Youngsters… not what you think

I chose FE as my area of teaching for many reasons, I put lots of thought into it and have explained my rationale on my blog more than once. A lot of people have made comments about young people in the traditional FE age bracket 16-19 although of course there are exceptions in FE and there will increasingly be exceptions given the changes to the compulsory participation age in the UK.

Most of these comments were derogatory about this group of people and obviously came from people who are not within the age range themselves. I, as the parent of children in or close to the age range and knowing lots of young people within or close to the age range personally always felt that they were being underestimated, getting short shrift, being tarred with the same brush which wasn’t actually carrying tar to start with on closer inspection and opinions which were very media influenced.

There was amongst a range of commentators a general opinion that FE students are a lost cause (thank goodness this wasn’t shared by the people teaching them or teaching me). I never bought into it and didn’t defend them as such, in some instances that may be a fair observation, not from my perspective but then I’ve not met every 16-19 year old in the country. I knew it wasn’t a fair observation and I knew it certainly didn’t apply to any young person I knew. As I said I didn’t defend them en mass but I certainly defended the ones I know. As for being a teacher and feeling anyone was a lost cause, well that clearly doesn’t sit with the whole ethos of the job, I could never see anyone as a lost cause because to do that would be to have failed as a teacher before I began. Just the way I see it.

I read an article in the Economist today (one of my daily reads which keeps me up to date with some of my specialist subject areas) and was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my own musings on what today’s young people are like are not confined to those I know and have taught but are supported by national and international data. It’s a very interesting and engaging article and one that is well worth reading if you are considering a career teaching young people from 12 years and upwards to HE level regardless of where in the world you are teaching them.

It might help you to understand their attitudes, their influences and their real backgrounds and approaches to life, study, their future careers and even their health and their social behaviour. Some of it might surprise you. Some of it will undoubtedly help you to be a better teacher of these people, as a more enlightened educator, knowing what they are really like as opposed to what you are told they are like by biased newspaper reports and from what you see on social media. It might help to design and deliver lessons or help with rapport and relationship building and it can’t harm your development as a teacher of young people to have some insight into their real rather than their imagined world.

Here it is, it’s a long read, I’d suggest feet up in the garden for this one, with a long cool drink and some sun screen to help digest the contents


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