A Dozen Years

AdileneMy grandniece Adilene was born twelve days ago. In a dozen years she’ll enter middle school. And as I held her this weekend, a nine pound bundle of yawns and blinking brown eyes, it was hard not to think about the amazing changes she’ll see in our world. As an educator, and one who tries to create a space for relevancy and innovation, I wonder what will be relevant for her as she prepares for 7th grade, and what new ideas she’ll bring to a world I can hardly imagine.

A dozen years ago I didn’t have a cell phone; today the phone I carry is more powerful than the PC that sat on my desktop in 2002. A dozen years ago I couldn’t project from that PC in my classroom, the video clips I showed were on VHS, and my students still researched using books. At least sometimes.

A dozen years ago I kept my gradebook with a ballpoint pen, my school began taking attendance on the computer, and I felt progressive keeping a website that I updated (maybe) monthly. The kids used email. Powerpoint was fresh. For my unit on “The 20th Century through the lens of Sinatra” (itself a likely topic of a future post) I distributed cassette tapes, and students could play them in their cars.

And now, cradling this newborn and smiling up as my niece took our photo with her phone and texted it to me to post online, I looked around at world so different than it has ever been, and I thought…

A dozen years from now what will a twelve year old Adilene be learning in school? What will her phone look like? Will it even be a phone? Will she sit in a desk in a row? Will she have desks? Will she memorize state capitals? Dissect frogs? Do long division?

A dozen years from now how will she communicate with her peers? Her parents? The world?

A dozen years from now will terms like “apps” and “bandwidth” seem out of date? Will the word “laptop” feel quaint? Will “Instagram” and “Twitter” be to her what “Mimeograph” and “Atari” are today?

A dozen years from now what technology will she be comfortable with (that scares some of those of my generation to death)? Will I be one of the ones who is scared? Will her teachers? Her principal? Her school?

A dozen years from now what lessons will her generation have learned from my generation’s mistakes, and from the mistakes of the students twelve years old today? Some of today’s twelve year olds may be her middle school teachers. How are we preparing them today to prepare Adilene for her tomorrow?

I’ll be almost sixty a dozen years from today, and the world will look a lot different to me than it will to Adilene. But I hope we’ll both be optimistic and excited about the future. And the present. I hope we’ll both be at schools that value the important stuff: respect, kindness, and a love of learning, and that we’ll both be able to see that technology (whether it’s a VCR or jet pack) is really just a tool in service of something greater.

A dozen years from now I hope my grandniece will remind me to stay young at heart (though I’d be naïve to imagine it will be a message delivered in a way as antiquated as an email, tweet, or text). And I hope that I’ll be able to remind her (probably in a quiet voice over whatever phone she uses) that “all will be well.”

There are few experiences as moving as holding a newborn baby, especially one you know you’ll have an opportunity to love for decades to come. And I know that dozen years I thought about as I watched her yawn will disappear in a heartbeat and she’ll be on the cusp of her own middle school experience, wondering perhaps how different her world will be when she’s through high school and college and about to begin life as an adult – in another dozen years.

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