As a teacher of middle school students, I find myself torn between wanting to be respected as a teacher and being accepted by my students as a 'cool' teacher. In my mind, a 'cool' teacher naturally earns the respect of the kids, right? They feel more understood if their teacher can relate to the social dynamics, fashion issues, and trends that affect them each day of their dramatic lives. So, this year, once again,, I am struggling to stay in the know and hip with all the things my students are into, especially my 8th graders, as they are the hardest to motivate.
Here are 3 examples how of uncool I was back in September:
1. After a short summer, I was reunited with my Nantucket-tanned students. They filed into my art room and as they chatted and caught up I waited for a chance to join the conversation. I was transported back to eighth grade. I tried to interject what I had been up all summer when I suddenly confessed my love for One Direction. I realized I was behind by two years when no one could look me in the eye until about a month ago when I mentioned my new love for Macklemore.
3. When it rains out here in CT, all the girls bust out their Hunter wellies, and of course I sport mine. I didn't get the email that they need to be a pair of the fun new colors. That's why my classic black ones get some turned up noses.
Don't feel sad for me, no tears, I have saved myself. I think I have finally found a way to prove my coolness. Instagram. Facebook is not used at all by this generation. Everyone in seventh and eighth grade has an Instagram account. They share photos, follow friends and leave comments. Basically a cooler version of FB. When I mentioned I have an Instagram account, they were a bit curious, a bit impressed. They are not allowed to follow me, I do not follow them.
I created a bulletin board outside of my art room dedicated to their favorite Instagram photos that they print out in a 5 X 5 square. I have printed out some of my photos as well and they are all mixed together in one large collage that keeps growing. Of course it is linked into my art curriculum. Their photography certainly includes the basic principles of art = shape, space, color, line, etc…Here it is growing:
I'm so impressed by some of the photos taken by my 'non-artist' students. Even some of the boys from the jock clique are excited to share their work. I finally found something they are excited about, something creative that they are eager to share…until the next cool thing comes along. I'll be on my toes.