Yesterday I went back to school. Not to learn, or so I thought, but to give a talk about blogging to some pupils at a local primary school as part of their World at Work Week. As it turns out I probably learned as much as they did.
First of all, primary school now is not the same as primary school when I was there in the 1970s/early 1980s. These days there are interactive Smart Boards instead of blackboards, which probably means that nobody gets bits of chalk or a blackboard rubber thrown at them when they’re cheeky. I can’t imagine the teacher chucking a computer across the room, so in that sense things have certainly changed. Also, this is a brand new school, so it’s light and airy, with all sorts of cool facilities that we didn’t have. And the classrooms are out of this world. In my day we all sat at tables, that themselves sat in rows, with the teacher’s desk at the front of the classroom. You were assigned a desk-mate and unless you became too chatty with your neighbour, that was where you sat forever. These classrooms, however, could not be further removed from mine. There is a variety of seating: single chairs with a ledge to lean your books on; booths; elevated seating; tables with comfortable-looking chairs; and my favourite, bean bags. Bean bags! I can’t imagine my primary school teachers’ reaction to me sitting on the floor; I’d probably get suspended. It’s truly fantastic. I loved it. It made me want a bean bag for my office. Although Kimber would probably claim it for a bed.
As you know, I don’t have children, and for a minute I was a little bit terrified at the prospect of facing up to a bunch of ten and eleven year olds and trying to keep their attention for half an hour. Then I remembered that I used to train corporate bankers in interpersonal skills, most of whom didn’t see why they needed them, and many of those could teach a primary school naughty table a thing or two.
As part of my preparation I cast my mind back to my own primary school class and remembered all the different characters and imagined how they would react to someone coming in to give a talk about something they weren’t interested in. So I was prepared for a bit of disruption, bored faces, and I was curious to see if I would recognise any of the same characters from my school days. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about. My talk was probably a bit dry for some of them, but as soon as I started asking questions about what blogs they liked and what kind of blog they would start, everyone in both classes started to engage. I had been seriously concerned that nobody would join in. Ha! So many hands raised! It was fantastic to have such a lively discussion and hear all about their interests.
All I hear about these days is how disenfranchised our youth is. About the bored, lazy, entitled millenial generation, and yes, trust me, I’ve experienced it first hand. But if these two classes of primary six and seven pupils are anything to go by, this generation is full of bright, enthusiastic, and engaged young women and gentlemen. The questions they asked were so insightful. Lots about blogging, as you might expect, for example: “what inspired you to become a blogger?”; “what’s the best thing about being a blogger?”; “how long does it take to write a blog post?”; “how long did it take before you started getting views?”; “what equipment would I need to start blogging?”; “what’s the best platform to use?”; “where do you get your ideas from?”. And others I wasn’t really prepared for, for example: “what would you be doing if you weren’t a blogger?”; “what did you want to do when you were younger?”; and my favourite, “what advice would you give to your younger self?”.
When I asked them what blogs they would create, the variety was fantastic. If we’re lucky we will soon be able to read some new blogs about, for example, football: both professional match analysis, and tips on tactics and skills; basketball; superheroes: both existing and newly created; book reviews and recommendations; fashion; make-up; astrology; marine biology; crazy challenges; how rubbish school is; how fantastic teachers are; art by artists; movie and TV theories; cooking and baking; dancing; school. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Tell me these children aren’t bright, engaging, and destined to do something great with their lives.
With a little hindsight I can see that the rebels in my primary school class were probably either frustrated because they didn’t understand a particular subject, or bored because the rigidity of the classroom just wasn’t an environment in which they could thrive. With age and experience I can say with conviction that everyone has value, everyone has the potential to be awesome in their own way, but people don’t all thrive in the same way, and much of the time we expect them to. How many times have you heard, ‘well if I can do it, so can you.’? Sometimes that’s true, but a lot of the time the other person will need to find their own way of making it happen. I’m sure that some of the children I had the pleasure of conversing with yesterday are seen as rebels within the school system, but I have confidence that without exception everyone I met yesterday will find their own way of making their life work and being their own very awesome selves. And I’m happy to report that I think the future of blogging at least, is in safe hands.