I love my job. Being an educator is something that gives me breath. Being a part of the educational experience with students is beyond words. Watching them grow academically and personally is something that extends beyond the feeling of “rewarding”. Watching them overcome a challenge, watching them interact with a new student in class, watching them draft and revise, draft and revise, draft and revise, watching them argue text analytically, watching them stand up for their generation, all of it is what gives me breath. They are our future. The good, the bad, and the “miss, I don’t get it.”
As time moves forward and technology makes my classroom go round, one thing that seems to have become engrained and expected for my students is their “ear buds”. The thought of working, focusing, being productive, collaborating, succeeding, can’t seem to happen without those little nubs sticking into a kids ears. Why? No clue. But, this is what gives them breath. Is this phenonomen cultural? Is it their generation? Is it the teenage trend? Is it something American culture has enabled somehow through the use of technology at such a young age? Is music that necessary all the time? Is this good or is this bad?
Time and time again, the battle has been waged in my carpeted classroom with the AC blasting year round at 70 degrees, apple pie scentsy in the warmer, class activities and funny meme projected on the white board, objective written for the day (We will, I can), materials posted on Google Classroom, greeting every.single.kid at the door with a smile on my face, giving advice to the tear filled child, talking about the future with the soon-to-be graduate, the sticky note with an encouraging message secretly slipped to the student who will never talk to you but it’s obvious they need something positive.
“All technology away.”
“No headphones, cellphones, any device with an on/off switch should be around your neck, on your lap, in your pocket…”
“I can see the ear bud behind your hair.”
“That is so loud I feel like I’m there.”
“Stop trying to FaceTime under the desk.”
And the battle is endless. No matter how I spin my verbage, this is every day, every class period. I can offer no concrete suggestion or accurate reasoning for this generation of the ear bud. From conversation and sometimes argument, students are clear it helps them focus. It helps them get in the zone and stay there. It helps them. As an adult that didn’t have this luxury, I need peace and quiet to read and even hear my own thoughts. Noise distracts me, especially when it comes to something that for me is extremely important and not worthy of a mistake.
But, not my students. Noise is where they live. Where they thrive. Where they breath. Where for them, they feel successful. This makes me question if my constant battle of the ear bud is worth it? If it makes them feel successful and accomplished, why fight it? Why fight what could lead to educational development in the brain of a teenager?
After thinking of my own students in my own classroom and the world I am preparing them for (high stakes testing, college acceptance, critical thinking, a global economy, technology changing every 5 seconds), the battle is worth it. I don’t know of any employer who would agree that ear buds make their employee more productive, more aware, more hard working, more knowledgeable, more promotion worthy, more “at the job”. No place of employment worthy of a well-paying, long lasting career, anyhow. As students plug in the ear buds, I often find myself on the verge of yelling their name clear across the classroom to get their attention. At that point, they look up. They pull one ear bud out. They say one word, “huh?”. There is a total disconnect. A total alternate reality they’ve entered into. A reality that is designed to fit the necessary outcome the teacher expects in the classroom. Enter ear buds. Plug them in = completion of the work from the teacher, even if they have no clue what it means and the relationship to their growth as a human.
With all this observation and no solution, I need my students to be in it. Be an active member of their learning, their growth, their education. No distractions. I want them to understand the necessity of what happens in my classroom. What happens in ALL classrooms. No drone-like state producing a product they really know nothing about. My vision I try to create in my classroom is a bridge to the world that awaits after the diploma is handed over, cheers from the crowd ring out, and the camera captures an image that will only happen once. The image should show not only a happy face entering the next phase of life, it should reflect the growth and development that happened in that unique brain, of that unique student, of that unique path paved and the one unpaved ahead, the gains that brought the student to that point in time.
So, dear students, unplug the ear buds. Don’t let music hinder, even if there is “nothing playing on them, miss”. Your generation is not defined on music. Your generation is defined on YOU. You, the unique human, the student that yearns for acknowledgment. The student that yearns for acceptance. The student that yearns for more than a trend. The student that breaths the moment of uncertain excitement. The uncertain excitement of publishing the 8 page essay, shedding a tear over a characters death, watching your homemade rocket fly for 20 seconds, and most importantly holding the diploma that signifies that breath. That breath of growth and accomplishment and development and knowledge of knowing YOU can DO. You, my friend, are more than an ear bud.