Written by Panorama resident, Mike Turner. May 2015
Do you ever get tired of watching the news and hearing over and over again about all the bad things happening in our schools? School shootings, drugs, low educational scores, bullying, cyber-bullying, and all the other things reported that give us pause about young people, about what they are thinking and doing.
Well there is a very large bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Recently Panorama and the North Thurston School District had a joint program here at Panorama. It was a sort of “thank you” from the district to the Panorama residents for their support of local schools, school activities and general community involvement.
There were 3 parts to the program:
The Superintendent of the District, Raj Manhas, spoke about the state of the local schools in terms of financial stability, test scoring, future school sites and site upgrades and his philosophy of how the teacher/student relationship is being handled. The audience found the presentation positive, informative and gratifying to hear.
The second part of the program was a set of musical programs by local middle school students; a jazz group and an a cappella singing group. I have to say these students were not only remarkably talented for their age but were also kind, polite delightful kids. They were respectful to the Panorama staff working with them, they followed directions to the letter, and were very responsive to the staff with “thank you’s”, “your welcomes” and “yes sir/so sir”. Not like any of the kids portrayed on the news.
My favorite part of the program was the Intergenerational Discussion Panel. The panel consisted of 4 Panorama residents and 4 high school seniors. I was privileged to have been the moderator for the discussion. The purpose of the panel was to bring together people of different generations and discuss the similarities and differences of their high school experiences that has a spread of more than 50 years. The questions touched on a variety of topics: Jobs Dress Codes and Trends, Curfew, Bullying etc.
I must say I expected more differences than similarities in the discussion, but found that there was quite a bit of agreement on the topics discussed. Of course the clothing trends were a fun trip down memory lane and provoked a giggle or two from the teen panelists who were seemingly amazed that people actually wore poodle skirts. Then the real laugh came when Bill S (graduated in the 50’s) shared a memory of a group of girls who chose to wear pants to school one week, which of course was not allowed, girls wore dresses only. The boys were so taken aback by this statement that they decided to make a statement of their won by wearing skirts to school, which almost got them expelled!
As the questions kept coming and discussion carried on, many striking differences were revealed. For instance, while one student shared that her high school has a Gay-Straight Alliance Club that fosters acceptance and open discussion about sexual identity, a resident panelist replied with a story about how, as a teen, she didn’t even know what the word “gay” meant; “people just never talked about it.” On another topic of great differences, bullying was described as “no longer physical” in today’s schools. Children continue to be put down and verbally abused by their peers but there is a lot of support offered and it’s simply not tolerated. This was in great contrast to the memories of years ago when bullying was “just the way things were…it wasn’t considered ‘wrong’ and no one dared say anything about it.” Although, at some schools, student athletes were encouraged to step in and protect a fellow student who was being bullied.
At the end of the program I asked the group if they had any questions for the other panel members. There was one: “What do you think of old people?” To a student, they agreed that they liked older people, that they had great stories to tell, their experiences were interesting and helpful to the students and that older people had lived long enough and had enough experiences in life to not worry so much about what others think, they just say what’s on their mind with confidence and self awareness.
One last question was “What do you consider old?” The first answer brought down the house with laughter. The answer given was 40! One wise young man replied “Old is a state of mind. Like, I can just tell by your shoes that you’re not old” he said as he pointed to the shoes of a resident panelist.
These 4 high school seniors were at ease with the panel, the questioning, they were bright, funny, driven, knowledgeable, well spoken and intelligent. Their contribution to the panel was outstanding and gave the audience a wonderful view of high school today. They too were nothing like the kids reported in most news stories. It was heartening being part of and hearing about their lives, opinions and experiences.
I ended the panel discussion with the statement, “I guess we can feel pretty good about our future.” I think everyone in the audience agreed after hearing our panel discussion.
So the next time you are watching the news and it all sounds so bad just remember that for each of the kids going in the wrong direction there are so many more that are on the right path and will do great things.