smiling shouldn't have to be." That's what a local dentist has advertised on a huge billboard outside my school. It has irritated many of my colleagues, because we work so hard to get kids to be positive about their academics.
But this week I was reminded that high schoolers are really mean, and maybe that sign is not talking about academics. Even in my incredibly healthy school, that prides itself on how all people are respected, its almost non-existent number of fights, etc., high schoolers can be just plain mean. Ok, not all high schoolers. But I remember hating high school (some times I wonder why I choose a career that involved going back to the place I could wait to get out of...). I have students that have thrown up in the bathroom several times this week, because they are nervous for high school. Lunch time creates so much anxiety as students, wide-eyed, try to figure out where to sit.
On the first day I overheard the following conversation:
Girl 1: Did you see so-and-so's jacket? (name removed)
Girl 2 and Boy: Yeah. (laughter)
Boy: Who would be jealous of that?! (more laughter)
It struck me. The point was to make other people jealous. They must see this modeled at home. You know, keep up with the Joneses.
I shared this story with my friend and she shared a similar story about two girls that were gossiping in the mother-baby cry room at her church during the service. They didn't stop when she came in, even when she started singing along, and they weren't whispering.
I've been thinking about this all week. Maybe they do see it at home, but really they see it all around them. High schoolers are just less subtle. Because they are still learning; learning to make it sound better, to justify, to pick appropriate times (more secretive).
My job has always been about more than teaching math. Sometimes I even hate telling people that I am a math teacher, because that immediately puts me in a box and people flash to their own usually negative experiences with math.
I am a teacher. I am there to teach students to think and learn, and I just happen to spend most of the time using mathematics to do that. Lately though I've been wondering "What else am I teaching them?" and "Is it what I want the next generation learning?"