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Ask Todd Parker - Sept. 19, 2012

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Dear Todd Parker,

What is it with the kids today?

I've been working in education for the past six years, primarily at the middle and high school levels. I got the job right out of college, so I'm still young enough that I occasionally get misidentified as a student in the high school hallways. I always thought that I'd be able to maintain some level of connection with the stuff the kids are into.

All of a sudden, it seems like they're living on a different planet.

They're talking about TV shows I've never seen and bands I've never even heard of. I always believed myself to be fairly tech-savvy, but these kids have blown by me it's like they can't function for more than five minutes without a direct connection to the Internet. Heck, a lot of the time, I can't even understand what they're saying; the slang seems to have passed me by overnight.

I'm not sure what to do. I understand that this is something that every generation has to deal with as the next generation grows up, but I'm worried that it's going to adversely affect the way that I do my job. Should I make a conscious effort to keep up or should I just accept the fact that I'm officially too old to be 'cool'?

-Aging Teacher

Dear Aging,

Yeah, you're going to want to go ahead and give up. That's a fight you're never going to win.

You might be saying 'But Todd, I'm still young! I'm still hip and with it!' Sorry to break it to you, Teach, but no you're not (and yes, I know you probably didn't actually bust out chestnuts like 'hip' and 'with it' I'm trying to make a point here).

Like it or not, your ability to connect on a sociocultural level with those kids is going to steadily diminish as time passes. And that's okay do you really want to spend your time watching crap on the CW and listening to One Direction so you can keep up? Of course not. You're an adult although it sounds like maybe part of you would prefer it if you weren't.

You're not there to be their friend, Teach. You're there to do your best to keep them from growing up into overly-entitled moronic idiots. That's your job, a job that we should all be grateful that you do. I'd personally like to give you a gold star for every one of those little punks that you keep from growing into a full-fledged nozzle.

And none of this says that you can't still be the cool teacher. You just have to come to terms with a different definition of 'cool.' Be honest. Be interesting. Be sincere. Make them use their heads as something other than holes to shovel terrible music/movies/websites into.

In truth, the essence of being cool rests in not caring about being cool. Stop worrying about it and you'll be just fine. And if you're really that concerned about your interactions with them, all I ask is this: try and bring them up to your level rather than dropping down to theirs. They don't need you to regurgitate what they already like back to them; they have their peers for that. Show them what else is out there; show them something new.

If you do that, you might not be the cool teacher now, but when the kids look back years from now, you will be.

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