I loved teaching. I mean, I didn’t just like teaching, I loved to teach. From the time I can remember I’ve been a teacher. Before I went to Kindergarten I was lining up my dolls, cats, dogs, and little brother in my room in front of the big chalkboard on the wall and teaching. By the time I was in 3rd grade I had three siblings to play school with. I taught them all their ABCs and 123s. In my older elementary, middle school, and high school years I taught Sunday School. Without a doubt, I was born to teach.
Teaching is in my DNA. My ancestors built one of the first public schools in Pennsylvania. I have cousins who are teachers. My Dad was a teacher. Like I said, teaching wasn’t just something I liked to do – it’s who I was.
Or so I thought.
Teaching has changed a lot since I had my first very own classroom in 1982. I loved those years when creativity was encouraged, and you weren’t micro-managed and held to rubrics and standards so high that no single real human being can achieve them. Robots can. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) can and probably will.
I’m not so sure robots and A.I. will build warm and loving relationships with students.
Then again, the way the world is going, and the way expectations are, maybe in a generation or two there will be no more “real” children to teach. Maybe they’ll all be enhanced with brain chips or implants or some such thing that makes the need for teachers obsolete.
Teaching in government schools today is not about the kids. It’s about the data, looking good on paper(work), and demanding impossible-to-reach ideals from overworked over-stressed teachers. (Have you seen the teaching evaluation rubrics lately? If we used these approaches to to evaluate students, there would be outrage!)
Caring about the social-emotional health of our children is secondary. Data, data, data. Get that data and use that data and measure the teachers by the data. Never mind that a scared child (everyone’s wearing a mask and I can’t read their face), a traumatized child (deaths in the family due to Covid) can’t learn. When the brain is stressed neurons do not fire in the prefrontal cortex. They fire in the amygdala. Perhaps this is why brain chips are becoming the latest trend for Elon Musk and others.
At what point do enhancements connecting us permanently to virtual realities mean we are no longer human?
At this point.
mushab00m is licensed under CC BY 2.0
We have already passed through that counterfeit portal.
You can see it in the children’s eyes.
You can hear it in their voices.
You can feel it in your bones.
Something has changed. Nothing will ever be “normal” again. For two years children have not interacted with human beings with ready smiles. They have interacted with the computer screen, and, if they were with a live, breathing, human teacher, they interacted with one absent of a warm smile, because it was hidden under a mask.
Most of the media have reported that masking has had no affect on the development of children these past two years, and that parents have no need to worry. But as a teacher of more than 30 years, I’m telling you.
What I experienced last year was nothing like anything I’ve experienced at any other time in my life.
It’s not just about students being unable to read facial expressions. It’s about the developing amygdala of the brain. Some research shows that the developing amygdala is affected in ways we don’t yet understand. When a child is deprived of appropriate human interaction, their brains are altered in ways that persist into adulthood. Social-emotional disturbances are evident in their adult behavior.
It’s affecting the way they live now. Social media applications such as TikTok, an application that offers 60-second videos created to elicit big reactions, are shrinking the working memories of children and ruining their attention spans. My 6th-graders were unable to attend for more then 3 minutes at a time. They were not able to watch an entire movie. No, they were not able to watch a movie for more than a few minutes without being rude and disruptive. They were unable to remain seated for more than a few minutes at a time. It can’t be wholly cultural. I believe it has to do with what these students are being raised up on. The brain is changing in these students. It’s different from the human brain of prior generations.
The character of gratefulness, kindness, and wanting to be known as a good person is missing. It’s all about getting the biggest laugh, making the best insult, and gaining cred among the loudest and most outrageous. Too much is bombarding all of them at once. There are too many things to distract them. Too many faucets are running wide open and pouring TikTOXIC waste into their day to day developing brains.
Learning doesn’t happen with one click. Students are addicted to the dopamine of the clicks. The grit one needs to power through tough lessons, or to retain things in the working memory long enough to retain it in the long-term memory is affected. You don’t develop perseverance by having your desires immediately satisfied minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day.
“Virtual Reality Headset Prototype” by Pargon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
There is a constant bombardment of lies and deception in this infinite space we call time on earth. No one seems to remember that we are not living in our final home here on this prison planet. This is not all there is. There is so much more ahead of us.
Will we hear our Creator say “Well done?” Will His purposes for the future generations prevail? Or will the enemy succeed in stealing their potential and entice them to adopt technological enhancements? Will our great-grandchildren attend school in the world of virtual reality?
At what point do we cease being human? At what point do we cease to represent the image of God?
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