This is Life, Based on a True Story  

Teachers' advice

A few months ago, I was given an assignment; get into the minds of teens. Sleuth where necessary. Learn the lingo. But do whatever I had to in order to get them to talk.

Turns out, pizza was my poison.These kids spilled all for a mere slice of the good stuff.

We talked about their worlds and the things that affect it. Including school and teachers. And what they said was enlightening. (If you missed it, you can check out that portion of the interview here.) 

However, as with any story, there are two sides to it.  And this time I turned it over to the teachers.  And I didn’t have to edit for grammar or clarity. 

So to honour the beginning of a new school year being upon us, here’s what teachers had to say in answer to the teens … and then some.

The teachers I spoke with all said this was their biggest challenge at school. Not that bullying hasn’t always been a part of the school yard, it’s just more extreme since the emergence of social media.

“We have no tolerance for bullying. But we’re seeing so much more of the root cause of it being social media. That’s hard to monitor in the classroom because most of that bullying happens outside of it.”

When asked about what they do when they see or hear bullying, the frustration was obvious.

“It’s not that we don’t want to do something about it, but rather when we do, the parents of the bully goes to the school board saying we’re singling their kid out. 

“The parents take away a lot of accountability for the kids. Parents are letting their kids make poor choices by defending their actions all the time. 

“But we call out bullying as soon as see it. Parents need to understand that no matter how sweet their kid is at home, on the playground and away from their parent’ eyes, they (kids) turn into different people.”

I asked the teachers to respond to the kids claims about how they feel the teachers go to their parents the instant they do something wrong. Isn’t that taking away the kids’ accountability?  One of the teachers had this to say:

“Yes and no. I do feel like when I was a student it was the teacher's word that mattered most. I feel that it’s important for a student to stand up for themselves and question when necessary but it does seem that students today appear more entitled than I ever felt. 

“So it can become beneficial for one's confidence however, there are times when it can cross a line of respect.  Students need to ask themselves first if they can better themselves or the situation before casting off responsibility.

“I want my students to be independent and free thinkers, however, when I feel they are doing more harm than good to themselves or others, I first speak with them, then contact parents if necessary."

One of the kids mentioned stress being a year-round issue, not just something that happens on a week designated for mental health. The teachers wholeheartedly agreed, saying anxiety among students is huge now - and it starts at an early age.

“We need to teach our students how to deal with it because they’re going to have situations for the rest of their lives that demand they cope. 

"Deep breathing and relaxation are techniques we’re practising in my school. You also never see kids out playing any more.

"They’re all so scheduled and not allowed to figure things out on their own. They get bored easily if every moment of their days aren’t planned for them because they don’t know how to just be spontaneous — you know, just be kids like we were.”

“It is absolutely a major concern. There are so many pressures and demands on our students today. Students are juggling so many different courses inside and outside of class, they have less time to just be a kid. 

"Social media and their hand-held devices are a huge contributor to their stress and anxiety. Most students can't be without their phone; let students be kids. Don’t overload their schedule to the max. Parents need to realize this. 

"Reduce their time on their phones and more time engaging with the reality of life around them (look at the stars once in a while, less time taking pictures of events and enjoying the moment they find themselves in).”

The teachers were also in agreement with the kids’ wishes that they be taught about subjects pertain to what they want to pursue in life, and not just a pre-set education plan that may not suit everyone’s learning needs.

”We should be teaching more real world applications. The students shouldn’t be just regurgitating facts. Anyone can memorize paragraphs or dates, but they may never have use for that info again depending on what they do with their lives. 

"There are so many different ways to demonstrate learning.  I like how we’re moving away from final exams and instead doing presentations of learning. This is more indicative of what the student has learned and found of value in your class."

“This is becoming more evident today than ever. I did not have the flexibility and opportunities that our students today have. Students need to feel successful and that they can celebrate their strengths which in turn increases their self worth and confidence.”

When asked what is it that drives them nuts in the classroom, I could almost hear them all yelling this at me!  The phones!  Enough with the phones. 

It shouldn’t be questioned by a student if a teacher demands all phones be placed in a certain place in the classroom. And if a teacher takes a students' phone away from them while in their class, it shouldn’t be questioned by the parents.

“One of the smartest ideas I came up with was to buy one of those cheap over-the-door shoe hangers with a bunch of different pouches. Every single student is required to put their phone in one of the pouches when they enter my classroom. There are no exceptions to this rule. 

"It’s visible to everyone so there’s no possibility of someone else stealing their phone. And if the student refuses or they leave their ringer on, they are asked to take their phone to the office until my class is over. 

"It’s a show of respect that they will give me their attention for the 40-60 minutes they’re with me. I give them my full attention when they speak to me or have something to say and I don’t think I’m out of line for wanting that courtesy returned to me.”

I wanted to end the questioning on a lighter note and let the teachers speak freely. So I asked them what message do they have for students — young and old.

“Follow your passion. If it makes you money, great. But even if it doesn’t, it’s your passion and that alone will make you feel rich. Just follow your passions."

“You are capable of everything you think you can do. If you dream about it and think about it, it’s because it’s within your means to do it. That’s your heart talking. Take your advice from that instead of Facebook.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself; the world will do that for you. The great thing about life is you always get to try again when you screw up. And that’s how some of the best things in history have happened.”

“Remember to always try to help someone else who needs it. You might get a new friend out of it. But if anything, you’ll get the knowledge and happiness knowing you helped make someone’s life better or easier — even if only for that moment. And good deeds always come back around.”

I loved talking to the teachers for this column. It was apparent they cared for our kids, and were passionate about being role models and leaders. 

They've chosen one of the most important jobs in our society. Teachers are helping us raise the next world leaders, business owners, and even teachers.

Here's to a great school year for all.

Thanks for reading.


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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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