One of my favorite movies growing up, and still to this day, was The Breakfast Club. It’s hard to beat this 90 minute story about 5 high schoolers spending the day together in the place that they would least like to be. The mix of comedy and drama is everything you would want out of a movie. And, let’s be honest, it’s an 80s movie, and we all know that there is no better kind.
You have the perfect mix of your high school student body in this movie: The jock who all the boys wanna be, the rich girl who all the boys wanna be with and all the other girls are envious of, the nerd who we all make fun of but deep down we love, the crazy girl who we are freaked out by yet fascinated by at the same time, and the bad ass rebel, whose defiance of authority is both loathed and admired at the same time. Hovering over them is the evil principal, Mr. Vernon. Remember how much you hated him as a kid? What a smug jerk. It always made you smile when the Breakfast Club got the best of him. And who didn’t cheer when he read the letter at the end that essentially tells him to go to hell?
How dense could Vernon be to not see that these were good, if yet misunderstood kids? This was clearly a man that should not be in the education business. To my surprise, something awful has been happening to me over the past few years; I think I am starting to become Vernon!!!
My first few years of teaching, nothing really got to me. You always have the students that try and mess with you and like to get in trouble. It’s all part of the job and something that you just have to deal with. I even kind of liked these students. They almost reminded me of myself when I was there age. And, like in the movie, you have no idea what these kids are really thinking, feeling, and going through in their own lives. Who am I to think poorly of them? But, it seems that has been happening to me lately. They seem lazy, disrespectful, apathetic, and only worried about themselves. I found myself asking, what has happened to today’s kids? And that’s when it dawned on me. I am turning into Vernon!
You remember the scene in the movie where the knowledgeable janitor tells Vernon that the kids haven’t changed but rather he has? That’s how I feel now. Why have I become like this? I think I am still the same person with the same views and values. Why have I become more cynical towards them? Have they really become worse? Looking back on it, they haven’t. They are the same students they were when I was in high school, when I started teaching 11 years ago, and where I am today.
So, what has changed? The only thing I can come up with is that the further away I get from them, age wise, the less I can relate to them. That’s a scary thing. It means I’m getting old! Yesterday, I had to deal with a student who was doing something they shouldn’t have. I found myself getting angrier than I should have at the situation. That’s when I got the idea to write this. I actually said to myself, “The kids haven’t changed, you changed.” It was an awakening for me. That’s essentially what this blog is for me today. It is my own “Dear Mr. Vernon” letter. I am reminding myself, that these are still just kids, going through the same things we all did when we were their age. And who knows, they may even be having it a little worse. So, the next time you see a group of kids that are getting on your nerves for doing stupid things and you wanna turn into “That Guy,” remember these words, “Don’t be Mr. Vernon.”