Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unplug

I have recently heard comments like these:

"My child is so bored at school.  The teachers don't make class interesting or engaging."

"I don't enjoy church.  It's not fun.  It's just boring."

"My child doesn't like school.  They don't like listening to a boring lecture."

"We need to teach our teachers to be more engaging."

This disturbs me on so many levels.  I'll try and keep it to one perspective this go 'round...and that is from the perspective of a teacher.

By whose standard are we measuring the characteristic of "engaging"?  The definition of the adjective engaging is..."winning; attractive; pleasing".  Now I will be the first to agree that a good teacher can hold the attention of their class.  A good teacher is interesting, wise, encouraging, and hopefully inspiring.  This is getting more and more difficult in our society due to the fact that a vast majority of our students are so "plugged in" to other things that frankly are (to them) much more "attractive, pleasing, and winning".  Video games, electronics, movies, and other media are so technologically advanced that humans really have a hard time competing when the stimuli people are used to is so glamorous and high-tech.  To the average teenager, seeing a Hollywood blockbuster version of a classic novel will "win" out almost every time.  You can finish it in under two hours, the visuals are stunning, there are sound effects that you would never conjure up in your own head, you can instantly download the soundtrack to your ipod, phone or computer, and the characters are all created for you....accent, looks, wardrobe, and attitude.  Not many students (though there are some thankfully) would choose to read night after night when given the opportunity to just "see it" and have it spoon-fed to them.  Sadly, the Hollywood version isn't the author's work.....it is an interpretation meant to sell millions of dollars worth of tickets.  Who cares if they throw in a little extra "va-va-va-voom" here and there to "attract and please" the audience.  


If you really want to get picky, I would ask parents today, "Is your child engaging (verb)  in school?"  Do they purposefully engage themselves in the great conversation that their teachers are prompting them to have?  Are they reading their assignments?  Are they preparing for the conversation to be had in class the next day so they can be part of the discussion?  Probably not.  Most want to be given what is necessary to pass the test and "move on".  Who cares if they learn anything?  It's sad.  Now, there are some students who really get it and buy into the idea that they are part of the equation.  You get out of things what you put into them.  Where I get weary is in the realization that many parents (not all) want the teachers to do whatever it takes to engage their child, motivate them to learn, get them excited about the material.......and this at times can be summed up by saying "entertain them".  I love teaching.  I love motivating and inspiring students.  But to be quite frank.....it is very hard to compete with what the parents are buying and providing for their kids, or allowing their kids to purchase for themselves.  Television alone is bad enough.

I recently heard a talk radio broadcast about the television programs that are geared toward teens.  Many are rated "PG13" or "TV14" and kids watch them because the rating says it's okay.  Ha!  Who decided that the ratings were the expert in what is "okay" for your child?  Most parents don't even know what their kids are watching.....or even worse, are watching with them.  Do a little research on the shows out there today and also take time to listen (or read Facebook posts) about who is watching what and you would be shocked at what they are tuning into each week.  The subject matter is appalling and way beyond what any teenager should be exposed to.  The talk show host was complaining about the offerings but ended up saying, "But what are you going to do when that is all that's on for them to watch?"  Really?  Do they need a neon sign saying, "Turn it off.  Go get a book.  Have a conversation.  Unplug."?  I am amazed that it would never occur to a parent to say "no".  If your only options are raw chicken or spoiled milk maybe skipping that meal would be the better option.

Yes.  Teachers should be engaging.  I'm all for making sure that we have the right teachers in place that inspire our children.  But against whose standards?  Hollywood's?  I don't think so.  (anyway...they don't pay teachers what they pay actors.)  Unplug your kids.  It might surprise you how creative, imaginative, and yes.....talkative they might become if they didn't have so much other stimuli getting in the way of relationships.