Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stolen Childhood

I am a teacher. I am a student. And I learn a great deal from the students that I teach. After two recent experiences with the students at my school, I came away with an absolute confirmation of something that I was thinking was true, but that I didn’t know to true considering the culture and climate that we live in today. Even in this day and age when children are growing up too fast, they still want to be children, and they look to us—the adults for guidance and direction.

My first revelation came after I was bamboozled and hood-winked into chaperoning the 8th grade trip to St. Louis. I was charged with keeping up with a group of 43 students while we explored St. Louis for two days. It was a wonderful trip! On the second day, we went to Six Flags and when we got inside the park, there was a concession stand that sold super hero capes. And a number of the students—boys and girls stopped to buy capes. Even the so called “cool kids” especially the boys, donned their capes and ran around the park getting on rides. It warmed my heart to watch them get to simply be kids. They traded their hardened city armor for a flimsy fantasy cape, and they looked happy and relaxed.

My second revelation came when we took our 6th and 7th graders skating and bowling as an incentive for good behavior. It’s June, and the students are antsy and ready to be out of school. So, the outing was a good way for them to release some that bottled up energy. While 6th grade has been pretty decent this year, 7th grade has been challenging. So, I was in some ways dreading the trip even though past experience has taught me that students know how to get it together when they leave the building. Some of the same students had been problematic in some capacity or another all year. But rather they were skating—or trying to learn, or bowling, they were well behaved and having fun. It was another positive experience.

Children are challenging. And children will try adult--especially adolescents; It’s their job. But it is our job as the gatekeepers to draw that hardline in the sand. We cannot continue to allow the line between adults and children to recede. What I learned from my students is, that at the end of the day, they really do want to be children. We have snatched their innocence by allowing them access to adult content that they cannot handle. We have stolen their childhood. And we need to give it back.

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