Today a colleague celebrated her birthday.
And I am twice her age.
In fact, I remember when she was a student at the school when I first started teaching. While she was not my student, I can remember her walking through the hallways with friends, laughing and happy.
So as I munched on bagels with other teachers this morning, wishing her congrats between bites, I pondered about what makes us different, besides our age.
The newer colleagues think differently. While I felt that earning the salary I do was the reward for years of dedicated service, they feel that I should work harder because I get paid more. Working nights and weekends is commonplace even though I am nearly twenty-years into my career. Many of the newer ones walk out at 3:15 without any papers, bags, or chromebooks. And if I stay late, only we veterans can still be found at the copy machine after 4:00 p.m. Some younger colleagues are so attached to their cell phones that I watch them play their games as they walk into the bathrooms. I hide every glance at my muted phone buried within my purse. During faculty meetings, I look forward to hearing from our union rep. Others pack up, peck at their phone, or peer behind colleagues at the parking lot. I struggle with new tech. I used to struggle with tech period. Younger colleagues dance circles around me with the latest apps and extensions, and I cling to the old ways: Let’s read aloud together. What’s wrong with paper?
At first, I was frustrated. I didn’t understand why people can’t follow the rules. You know, the rules that have been in perpetuity that govern how we act at work. Only my work world is now inside out. The rules are no longer the rules because of younger populist opinion. Civility between colleagues is relegated to social media where we behave as is we like each other, alot. We are supposed to be one unit, one team. Instead the divide between old and new has become more apparent and wider than ever.
There’s this idiom: if you can’t beat them, join them. So I decided to listen. I tried to feel them out. Look for explanations. Find common ground. I kept silent and heard their suggestions, some of which were very good.
And while I may not agree with their all their beliefs, and codes for living, I do feel that I understand why so many of the younger colleagues act the way they do.
And I try not to judge them.
But it’s hard.
And I feel old.
Which is why I run home so many nights with dreams of writing flowing as I grip the car’s steering wheel.