A Generation with Too Much On Their Still-Narrow Shoulders

I’m feeling a lot of exhaustion from my students right now. They’re showing up late to even classes they really enjoy. They’re staying up later and later, waking up later and later, and telling me that they’re doing it to avoid their families and the tensions that they feel around them, yet are powerless to affect.

You’d think it was regular teenager stuff, except that these kids are at the age where usually they can start going to their friends’ places to spend the weekend, going to concerts that their parents don’t care for, going camping, going on bike trips together. And they can’t.

All they can do is play video games with each other. Which is fantastic that they have that avenue. They play Minecraft together, they hang out on Discord, they work on creative projects together. But they can’t just naturally hang out in an unplanned way, experimenting with their lives. They can’t get stuck with a flat tire ten miles from home, they can’t kiss, they can’t discover the limits of their capabilities in the rich complexity of IRL.

I’ve got a couple of students I’m working with in particular who are having a hard time and it’s hard to give them advice. I can listen, which is clearly helpful, and we can even play together a little — we share Kerbal Space Program spacecraft on Discord — but video chats are an excellent supplement, but poor substitute for both pedagogical and social purposes.

I miss my kids. I miss the Makerspace with its frustratingly limited workbench space, its insufficient ventilation, and its growing (but still insufficient) supply of tools. Two years ago, it was a thriving social and creative hub of the school. Now there are only 2-3 of us in there at a time once a week. Conversation can only flow so naturally when you’re wearing masks and when you only see each other sporadically.

They’re doing what they can, these kids. But none of us really know what to do. I’m not sure there is such a thing as really knowing what to do.

All we can do is our best.