It’s Sunday morning, the sun is shining, I just finished a run with a friend, I have Starbucks in hand and my kids are off on a weekend adventure with their grandparents so one would think that my head would be full of positive thoughts. For the most part it is, yet there is this nagging topic I feel compelled to write about. So, unlike most of my blog posts, this one may come across as more of a rant.
So – here’s what’s on my mind… I have this little pet peeve, and I just can’t shake it. Like my otherwise calm neighbour who becomes a different person when he’s on the road with ‘bad drivers’, I find I can feel my blood boil when a certain expression arises. There is nothing that frustrates me more than the moment when you are mid conversation with other adults and someone says “Kids these days,” assuming everyone will nod in agreement supporting the notion that society is doomed with today’s youth.
To be fair, I understand why the general population may have a poor impression of youth. I get it. Bad news sells and it is far more likely that criminal activity or social disruption will dominate the headlines. This notion isn’t true just for teens, it’s true for all ages and an unfortunate reality of the way we allow media to be portrayed. Believe me, if a newspaper or TV network decided to cover only positive news stories, or the triumph and heroes that emerge with each disaster I would be the first to subscribe.
I also get that I often find myself in conversation with my neighbours, who are truly wonderful people, but whose careers offer a different perspective. I have re-named our street emergency row as our street would vacate quickly if our city had a crisis as each house seems to have either a fireman, police officer, paramedic or hazmat team member. With these industries responding to crises, I understand that they are not able to get an accurate perception of average kids or teens.
I understand that my view is also limited in scope as I have not researched all trends in youth behaviour, however I can speak confidently about the type of kids I get to work with on a regular basis. As a vice principal, part of my job includes the responsibility of student discipline. Yet, unlike the movies would suggest, discipline does not dominate the day. Why? Two reasons really. First of all, we don’t have many kids misbehaving. Second, when we do, we see it as an opportunity for the student to learn from the situation, repair relationships and leave the situation strengthened so they are unlikely to find themselves in the same situation again. Our schools are not plagued by bad kids. We have great kids, who just like adults make some mistakes. More often than not, it is hurt kids who hurt other kids. Getting to the root of what is driving their behaviour and helping them heal allows our kids to learn from their mistakes and move forward.
So, if my day is not spent dealing with rowdy teenagers reeking havoc, then what are our teens really like? This year, I worked the first half of the school year at Dr. Charles Best in Coquitlam, and the second half of the year at Thomas Haney in Maple Ridge. In June I was fortunate to be part of two graduation ceremonies recognizing the accomplishments of the amazing kids leaving school ready to embrace the world.
When I look at our graduates, here is what I see: They are fun, they are polite, they are intelligent, they are curious and they embrace the world beyond high school with a sense of curiosity and composure unlike when I was in school. Unlike the past, they understand that they will likely have multiple career paths and the job they make end up in may not even exist today. They are technologically savvy, the understand that the questions are just as important as the answers, and they embrace that learning is a lifelong process, rather than a rite of passage they have now completed. They love their friends, family and community. They balance the challenges of social media and live with both the communication and connection benefits that it brings, but also the exposure and immediacy that it offers. When I think back to my own teenage years I can only imagine how different things would have been if every one of my friends had a phone in their pocket with a built in camera and access to the internet. Let’s just say I’m happy my close friends knew some things about me that we didn’t capture on film and share with the world! I’m sure most adults can relate!
If we look to statistics, the Mcleary Foundation confirms that youth today are far less likely to smoke than youth a decade ago, 84% are in good or excellent health, drug use is not on the rise, and pregnancy rates are stable at less than 2%. Major injuries have declined and most injuries that occur happen during sports. Statistics Canada confirms that crime rates continue to decline across Canada, reaching a new low matching levels not seen since 1972. BC has the second lowest youth crime rate in the country with rates falling since 1991. A study conducted by the BC Ministry and Representative for Children and Youth concludes less than 2% of children regularly present intensive behaviour challenges in schools. However, children who have been abused become twice as likely to commit crimes, again confirming the notion that kids who act out may be doing so based on their own hurt. When our schools and families teach social emotional learning as well as curriculum we can help all students flourish. We truly have great kids.
Kids today have a sense of responsibility far greater in scope than when I graduated. They are global citizens, care deeply about recycling, volunteering, taking care of the environment and giving back to the less fortunate. The kids I worked with this year spent time giving back at local elementary schools, homeless shelters, seniors homes, community events, sporting events and hospitals. Many have helped raise funds through organizations such as Me to We helping impoverished nations, and some have even travelled to developing countries to help build schools and improve the access to clean water. They smile, use manners and open doors for people.
As an example of what kids are really like, I’ve included links to two student blogs.
Selin Jessa, a graduate from Dr. Charles Best, is making headway around the world with her scientific research and commitment to leaving the world in an even better place than she found it. Her blog ‘Thinking Out Loud’ gives a glimpse at her impressive journey.
Miranda Tymoschuk, a grade 11 student at Thomas Haney has overcome more adversity than any child should have to face, yet she uses it as motivation to improve conditions for others. Please click here to see her story and her current fundraising efforts. http://ilaughlovedream.blogspot.ca
While these two students are the outliers with phenomenal accomplishments, they are not alone. During graduation ceremonies, the grads from Dr. Charles Best and Thomas Haney were recognized for their accomplishments in academics, athletics, the arts, and in service, earning an impressive scholarship total of over one million dollars.
I am humbled to work with today’s youth as I get to learn from them as much as they learn from us. Our kids are great. Canada continues to be ranked as one of the top three education systems in the world, and we continue to focus on educating both the mind and the heart. Our schools, our parents, and our communities are doing a great job. Unfortunately, that’s the news that doesn’t always make the headlines. However, this is the story we should be telling. Next time you are mid-conversation and someone mutters the expression “Kids these days,” please do me a favour, and respond by saying, “Yes, they are pretty amazing aren’t they!”
OK – enough of my rant. I’m off to enjoy this amazing sunny Sunday.