EFL teachers, especially those who teach young learners, know instinctively that they’re standing in front of a group of kids teaching more than English. One of those things is values – how to behave at school, at home and out in the community.
I recently spent some time online preparing for a presentation on teaching values and found a few sites expressing worry about this generation of children “The world is on the verge of collapse,” the sites suggest. “What will become of the world with kids like these in it?” Some sites say the biggest problem is video games. Others say it’s divorce. Others blame today’s social woes on bad teachers, rap music, reality TV, the Internet, cell phones and political corruption. If you believe those sites, we’re in trouble.
But then I look back on my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. I remember a lot of talk from the adults around me about how terrible my generation would turn out. There were drugs everywhere. There were rock festivals, disco music, political scandals, race riots, girls wearing boys’ clothes and guys with long hair. Every night we watched the Vietnam War on the news and mourned the assassination of our leaders, from President Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. It wasn’t an easy time either.
I asked my mother about her generation. For kids of the 1950s, listening to Elvis Presley was the end of the world to the adults around her. Before that, moving from the farm to the city was trouble. Even Plato and Socrates worried about their own disrespectful kids and teenagers.
There was, and is, a lot of finger-pointing going on. Yes, this generation of kids has trouble-makers and families who aren’t working hard enough on basic skills and values. But from a bigger perspective, every generation has had these individuals. Every generation has had its set of unique issues, issues that worry and challenge those who are older.
English teachers – and teachers of all subjects, for that matter – are an integral part of making sure that each generation, like the generation before it, learns what it needs to know to succeed in the world. It’s sometimes frustrating and tiring, but it’s nothing new. We were taught the values and good manners we use today by our own families and teachers a generation or two ago. And our job is to not give in to doomsday predictions and stop trying to pass on what we know kids need.
I have a question for teachers: What is one value that is important to you that you worry is lost to the current generation of children? And what can you do as an EFL teacher to make sure your students understand this value? I’d love to hear your suggestions.