A couple of months ago, I wrote about the week I sat down with all of my students to conference about their letter grades. It was eye-opening! Like, in a career altering change my life kind of way, eye-opening. I don’t know any other way to describe it.
I held about a dozen conversations that week that I will never forget for as long as I teach. Four of the conversations were really striking because the students were all facing similar experiences, thoughts, and emotions even though none of them had talked to one another, and as far as each student knew, they were the only ones who were thinking that way. Of those four conversations, one went so well that this student claims it changed her whole outlook on her place in school.
That got me thinking. What if you could hear her words in her own voice? Well, keep reading. And get ready to listen up because she let me record our conversation.
Before you play the audio, I want to make something clear. Holding one-on-one conferences with my students is brand new to me. I have never done this before. I had heard that it was wildly beneficial to sit down with students face-to-face, but I always found an excuse to avoid doing it (usually because I felt like I had to cover more course content).
This year, after changing my approach to how students earn letter grades in my class, the one-on-one conference became a necessity. Now 14 years into teaching, I wish that I had started this in year two! (In year one, you just have to learn how the classroom works). It was a revelation. I had no idea what these young people have been going through in recent years, and I have been working with them every day! If you’re a teacher who was born before 1990, you may think you know what they are going through, but . . . Well, I’ll let you judge for yourself.
(One last thing and then the audio, I promise.) I started to notice something this year. When I had my students deliver a speech in October, they were visibly more nervous than they had been in years past. When I finally talked with them during our conferences, I realized how distressed and anxious they really were. I have started looking into it, and in recent years, the instances of teen stress has skyrocketed. Some are even using the word epidemic. When you get a chance, read this New York Times Magazine article and see why 62% of undergraduates in 2016 reported facing “overwhelming anxiety,” a 12% jump from 2011.
Okay. Finally. Here it is. My talk with Soleil. You will hear from her about how a 5 minute one-on-one conference has had a lasting impact. (FYI, my editing is choppy, but the content is great!)
[If you would prefer to listen to the audio while on your commute, you can access the MP3 on stored on my Google Drive here: Click to Listen]
QUESTION: In your experience, what is causing this increase in anxiety? Why do so many young people invest heavily in comparisons?