As a novice teacher, nothing is more unsettling than being friended on Facebook by a bunch of your 10-year-old students. Actually, that’s not true. Being confronted by said children the next day at school demanding to know why you’re dissing them by not accepting the Facebook request, is a tad more awkward.
Now, I’m only 24 and I consider myself to be fairly “with it.” (Crap I think I just proved myself wrong by using that phrase.) However, the more time I spent with these students, the more I realize that the notion of childhood is drastically different than it was 10 years ago. “How so?” you might ask. Example number one:
Me: When I was in 5th grade, we didn’t have cell phones or Facebook. Even gaming consoles were different, I got my Nintendo 64 when I was in 4th grade and that was a big deal.
Student: Wait… So if you didn’t have a phone or Facebook… Did you have to like, read books and stuff?
Yes, godforbid, we read books. And * gasp * played outside too.
Following this conversation, I proceeded to describe my first phone that I received in 9th grade, a big, brick-like Nokia that just called people, no texting (you had to actually remember phone numbers back then). My kids were mesmerized by the description of my phone, as if they were listening to an account of a newly discovered alien life form. And then they went back to playing Temple Run on their iPhones.
This encounter made me think. I recall childhood as being a time of soccer practice, building forts out of pillows, collecting “rolly-polly” bugs in jars and highlighting which shows I wanted to watch in the TV guide. The most tech-y memories I have are shooting a ton of buffalo while playing Oregon Trail and wishing I had an Easy Bake Oven. I even thought it was pretty amazing that you could buy a Barbie with hair extensions (not that that ever stopped me from chopping off my dolls’ hair).
My students were born in 2001. The world they know and participate in, has and will always, include Facebook, Twitter and smart phones. To these kids, 9/11 is an historic event of the past, while it haunts my generation as the defining moment in our own collective memory. That’s okay, the kids assure me, we can look it up on YouTube. Sigh.