Twenty-somethings in the year Twenty-something
I teach twenty-somethings, about technology and media and design-somethings. We are in a world where our third-year students have gotten used to online classes for almost two years and now they’re back.
It is the morning of my first in-person class and I have a full class in front of me. They look at me, wide-eyed and curious. There is one girl in the back of the class glued to her phone, I clear my throat and she looks up and puts it away. Just like that. Amazing.
I start my class.
“Hello everyone, today is my first day in front of a real class again in two years. Kind of nervous, not going to lie.” A silence, I feel like the me about three or four years ago when I was first thrown in front of a class to teach. Some people smile, others just look at me without much of an emotional feedback about my statement.
I continue. As a millenial the screen should not pose a threat to me, the technology of this building was laid out when I was birthed so I should be able to figure it out. The screen puts up a fight but I win, eventually.
We start class.
Every teacher will recognize the moment in time where you ask a question and it remains silent. My technique for the first classes: always start with really easy questions. Usually those are picked up by the more forward students and you get the thing going. Now nothing, there is silence. A girl drops her earbuds. I pick them up and return them to her.
“No one?” I ask, everyone looks away. I point at a girl in the back of the class (not mobile-phone girl). She answers, unsure, the questions and does well. I compliment her.
“See, you knew the answer all along” she flushes, her cheeks turn pink and she smiles, proudly. I do this a few times with a few different students and every time they get a little giggly at my compliment about their knowledge or interpretations.
Where’s the confidence in this class? I’ve never seen it quite like this but the students have forgotten what it is like to be complimented on their knowledge, intelligence and performances. It seems that during our years of online schooling we have forgotten one of our primary tasks- to compliment these young adults when they’re doing well.
I go out of my way to tell my students they’re doing well, because they are. They need to hear it, as the weeks continue they are more and more outgoing and people start answering the questions I pose in class and even asking critical questions about the theories I explain. My heart swells with pride as a student corrects something I am saying.
I see this behavior everywhere I teach this year, it makes me pause. We have a lot of work to do, us teachers, let’s do our best.
If you’re a student reading this, still studying after two years of online classes with all it’s difficulties and flaws.
I want you to know,
I am proud of you.