I am a Millennial. I grew up in a time of rapid change. When I was a younger the cellphone companies were fighting to have the smallest phone possible. In middle school if you had the ‘Razr’ phone you were really cool. Now, if you ask a student if they know what a ‘Razr’ flip-phone is they will look at you like you belong in a museum.
Every generation has challenges they must endure that the other generations don’t deal with, and each generation has something they are better at then each of the other generations.
The generation of students age 14 and under are being labeled as ‘Screeners’ by an increasing number of researchers. Screeners are being raised in a ‘Smart’ world where information (fake and real) is constantly at their fingertips. Screeners see the world through the gateway of their smartphones.
The world to the screeners has always been a mixture of mass shootings and viral videos. Consequently, they are more fearful and less focused.
This is where we find ourselves. Trying to figure out how to connect with and teach a generation that lives life from behind a screen.
How we connected with our students 10 years ago doesn’t work as well as it use to. The principles are the same we just have to adapt our practices. We must be creative and use the resources our students have to offer. They can teach us to use their tools and share their experiences in order to connect with them better.
Humbling ourselves to allow those we are trying to teach, teach us, brings us the connection we need for a Christ-centered relationship.
We are earning the right to be heard by allowing our students to speak into how we build relationships with them.
Giving our students the opportunity to teach us shows them that we really do care about them. We may not completely understand their culture or the feelings of fear that they are growing up with, but its important that we don’t label these differences as being wrong, even if they are somewhat misguided. Labeling their differences and strange interests as wrong can create a chasm between us and them.
But as we humble ourselves so that our students can teach us how to connect with them, eventually they will give us the opportunity to correct their misguided beliefs founded on the things they see on and hear from their screens.
I am not saying we shouldn’t give them boundaries. My hope is that we would give them boundaries, but understand that they know so much more about their world than we do. From that understanding we should ask them to open our eyes to the things they see. And when we do so, we may see things that shock us. If we show that shock visibly, it may create a rift in our relationships with our students for a long time.
As we navigate this world with our students, may be be as unshockable as Christ is to our sin, and continually humble ourselves as we connect with our students in this messed-up world.