I don’t come into contact with children or teenagers very often these days so I don’t know a great deal about them. I don’t want to generalise because I know that there are a lot of teens who are bright, focussed and interested in the world around them. However, I do wonder whether some are not missing out on being taught some basic life skills.
At the Visitor Centre where I volunteer a group of students from one of the high schools in the district came in for a look around. This past year students have not been able to do work experience with local employers as they normally would so instead their schools had arranged for short visits to various workplaces including the Visitor Centre. The students arrived in two groups of about eight. I think they were fourteen or fifteen years old.
It was a quiet afternoon, it’s winter here now and the latest lockdown in Victoria meant that there were not as many visitors as usual so the kids had the run of the place for the duration of their visit. They were not badly behaved kids but either they were not very interested or they had very short attention spans. The Information Officer introduced herself to each group and gave them a short talk about her work background and her role at the Visitor Centre. After that she asked if there were any questions. There weren’t but that’s not so unusual I guess. As far as I can remember it was the same when I was a teenager. Usually a teacher would get the ball rolling by asking something. When she gave the talk to the second group several of them actually turned and walked away while she was still talking. The talk lasted less than five minutes. Could they really not focus for that length of time? I actually thought that it was very rude and was dismayed that neither of the teachers present said anything to them.
There is a vintage car collection in a building on site and all the kids went in for a look. I always find it interesting to see how long visitors will stay to look at the cars, most will be half an hour or so but occasionally there have been people who have stayed for over an hour. The students were on a tight timetable as they had another place to visit that afternoon but even so I was surprised that several of them came back out after just a few minutes. What the kids mostly seemed interested in was looking at the merchandise in the gift shop, not the locally sourced products though, they were examining things like magnets, keyrings, bottle openers and all the typical things you find in souvenir shops. Those were the things they could have afforded to buy I suppose.
I felt concerned about these kids after they left. Firstly, because it seemed as if they hadn’t been taught how to behave on an outing. At the risk of sounding like the old person that I am it wouldn’t have happened in my day. Anyone not paying attention or wandering off would have got a talking to from the teacher.
The other reason it worries me is that in a few years they will be out looking for work. How are they going to manage if they can’t pay attention at a job interview or when they are being trained? Schools offer all sorts of subjects that were not available when I was at school. Students can learn film making, Japanese or robotics but many can’t read well, spell or add up without a calculator.
I remember when I was studying at a college in Hobart after I stopped working as a cleaner. I was trying to learn some new skills and I was the oldest student in the class. I was fifty at the time. The majority of the students were aged between 18-25 with a smattering of older ones. The youngsters could not seem to understand that it was not OK to text your friends in class or use social media on the college computers when they had been specifically asked not to. They couldn’t spell and their writing skills were so poor that the lecturer ended up arranging for a literacy tutor to help out when we were studying business correspondence.
I was thinking about that this afternoon and realising that some of those young people probably have teenagers of their own by now.
I believe we will be seeing a few more groups of students over the next few weeks so I will be very interested to observe them and see whether today was just an isolated incident or whether this is how high school students normally behave.