Learning has been as big a part of this semester for me as it has been for the students I teach.
After many years away from high school students, teaching has opened my eyes on some levels – and reinforced old beliefs on others.
Sometimes I’m shocked at things they don’t know. Last week, we started reviewing for the Spanish I final.
“Write the days of the week, the months of the year. Be sure you know which months are in each season,” I told the class.
They started working. A student raised her hand and whispered, “How do I know which months are in which seasons?”
She’s a smart girl. I was surprised at the question, but took the opportunity to connect our calendar with the ancient Aztec stone calendar we were also discussing.
If you asked her, she’d probably tell you that I went overboard in explaining, but she eventually got it.
A minute later, another student asked the same question. I began to wonder.
“Who knows which months are in which seasons?” I asked.
Not a single student raised his or her hand.
Turns out that of the 168 primarily 16 and 17-year-olds I teach, less than five could identify which months were in which seasons.
How could they not know this?
The fact that we live in a temperate climate plays a role. Even still, the majority of my students have agrarian roots. The seasons controlled the lives of their ancestors. Few plant and harvest these days, but their lack of seasonal insights goes beyond that fact.
Could the disconnect be related to the inward focus of their lifestyles? Are we rearing a generation in such a temperature controlled environment that they’re less aware of the passage of time — hot to cool to cold to warm and back again? Maybe they notice but simply fail to connect the dots.
I drew a timeline and explained vernal equinox and summer solstice and how the days we call March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21 play pivotal roles in our calendars and the ones created by the ancient Aztecs.
“Like on page 17 in your book,” I said, bringing the lesson back to the review for their final exam.
How much of it stuck? I don’t know, but we had to move on.
Then, last weekend I chaperoned the prom. There were things at this prom I had never seen before — namely the long line of teens dressed to the nines waiting to enter but first stopping to take a Breathalyzer test.
Seniors were easy to spot. They wore white.
Throughout the evening, I watched these kids, especially the guys in white, give each other great big bear hugs. They seemed to recognize the present-tense nostalgia of the situation.
They embraced each other in a way that demonstrated a kind of insight beyond springs and summers. Their eyes, full of a blend of emotions, indicated that they recognized that this season of their lives was passing.