“The kids have changed.”
It’s a phrase uttered often these days by adults who see children and teens consumed by technology, obsessed with their social media presence and disinterested in so many of the activities that children traditionally have loved.
Jessica Gentry, a former kindergarten teacher from Stone Spring Elementary School, is calling out any adult who has ever used that cop-out.
The 34-year-old teacher from Harrisonburg, Virginia, took to Facebook on Thursday, June 13, to explain exactly why she felt she needed to quit her job after 12 years of teaching. And if you think being underpaid, or caring for dozens of rambunctious five-year-olds day after day finally became too exhausting for her, you’re wrong.
‘It was easier for my former HR director to believe it was because I found something that I was more passionate about. Some would allow them to assume that… let them be comfortable in their assumptions because your truth may lead to discomfort of others. Well… I’m not some. That ain’t me,’ she begins.
Then, she gets to her thesis:
“’The old excuse ‘the kids have changed.’ No…. Kids are kids. PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that.
‘Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/coparenting situations, terrible media influences… and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do?
‘Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest. They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviors will be treated with kindness and compassion.
‘For those “well behaved” kids—they’re throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it’s safe.
‘The kids flipping tables at school? They don’t have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they’ve ever heard ‘no,’ been given boundaries, shown love through respect. Cue “the kids have changed,” ‘ she added.
“Kids these days have changed” should not be and can not be an excuse as we venture forth into the unknown world of parental challenges.
She blames an over-emphasis on technology being used to teach children at school as an issue and discusses a lack of accountability in parents attitudes in regard to their children’s behavior. “My mental and physical health was in jeopardy every.single.day. Knowing that your kids need and deserve more than they’re getting,” she shares.
The post has been shared 219k times and racked up 217k likes with 846 comments. Sentiments from other teachers flood the comment section :
‘This resonates with me, as these are some of the many reasons I left teaching…” one former teacher shares.
Another former teacher adds, “I think all teachers agree with you. I taught for 40 years and times have changed. Good for you to get out now where you can make changes with your own children.”
“I am also a former teacher who just got burned right out by all this garbage. Kudos to you for speaking out!,” says another.
However, Gentry’s former superintendent Michael Richards has responded to the post saying that he ‘would take issue’ with Jessica saying that teachers are leaving the profession ‘like their hair’s on fire.’
His statement read:
‘Ms. Gentry may have her own reasons for making that assertion. Teaching is the noblest profession in the world, and the vast majority of teachers are dedicated to the vital work of empowering the next generation.
‘Teaching is definitely a very challenging profession, and it is not for everyone. It requires longer hours than most people believe it does, and it presents multifaceted challenges that blend social and intellectual skills. Some of Ms Gentry’s concerns are entirely valid.
‘For instance, it is imperative that we provide teachers with adequate planning and collaboration time and that we do not pull them away from instructional time. It is imperative that we help students develop strong social skills, especially as society turns increasingly toward device-driven communication.
‘At the same time, we need to empower students to use technology to enrich their learning and develop real-world skills. It is important that we support teachers in developing productive partnerships with parents. Many of Ms. Gentry’s concerns have been squarely on my radar for some time.
‘I have plans to address these and other concerns here in Harrisonburg, where I started as superintendent only a month ago. Too often teachers feel that no one really understands their concerns and that solutions are imposed on them.
‘I plan to partner with teachers so that I am aware of their concerns and they have a voice in the solutions,’ he concluded.
While his statement is well-thought-out and holds moments of validity and encouragement, as a former preschool teacher myself, Gentry’s words hit a chord in my memory of teaching, as it did for so many other teachers. As teachers of young children, the responsibilty to care and nurture young lives in a developmentatlly appropriate ways so often clash with the reality of school expecations, parental involvement and ultimatly, the emotinal state of the children who arrive in your classroom.
What Gentry’s is sharing has affirmation through research, specifically her concerns about technology.
Researchers have dubbed a new phrase called “technoference” to describe the everyday interactions cut short or interrupted by digital or mobile devices during face-to-face conversations or at meal or playtimes.
Especially concerning and eye-opening recent studies have found that this technoference is negatively impacting the normal development process, especially in babies who no longer receive uninterrupted “serve and receive,” part of what psychologists Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff describe as a “conversational duet.” The vocal patterns parents everywhere tend to adopt during exchanges with infants and toddlers are marked by a higher-pitched tone, simplified grammar and engaged exaggerated enthusiasm. One study showed that infants exposed to this interactive, emotionally responsive speech style at 11 months and 14 months knew twice as many words at age 2 as ones who weren’t exposed to it.
The problem? Babies and toddlers are receiving less of it because eye contact is being made between parent and smartphone, not parent and baby. Gut-wrenching, isn’t it?
“Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences…” Genty isn’t wrong there, either. For some families, it is vital for both parents to work in order to financially provide for their children. However, the fact remains that this has the potential to negatively impact children.
According to a clinical review published in 2009 in the “Michigan Family Review,” factors such as nonstandard work schedules and financial stress may have a negative impact on a child’s social, emotional and behavioral development, resulting in issues like behavioral problems and poor academic performance. The quality and quantity of time spent in child-care settings may also impact development. A longitudinal study published in the May/June issue of the journal “Child Development” found that teens who spent the most time in child-care settings as young children were more likely to exhibit impulsiveness and risk-taking behaviors than peers who had spent less time in childcare.
Like Genty, I have vivid recollections of children dropped off in my classroom at 7:30 am and picked up at 6:00 pm, 5 days a week. I can remember the way their expectant faces turned to the door every time a new parent appeared, hoping it was their own coming to take them home. I saw their frustrations play out in behavioral outbursts, tears, anger and despite my best efforts to keep them engaged, boredom from being in the same classroom day after day.
Gentry’s post makes many valid points and voices the concerns and sentiments of so many teachers.
But in the end, our communities are full of loving and dedicated teachers who arrive at work every day to take on the responsibility of teaching our children. Amidst these challenges, they rise to the occasion, combatting negativity from parents and upper management and making sure their students come first.
If you take one thing away from Gentry’s Facebook post, it’s that as parents, we must rise to the occasion with them. Not just with the opportunities that we can provide through financial privilege, but with old-fashioned TLC. Undivided attention, discipline, boundaries, encouragement, care and truth.
“Kids these days have changed” should not be and can not be an excuse as we venture forth into the unknown world of parental challenges. Children have an incredible way of adapting and learning from their environment and daily life routine, so let’s give them the environment and life they deserve.