There are many differences between me and my students: They love Spongebob, while I can’t stand that obnoxious little dish-enhancer. They play video games while I play Words With Friends. They thrive on sugar while I thrive on as many hours of sleep as I can cram in. The list goes on and on.
But repeatedly one key point of difference between their 12 year old mindsets and mine (double that) stands out. Although traces of this difference are constantly present, there are moments when it straight up bops me on the nose. Today, sitting next to a student who has adamantly pronounced himself to be above homework all year, I had one of those moments.
Our students are short-term thinkers, short-term planners. They can barely see what lies ahead in the coming year, and the concept of college and being a grown-up is a distant, maybe-reality to them. My mind, on the other hand, is constantly flipping through the years that await me. What will I be doing? Where will I be living? What will I study? Who will I know? How will my life play out? What will I see and do and say and read and hope and love and aspire to?
I think back to when I was their age. Of course, it was hard for me to imagine that I’d ever outgrow my supes-awk sheltered self. I couldn’t believe that maybe one day I’d sit with friends at a coffee shop doing work, talk to boys other than at recess, go through a bajillion years of school only to return as a teacher, ponder my place in the Universe, hurt for people I don’t even know and even have the power to help them.
However, I did know the basic outline as far as – I would attend school every year, I would work hard, I would attend college, I would be someone. I saw that link, and some of our students just don’t yet.
And it drives me nuts. So, as I was sitting there next to this boy wondering how much more to push before calming myself with the ‘choose your battles’ mantra, I began to hope a funny hope. Which then turned into a this-would-be-awesome-hope. Which is in the process of turning into a would-it-really-be-awesome-though hope. Curse this beyond 12 year old developed brain.
I began to hope that 24 year old *Bobby would march right through the door, look 12 year old *Bobby in the eye and reality-check that little bugger. “Wake up!” he would shout, “These people around you? They’re trying to help you! And you need that help not next year, not the year you decide you need to apply to colleges, NOW. It starts now little buddy and let me tell you, it’s a rough world out there. The standards for excellence are ever-increasing and there is no ‘cramming’ for life. It starts now. So get your act together and shape up, because the future is always coming up next.”
And then, little *Bobby would have to understand. He would have to change his ways. What choice would he have? If he talked back, he’d only be arguing with himself. And if that were the case, who better to handle it than…himself?
*Sigh* If only.
Then of course, this got me thinking how awesome it could be to have open lines of communication between our future and present selves. I began to think of Future Me. Future Me could come and tell me what stupid things to not do or think or say. Future Me could lay out my options for me with the end in sight. Future Me could reassure me that I would find a place and purpose in the world to satisfy me. Future Me could tell me who to trust, who to encourage and who to forget…and how. Future Me could make Present Me a WINNER all the way through. Wouldn’t that be grand?!
(We could easily continue on into the technicalities of why it wouldn’t be grand, but really then you’d just be raining on my parade. You’d be akin to those people who like to point out every unrealistic thing to me in a movie. I already know it’s unrealistic. It’s a movie. Stop ruining the moment.)
Yay for Future Selves!
*The name of this student, present and future, has been altered.