On Wednesday I went to the beach with two teacher friends. What a beautiful day! We didn’t go in the water, we just lay in our chairs and talked, and talked, and talked. We talked about politics, entertainment, gossip, and of course, education. (What else would you expect from a 5th grade teacher, an ESL teacher, and a librarian?) We would pause and enjoy the view, but not for long. I would peek at my Iphone, my friends would read their paper,and every time something caught our eye, the conversation would start anew. Oh, we enjoyed the day and each other’s company!
However, a group of teenagers across from us caught our eye at different moments during our stay. They never talked to each other, did not interact with each other, all they did was text. They ventured into the water at one point, but when they came back, I am not exaggerating, they simultaneously picked up their phones, lay down, and began texting again. No, my friends and I weren’t stalking them, we were just baffled by their behavior. Didn’t they come out to the beach to enjoy each other’s company? If they were with each other, who were they texting? Why didn’t they talk to each other?
It made me think about the number of students, in recent years, who do not know how to hold a conversation. They all have phones(Yes, my 5th graders), and they all have texting available on their phones. I understand that they are 21st century children, but they still need to know how to communicate with others. This is why I make sure my students talk to each other, collaborate, and share ideas. Not just on the computer, but face to face. This is why I have “Lunch with the teacher” days, so that we can talk to each other. This is why I accepted Morning Meeting when it was thrust upon me, because I realized it gave my kids a chance to talk to each other.
Every year, I ask my students if they eat meals at the kitchen table, most of them don’t. I have a day I call, “Eat at the table with Your Family Day.” I enjoy the feedback I get from students who actually follow through on it. Too many of them eat in their rooms or the family room, television on, phone beside them, no shared conversation. No one talks to them at home,their parents, tired from working all day, leave them to their own devices. It happens. (I have to admit, there have been days where my son had to force me to eat at the table, and no phones are allowed!)
I know it’s not my job to make families talk to each other, but conversation leads to learning, collaborating, sharing ideas, and even debate.
As we were leaving, a guy a couple of yards away from us laughed and said, “You ladies made my day, in a good way!” We laughed, slightly embarrassed that our conversation had been overheard, but happy that we made him feel good. I felt sorry for those kids, I realize they might not have cared. But I thought, how much more fun would they have had, if they actually talked to each other?