We’ve all had those moments where we roll our eyes and groan about kids these days, from their weird clothing and hair choices, to their terrible music tastes, to their dependence on technology. And then we realize that we apparently are getting old because, like generations passed, we sound like our own parents or grandparents griping about us as kids. We hear complaints about how spoiled kids are today, that they are little “snowflakes” who can’t deal with disappointment, so some people voice concerns about the future of our country.
Every generation has its own complaints about the one that follows it, so it’s really nothing new. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that really, the future world is in good hands. Teachers may have to deal with a lot, and of course there are days that it’s so hard. But the reason we keep doing it is because we continue to see that glimmer of hope come out in our students when they do something good, and we know that the world will be well taken care of. These small or big acts of kindness do not go unnoticed by teachers, and we can ease everyone’s minds that “kids these days” give us all hope for a bright future, and we can all learn a thing or two from these kids.
- Acts of kindness have no age limit! On the first day of school, we took our kindergartner to school and stayed with him through the breakfast line because he was very nervous. A girl in upper elementary behind us introduced her friend and herself and said, “If you need any help, just let me know. We’re down that hall. We are nice and don’t bully anyone.” I knew then that he’d be just fine at school with students like that around. My kindergartner says that students help one another out, like when he fell down and another student helped him up. I love to watch kids on the playground make friends with one another, all differences aside. Sometimes the littlest of kids can teach us the most.
- Step up to support one another often. People hear a lot about bullying, and of course it happens, but there is so much more support for one another than people realize. As a speech teacher, I see plenty of kids who are a bundle of nerves and emotions when they have to give a speech. They are so worried about what their peers think, but really, I see the students support one another far more than bullying or judgement in my class. Students offer encouraging words and applaud enthusiastically for the students who are most nervous. On those rare occasions where a student gets so nervous they have to sit down or leave the room, I’m always impressed when a student offers to go after the student to be sure they are okay. Earlier this year, a student gave an emotional speech about how much she admires her mother and began crying at the end, and when she sat down, another student got up to grab tissues for the crying student. It was such a small gesture, but it made me smile because of how easily a student could show her support of a classmate.
- It’s important to be a good sport, even in competition. I coach the speech and debate team, and you’d think that in competition students would not be so kind, but they are! I judge at these events often, and it always makes me happy to hear students compliment one another on their performance (even if in their head they might be thinking, “darn that speech was so much better than mine!”). My students also notice the kind gestures, and tell me that students nod and smile to encourage students when they mess up as if to say, “It’s fine. You got this. Keep going.” One student even said another competitor, who had seen her speech a number of times, mouthed the correct word to her when she forgot something and froze. All of these students could just easily think, “Well at least I beat someone!” and do nothing when another student messes up, but they do want everyone to be successful… Of course this goes beyond academic competition into athletics. My husband is the girls cross country and track and field coach, and on the boys’ team there is a student who runs cross country with a service dog, and every single time the boy and his dog run along the course, especially near the finish line, it is awesome to hear everyone, other competitors and spectators alike, encouraging them, clapping and cheering loudly all throughout the course. No doubt all of these students, like all of us, want to win, and like to win, but there is nothing that says that we can’t help each other along the way.
- Sometimes people can surprise you. Be careful of judging others that you might see as troubled or different. When we turn a blind eye to one another, we might miss out on something great. Another teacher shared a story about a student who sometimes struggles to stay out of trouble, but stepped up to do the right thing one day when he saw some students who were trying to take the bus to West High, but it was the wrong bus. The other students were brand new to the school and did not speak much English, so this student took them under his wing and got them on the correct bus and paid for their bus fare! When they got to the school, he took them to the office to get their bus pass sticker so they could ride for free, and then helped them find their lockers and their first class. Many students of the younger generations are able to see past differences that could separate us so they can be more inclusive.
- It’s important to help those in need. Local schools participate in a variety of service activities every year, like the Student Hunger Drive and charity events, and it’s always awesome to see students step up to help those in need in their own school and community. Our school has fun fundraisers for these events, like a Lip Sync Battle that teachers participate in that has a small admission fee for students to attend (and it all goes to charity). In my own class I always ask if the whole class wants to go, and of course they do, so I take up a collection and say, “If anyone is able to donate a little extra for any classmates who might be unable to, it would be appreciated.” Every single time there are students who chip in a couple extra bucks so their classmates don’t have to miss out. And this is just a small gesture in the amount of good that they do. Students are always stepping up to take care of their community by collecting money or items for those in need or volunteering their time to help where needed. Just in this last year, students in our school led a Pennies for Patients fundraiser, traveled to Kenya to teach students about robotics, raised money and collected gifts for the Handicapped Development Center, and organized blood drives. These students know that there is a need to spread the love however they can, and we all should look at them as examples to step up in our own communities and beyond.
- Some good deeds go unnoticed and some do not. I’m a firm believer in a good deed being a good deed. It bugs me when I see some comments in an otherwise nice Facebook story about someone posting an act of kindness just to get attention. We live in the age of technology where things go viral, and I don’t know about you, but please, give me all the nice stories to help drown out some of the bad! But sometimes, those anonymous good acts that we never hear about are so important. Another teacher told me about a male student who approached her quietly in class to say that he noticed a female student had started her period in her seat so the teacher could intervene without anyone else noticing! The female student never knew that anyone else but the teacher noticed. I’m sure every woman reading this can agree that this is a teenage girl’s worst nightmare (and if we’re honest, no adult woman wants that experience either!), so we’d all like to give this teenage boy a high five for being so mature and thoughtful about it. Whenever we can help our fellow humans, we should, whether that act is very public or very private.
This is just a very small sampling of the good that “kids these days” do. Kudos to all of the parents and/or other role models who showed these students that it’s important to be kind and do good, no matter how small the action is. Show the world that “kids these days” will take care of our future by sharing the good deeds that you have seen with all of us.