Today’s Kids—Their Challenges And Challengers

BoomersBy Steve Guss

My brother, never at a loss for words, recently came upon a mother and her squawking youngster in the grocery store. “You better get that child under control before it enters school,” he said to an astonished parent.

We’ve all run across misbehaving children in public from time to time. Most often our first thought is that the child’s actions are the result of bad parenting. My brother’s opinion is based on solid footing, however, since he’s a long-time special education teacher.

Like adults, children often become tired, hungry and even angry. There’s really no one to blame, although the word “spoiled” enters the equation at this point.

As an elementary school tutor, I work with 8-12-year-old’s and often ask them who does the parenting in their homes. More than 50 percent say it’s a grandmother, aunt, uncle, neighbors or no one.

A fourth grader, who sits between two squirmy boys in her classroom, does her own homework and more. “I’ve got three brothers and my chores include changing my brother’s diapers,” she said. Fortunately, this young lady has “. . . a grandmother who’s licensed to home school.”

Let’s talk about home schooling. Parents choose not to register their children in the local public school because they (the parents) have little or no faith that their kids will receive a good education. It’s not just what they learn or do not learn in class, but the interaction with other students, especially bullies.

Although state departments of education require that certain curriculum be followed at home, most children in these situations miss out on the social aspect of their education. Parents do organize field trips and other functions so their youngsters get to know other children they don’t see in school.

Looking at how today’s children see their elders, these minors say the funniest things. A teacher, asked what was the purpose for crosswalks and one fourth grade boy said: “They were for old people.” Another fifth grader asked me if “. . . I was alive during the Revolutionary War?”

In the third grade a boy surrounded by girls told me “. . .See what I have to deal with every day.” And then there was a rather humorous discussion on moonshine recently, and the boy who extracted a tooth and put it in a zip-lock bag to show me.

You watch the third grade children grow mentally and physically into the fourth and fifth grade. Some do well, others struggle. Numerous kids are on medicine to control certain actions. You have young Mexican students who have no parents at home who speak English. There are other children who frequently deal with parents in and out of jail.

The writing and reading comprehension is challenging, to say the least. The chicken scratches passing for writing are very upsetting and it’s not uncommon to have kids reading well below their grade level. Some class texts perpetuate the problem.

Most of the teachers are dedicated souls and it’s a pleasure to be in some classrooms where the students show respect for an adult. When the latter turns to write something on the blackboard and there isn’t a peep from the students, you know they’re absorbing the lessons.

Are these children learning any differently than their parents and grandparents? Probably not. Like it did 50 years ago, everyday life creeps into their art projects and creative writing. Fast cars, war, weapons and sports are more prevalent than prose devoted to family members. Editing is a major chore with these children. It’s not that they don’t know about nouns, pronouns, adverbs and adjectives, it’s how they use them..