Hopping on the Struggle Bus

struggle bus | new faculty

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I’ve been thinking about these tender undergrads quite a bit lately. Mostly because they’re riding in the front seat of the struggle bus! Let me explain:

I’ve been training up bunches of students on facilitation and teaching this summer to run summer camps. We all know that our middle school students relate better to undergraduate students and high school students compared to someone they would deem as “old and moldy” like me. We work with various groups on campus and within our community to recruit, hire, train, and help them facilitate our camps to middle school groups far and wide.

I trained up a group of high school students about a month ago and they showed up for their training ready to go. They had studied the curriculum, had questions, and were eager to learn how to facilitate the group of students they were going to have for a week long camp.

I was presented with another group of undergrads not too long ago to train and I could tell the ‘struggle bus’ was going to be showing up within an hour of starting.

Not a single undergrad had looked over the material. One said it wasn’t “their fault” that they didn’t do it. When I asked the student when he was hired, he said, “april.” When I asked him when I had sent the materials he said, “may.” When I asked him what his new excuse was as to why he hadn’t done anything, he had no response for me. Another was joking with his peers that his plans to ‘get shitfaced’ the weekend before camp were well received in the morning. His tune had gone sour by 1 p.m.

I don’t think this generation is dumb or clueless but rather the opposite:

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS HAS BEEN INSTILLED IN THEM BY US!!!

The fact that they know so little is OUR FAULT, not theirs. The fact that they come out of college and move back home with their parents is OUR FAULT and their parents fault for not having enough expectations. I’m not parent bashing here, but what I am saying is that because we’ve made it easy for them, they’re taking full advantage of it. We’re not being honest or realistic with them. We raised them to think that they’d get a big ol’ bite of the pie when they got that piece of paper and now their dreams have fallen short. The jobs aren’t paying a ton but we told them to get that piece of paper.

It’s tough as hell for some of them to get a job. We’ve told them they have to go college to get what is now being touted as a worthless degree and push them into a job market with little prospect. For some of them, it’s easier to move home and wait it out. For others of them, they’ve learned that mom and/or dad will support them because that’s the only thing left to do. With crushing student loan debt and a crummy, yet recovering economy, it’s a tough call.

But what about the ones that have learned to be helpless?

I’m not taking it standing up, sitting down, or lying down.

In the situation I describe above, these students are being paid (very well) to perform this task. The struggle bus gained momentum throughout the afternoon after they practice facilitated with me. The student who was talking about getting drunk did very poorly during his time and he even knew it was a big old bust. I coached all of them and encouraged them to rethink their weekend plans. I looked directly at mr. shitfaced and suggested:

“perhaps you should wait to get shitfaced later in the day and look over this in the mornings.” with a smile as wide as Texas on my face.

I’m not trashing on these kids, I’m telling you that these behaviors came from years of conditioning. At home, at school, at social activities, and at college.

It takes a community to raise a child and we all need to start assuming some responsbility. They can work. They can be held to high expectations. It’s our job to stop caving in when they hop on the ‘struggle bus’ and coach them to get off the bus.

What’s the harm if they do spend a little time struggling? That’s called LIFE right? Let’s quit rolling out the red carpet, praising them for waking & breathing oxygen, and start holding them to much higher standards. They will rise to the occasion and usually meet us halfway if not exceed as long as the expectations are manageable.

I’m happy to say that my undergrads pulled it together and did a great job facilitating. It started out rocky but they rallied as I expected they would. I didn’t hand out praise for a job “not” well done but I did let them know that I expected them to be ready the following week. It’s hard to watch them flail or fail but it’s worth it in the end.

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