When school starts on Monday, I will begin my 18th year with Gwinnett County Public Schools. So – I’m feeling a little old. If you are trying to guess my age by adding 18 years to, let’s say, 22 – when most people graduate university (The University of Manitoba, in my case), you would be making a grave underestimate. I spent several years teaching in Canada before we moved to the United States, and several more at home with little ones before I re-entered my career in Georgia for the 1998-1999 school year.
Seeing the students at the Open House at one of my high schools today reminded me, once again, that I’m no spring chicken! Many of the students that I will see this year have never known a world without cell phones, without personal computers or online banking, without Playstation or X-Box, without instant messaging or Facebook; and were not even born on that terrible 11th of September when the towers came down. They’ve lived their entire lives in a world with electronic “social media”.
Just to prove that I’ve been around through a lot of changes, I can tell you that for all the times that a post has appeared on Facebook with the caption, “Share if you remember this,” there has been one time that the pictured item was unfamiliar to me. Not remembering that thing did more to make me feel younger than new hair color, a great facial and Spanx combined.
As a means of examples:
I remember when we were limited to three channels on television: CBC, CTV and an ABC affiliate out of North Dakota. I remember watching American Bandstand on Saturday mornings and The Chiller Thriller on Saturday nights, just before midnight when alltelevision signed off. If you wanted to stay up and watch a little longer, you would stare at the Indian Chief’s head. You were better off going outside and watching the stars. Much more entertaining. When we complained that there was nothing on TV, we were serious.
I remember the telephone at the farm. It was a rectangular wooden box with a crank on the right hand side, a receiver on the left hand side and and two bells with a hammer between them on the front. That telephone was on the wall in the kitchen, and was connected by an actual physical wire to the rest of the world. Well, most closely attached to a couple of neighbors with whom we shared the line. That was called a party line. Before you made a call, you would have to politely say, “Busy?” before you could crank the handle (that’s how we dialed), so as to not interrupt Ruth, one of our neighbors, who
Something like this
loved to talk on the phone. We didn’t have any kind of privacy on the phone. Even after we moved into town and graduated up to TWO phones in the house (rotary dial on a private line), our conversations with our friends took place while wired into the wall. One had to be very judicious about what they said since everyone in the house could hear.
When I had my first savings account at a local bank, I actually had to go to the bank, with my little bit of money in my hands, turn it and a little dark covered book over to the bank teller who would record the deposit in my booklet with a pencil! Funds simply did not and could not travel through air and space way back then.
Playing a game required two or more people to sit down at a table, or spread a board and game pieces out on the floor. Most often there would be a pair of dice and a sheet of rules to follow. I think I was a teenager when the first electronic game was sold. The teens that I meet this year would think that Simon was lame.
What progress we have made! Sort of. I’m glad that my parents were able to supervise who and when I communicated with others. I’m grateful that I was required to temper what I would say because they could hear. It wasn’t so bad that we had to wait until all 12 or 24 frames on photo film were sent away to be developed before we could reminisce over a special event. We could be judicious about who saw our “pics”, see what we were doing and with whom. We only had to remember the sound of two ring tones: the telephone in the hall and the doorbell. Staying in touch with friends took effort. Privacy was easy and expected.
I’m not so sure that all the techno-stuff is healthy for our youth. I’m thankful to be able to use it. I’m also thankful that I’m an adult and have an understanding of technology’s place in my life. I’m also certain that many of the young people that I will meet this year have a much, much different relationship with their families and friends than I did. Because of their phones.
I’m glad that I’m feeling a little old because I had the chance to spend my youth interacting face to face.