had a student tell me something like this before, not after only a few weeks of acquaintance. In my student days, it would be offensive to tell your teacher to keep their brain aside. I found that I did not take offence, however. I gave it a thought and liked his argument. I might even give a novel a try – I complain often that my wife reads too many of them 😊.
Some of my students are also open to discuss their difficulties like lack of motivation, lack of respect for their teachers or authority. It has given me a way to understand their mind. It also allows me to help them discover a way to work around these limitations. I also counsel them on the futility of forming non-constructive opinions about the people who care about their future.
My usual advice during these discussions is “We do not come with an operation manual”. This seems to work with teens of the present generation. They can see that people need not understand all their points of view. Because we all do not come with a manual.
This was not the kind of interaction I had with my teenage students in the early 2000s or even in 2010. They were all different and they have grown into accomplished young professionals. Growing as a teacher year by year and decade by decade, I am adapting to the new normal – professionally, personally, and psychologically.
What kind of new normal have you adapted to? Please share your thoughts.