As a teenager I had a few close friends, not many but some I knew I could rely on. Today my students appear to have tons of friends but I often have the feeling they know virtually nothing about them outside school and seldom seem to care.
Thus they spend ample time on their cell phones textmessaging their peers, even during lessons when I have to battle to make them put the wretched thing in their bags and often have to fight again so that it actually stays there. They always seem to have a wonderful piece of news to share with someone. Similarly if I look at their Facebook page they have hundreds of so-called friends.
Yet whenever a kid is absent from school, nobody seems to know what has happened to them. During the day nobody takes the time to send a message so as to find out. If I hand out photocopies, they very rarely ask one for the absent student. Even after a few days the kid’s absence is often still a mystery. It is almost as if by being absent the student no longer existed.
One incident last week made me wonder about the sort of relationship they have with each other. Once a week, I help and supervise a class where the students work in pairs on a common project for half the year. It was snowing outside and a few kids hadn’t made it to school. As usual I went round and took down the names of the kids who were not in school for the administration. One boy was on his own and when I asked him if the girl he was working with was absent because she lived in the country, he answered he had no idea. Another boy has been missing since the beginning of the month and the guy who works with him still hasn’t contacted him to ask whether and when he was coming back.
Maybe I am embellishing the past but I seem to remember that in similar circumstances we contacted each other, inquired about our friends’ health and informed them about school work.