Reader requests help

This is a tough one, but I’m sure we’ll get some good advice. -bfh

My name is Roger.  Many of you have seen my posts as RogerF. 

I’ve been in the computer industry for more than 30 years and have come to the realization that nothing I’ve done in that industry will make any difference in a few years.

I know what companies and people in the IT industry expect; I have been near the top of the food chain, met with, and advised, executives of Forbes 100 companies, and haven’t been intimidated with them. 

But now I’m educating younger people, and I need some help. 

I’m on the faculty for a local community college. I also teach some classes at a local high school. I do not have children, and, obviously, grand children, and I’m 3 times these student’s age.  How do I convince them that I know what I am talking about? How do I get them to open up to me?  How do I get them to even listen to me?

I’m learning the teaching patterns and philosophies, so I do not need help with that. I would like those of you who deal with younger generations to give me some ideas of how to reach them.  All of the books and classes lack what I am looking for.

I do appreciate those who tell me I am doing the “right” thing, but I want concrete and specific ideas on how I can improve.

Thank you all for you support, but even though this seems self-centered, I really am looking to improve so my students get a better experience and, hopefully, actually learn.

What can I do to improve? How do I connect with the younger generation?

54 Comments on Reader requests help

  1. Tough love. Be honest, humerous, patient, and giving. But above all, don’t indulge babyish outbursts, or allow any one babyish young bozo to distract the group. Watch the movies “To sir with love” and glenn ford’s “concrete jungle”.

    Integrity and toughness win the day.

  2. Start each and every day with Niedermeyer’s best line:
    “You’re all worthless and weak!”
    Helps establish things in the proper light

  3. I think one of the most often overlooked things is structure and discipline. Don’t try to be their friend; be the older and wiser exemplar. Firm but consistent—-they don’t get much of that. Set high standards and then raise them every chance you get. Continually offer praise where appropriate and constructive criticism when that’s called for.

    Think of the teachers that got the most out of you—-the dna hasn’t changed. Those kids are fundamentally the same as we were.

  4. My oldest daughter doesn’t accept anything on faith and questions everything. That makes it remarkably easy. She watches the propaganda videos and then critiques them. At ten years of age she never ceases to impress me.

    I think she is hard wired that way. Top in the class in math and science and does math her way to get the correct answer then does it the way they teach it to get the grade. Watches documentaries and science shows on her own. Youngest we have ever had to take and pass hunter education at seven. I figured she would take it at nine, but ask me if she could take it and we got permission from the chief instructor.

  5. Impart the truth on these kids 100%.

    Don’t sugar-coat it, don’t pander to them. Teach them that life isn’t fair and that equality is a bad thing because it will lead to societal stagnation.

    Honesty is the best policy, and the truth sometimes stings.

    Most importantly, teach them that the opposite of LOVE isn’t HATE; it’s INDIFFERENCE.

  6. I don’t have children but I managed large groups of people over the years. Most recently, I managed people from college graduates to retired people, but mostly people in their 20s.

    One thing to remember is to never treat any individual different from the rest. Be fair in your praise and criticism.

    Never reproach the group for what one or more persons do wrong. What I mean is, if one or a few people break rules or cause problems, never punish the whole group. Take the trouble makers aside (or maybe in front of the class in your situation) and deal with them individually.

    Make sure that you call on a variety of people for input or praise. Don’t have pets.

    Never sugar coat anything. Be honest, even if you have to be brutal. Example: I had two very young men who saw another young man take liberties with time and “stole” productivity from the company. The two were upset when they didn’t see him suffer any consequences. He wasn’t my employee, but I met with his direct supervisor with the director and they dealt with him. Then I had to talk with my two employees. They were excellent workers, but felt that what they did wasn’t valued if the other worker got to slough off work but got paid the same. They used the words “not fair”. I explained that if they adapted that philosophy, they would not go anywhere in life. They can not base their work ethic on what they see other’s do; but they must have more integrity. That will be noticed throughout their lives and they will be the better people for it. I said more, but you get the drift.

    You can be friendly but don’t be their friend. They don’t need more friends, they need guidance.

  7. To expand on what Tsunami had to say… Mrs. BAMO and I live with our Grandbabies and I correct them all the time and even ride them a bit and when they get to that point where they seem a little exasperated I tell them that I love them explaining that if I didn’t like them I wouldn’t be “mean”, I would ignore them.

    And above all, I teach them to NEVER write run-on sentences or start a sentence with “and”.

    In other words, being open about my own shortcomings helps increase their level of acceptance.

  8. I briefly taught a class at a local community college. Out of about 20 kids, I’d say only about 4 were really interested in learning. The rest were just checking a box.

  9. As often as possible, tie what you’re teaching to clear, real-life examples. That is your edge. Your students will learn both theory and application. You may not get any immediate positive feedback but later on these students will understand what you did for them.

  10. My brother did that for a while. Taught automotive engineering to inner city yoot.

    Do like some of the smart people say. Be yourself. Don’t take crap, be professional. Be nice, but like everyone says. Kidz need consistency.

    By the end of the semester the local Cholos (Long Beach CA) called him Meester Chrees. His car never got broken into and in fact he often discovered gang members, brothers of students, watching his car.

    Its just respect. It goes both ways.

  11. Some good comments above. Here’s my two cents’ worth:

    When your students speak to you or ask you a question, really listen. Even if it’s a stupid comment/question, listen before correcting or advising. Your students will know you value them because you really hear them. Makes a huge difference.

  12. from what you wrote I see you as having made a fundamental mistake.

    they need you. you don’t need them. you are trying to be liked. that isn’t your role (great if they do). by presenting yourself as such you have undermined your status before you begin. people do see that projection whether they are conscience of it or not.

    be honest and don’t worry about how they perceive you.

  13. There is some great advice above. And there is a little of poor advice above. The difference seems to be those that have dealt with today’s youth, and those that haven’t. It’s not like it was when you were a student.

  14. Encouragement – Praise a students work, then demand they do better.
    Never appologise – stand your ground, what you do has carried you well.
    Accentuate they do what’s best for the customer. They need to get in the customers head to figure out what is really needed/wanted.
    The customer (or boss) is always right, no matter how wrong they are.

  15. My Uncle Don taught elementary school in the barrio from the mid sixtes to the seventies….he stood on their toes to gain their attention….no bruises, no worries…..

  16. One comment that most are missing. Even if some of these ideas work, it depends on your style. If you can’t enforce the standards you start with on day one (ie what you expect from them) then it doesn’t matter what you get for ideas. In my teaching experience — mostly teens — I had to post the rules and expectations (my vision for what is important) while in the class. That took time to review what I had seen others done, make it match my style and made sure I knew a way to enforce. example – Always be on time for class, I could enforce with a consequence of more homework or having that person help explain a homework problem or stay after class, depending on what works. Most hate getting embarrassed being up front and proving they don’t know anything; others may refuse so what do you do next? those that did though learned more than those just sitting there. Have a plan and do not accept excuses. You must have a vision, discipline to enforce, and a plan how. If you are committed, it will extend past the classroom and you are going to have to do your prep before class, be focused during, and extend your time after to help those that truly care. Some days the first 5 minutes of class is reviewing why the rules are important. Make them answer. Of course, that worked for me. you may have to find another way to relate that you are passionate about and relates to why the way they conduct themselves in class is important, not just the grade.

  17. First day of class:
    Wear a Kevlar (bullet proof) vest inside your shirt.
    Wear a Donald Trump style tie.
    Remove your jacket and roll up your sleeves.
    Open the windows to get some air.
    Pretend the air is causing your tie to flutter and it’s annoying you.
    Grab the stapler and staple your tie to your chest.
    Then introduce yourself.
    If that doesn’t impress them. QUIT!

  18. I can relate in the technology thoughts, working in it most of my life. Implore your students to use electonic technology as a luxury, not necessity. Teach them to do things analog, not digital. Stress that at some point electonics will fail and your mind is the most valuable tool you possess. Implore them to count their blessings that they can see, aren’t going to dialysis or chemotherapy (assuming that is true), and have clean water to drink. Be thankful for what you have, and don’t let anyone tell you what you don’t have. And most importantly, help them dwell upon the fact that some day they are going to die, and there is a place saved for them if they accept it. None of us are in control of anything, as much as we like to believe we are. When you let go of that control and trust the Good Lord, everything will fall into place. If you teach with your heart, you will connect with them

  19. I went back to school eight years ago to learn a new trade, so I can appreciate the question from a student’s point of view.

    Obamaplease answered with what I was going to say. Enforce discipline Be hard nosed about cell phones and texting in class. Do not play favorites.

    If asked a question and you don’t know the answer (it’s bound to happen), say that you will look it up AND DO IT. Get back to the students with the answer. One of my instructors would say he would get back to us with an answer, and everyone knew we would never hear anything more about it.

    When students ask questions, listen to what they are asking. Answer that question, only with as much background as you need to make the answer clear. I had one instructor who with whom an encounter would go something along these lines:

    Student: “How do I go through customs when I get to Heathrow?.”

    Instructors: “Well, be sure you get to JFK early because you have to be there well in advance when you are going to take an international flight.”

    Student: “I am off the plane in London. I am at Heathrow. I have done everything else, I just need to know how to get through customs.”

    Instructors: “Be sure you get to JFK early because you have to be there well in advance when you are going to take an international flight.”

    This particular instructor would also explain things three times — three different, contradictory ways, getting three different answers. Don’t be like him.

    If you are teaching a lab class (or any class, for that matter), try and make as efficient use of the time. One of my instructors brought some equipment to the classroom segment, but he did nothing to explain it nor let us look at it. He just said, “Here it is.” When we got into the lab we were split into three or four groups in as many separate rooms. My group was the last he came to see. We had absolutely no idea what to do with the equipment, so we wasted 45 minutes just sitting there until he came to us. If we had had some cursory instruction on the equipment we could have at least gotten a feel for it while we waited.

    Be succinct (efficient). I had one instructor who would ramble on. Class was three hours long. A friend of mine was not going to make it to class one day so I said I would record it for her. I edited the recorded lecture down and put it on a CD. That three hour class was cut down to 25 minutes.

    Good luck to you. My guess is that by thinking to ask for this input, you will probably do well.

  20. Hi Roger, First off let me say how I admire your talents and your willingness to add teaching younger students. There is a lot of joy to be found in helping people grasp new ideas — young or old. That you care so much about how to go about it will undoubtedly be one of the characteristics that will not go unnoticed — on some level — by your students.

    Everyone here has given some excellent advice. Mine would be to trust yourself and don’t second guess whether or not you’re “doing it right.” You’re experienced and that means you’re the smartest guy in the room already, just be authentic about that.

    You’re also the lead dog. Watch a sled team work. The lead dog gives no quarter to the rest of the team. He sets the pace, direction the driver has given him, and will not tolerate slackers or biters. Do what you can for those who genuinely want your help. A 20-something is an adult, treat them like one.

    Praise in public, criticize in private.

    Listen. Find at least one thing about each student that you can fill in the end of this sentence: “I really, really like how you (frame a question, show up on time for class, help your classmates). It has to be something you genuinely want to point out — not one of those “Psycho-babble” esteem things.

    Good luck, Roger!

  21. I bet most of the kids and young adults are ready and willing to learn from someone who demonstrates knowledge and confidence in the subject. Unfortunately, there will always be at least one asshole in each class who will test your authority. Be prepared for that and head them off before they disrupt the entire class. Once you put the asshole in his/her place the rest will respect you.

  22. Claudia is spot on. Treat them as individuals. Understand which track they learn on…auditory, visual or both particularly when they get stuck and want to bail. Respect comes when they begin to feel that they are part of a team effort.

  23. I have suggestions on not what to do. Don’t try to talk their talk or understand their music. They will pick up on phoniness in a second.
    Just be genuine and know in your heart that you know more, have experienced more, and have read more than they have. You are the giver of knowledge, not them. That’s the reality of the classroom.

  24. I believe high schoolers and certainly college level are to a large degree already formed regarding their attitudes and perception of what’s around them so you’re not looking to “change” them. So sadly your values have little to do with what may be imparted to them unless you occasionally run into that malleable student.
    Be selfish and ask the same of them. Why are you taking the course and what do you hope to get out of it? The first day lay it out.
    Are they looking for:
    A grade…
    An easy course…
    Their counselor or parent told them to take the course…?
    What it might show them about the subject for future career or other direction to another possible career…
    Develop your own list of what might be germane to the course you’re teaching and then tell them how to get to any of the goals on that list, be it a grade, etc.
    Again, on the first day in class after explaining the above you can end with what you want. What you’re looking for regarding the teaching of the class and as suggested above not stating it in such a way to put them into a diabetic coma. If you can impart something of value to them, great.
    Something to the effect that you’re not there to be part of wasting each other’s time. Unless of course you and their time has no value? Spending time with each other in your class should be time spent for value. Make that clear.
    I salute your effort as the frustration and/or reward can be great.
    “How do I convince them that I know what I am talking about?”
    I don’t think that’s part of the job description and coming from industry for XX years should be sufficient for them to know you made your living from it. In fact it is of greater value and made obvious by your classroom demeanor that you’re not a “career teacher.”

    A.)How do I get them to open up to me? B.)How do I get them to even listen to me? C.)How do I connect with the younger generation?
    A.)Again, not part of the job description…
    B.)Discipline and the attitude or energy you bring to the class. You have something they want and if they want it they are to ones that need to listen…
    C.) You’re offering them something in the form of an opportunity so it is their job to connect and learn, not the other way round…
    I’m learning the teaching patterns and philosophies, so I do not need help with that.
    Actually that is the whole thing to pick and choose from within the task.

    Remember when you had the substitute teacher and the wonderful time you made for that person when they showed up for class. Yeah, it was my job to make it the most difficult day possible. We had a chemistry teacher in high school that transitioned into teaching after decades in industry. Knew his shit but lacked ability to engage and control a class. Took about a month for him to sort it all out, but he did and somehow managed to occasionally get even our trouble making click to do some work and learn.
    Lastly if you can, do not make the judgment call “that one is a pain in the ass and not worth my time.” Try to start fresh with the troubling ones each day, as they can give you the greatest rewards.

    After rereading this diatribe I suspect you might not find much of “the value” that I mentioned above or that which you don’t already know. So let me end with this. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter and attitude is everything. “Kids” can spot bullshit before you finish the sentence. Can anyone be a mentor? Perhaps, but as the old saying goes, buy a dog if you want a friend.

    P.S. Advice and/or comment from Anymouse is worth what you paid for it.
    Holy Crap this is a long one… Much better comment above posted while I wrote this

  25. I learned a lot from this discussion. I just want to give sincere thanks to my 5th grade teacher, who knew that i was not performing to my potential and made me his project. He was a great teacher and worked overtime to make seemingly useless stuff real world. How it was vital in everyday life.

    My fifth grade teacher, Warren Wayne, made me a better student and set me up for an accomplished life because he taught me to be an analytical problem solver and to trust my instincts.

    It has served me well.

    Thank you, Warren Wayne.

    Be Warren Wayne. You may not be able to save everyone, but if you save one person per semester, do that. Chances are that you’ll do quite well, because you care. Most teachers don’t.

  26. ..I go to work every day with a crowd of young men who don’t have a lot of attachment to the place, aren’t that invested in learning, and many of which I don’t really even fully share a language with. I get respect by not trying to get respect, but by showing by actions instead of words that I’m there to support THEM. I do things as part of MY job that makes THEIR job easier, and it doesn’t cost me anything to help them push a cart, pick up s spilled load, or relieve them on their job so they can go to the bathroom, but these little things make THEM appreciate and help ME, because I am able in MY job to help them because I am competent to do so, and can demonstrate I can do THEIR job as well by doing it to help THEM. This makes them, in turn, loyal and helpful to ME, even though I don’t friendly up to them or anything like that. I make it clear I’m playing on a higher level, again by my ACTIONS, not WORDS, but also that I’m not too proud to help them out on THEIRS.

    I don’t know how well this translates to your situation, bu because you came from the ranks like me, you should be able to do something similar. Don’t be their friend OR their boss, be their helper and mentor. If you’re good at your job, you will get respect simply because you spend every day EARNING it…

  27. I know teachers, smart and tough, who have quit teaching because of the fear that one day they would lose it and strangle some wise ass stupid motherfucker. I blame the Media, the Government, and the Teachers Unions.
    Does Roger F realize what has been going on here for years? Watch “The Wire” Roger. The segment where a cop becomes a teacher in Balitmore. Watch “Blackboard Jungle” with Glenn Ford, dadio, Watch Barack Hussain Obama tell the world that “if I had a son, he would be like Treyvon.” That’s Treyvon Martin who was shot by Georde Zimmerman, “the white Hispanic.” Where the fuck have you been Roger? Do you realize that if rules were followed properly Treyvon Martin would be alive today?
    Martin was found with stolen property and burglar’s tools in school. He could have been in jail when he encountered Zimmerman. But the Police reported that he only had “found property” A new law in Florida to prevent minorities from being, well, held back, for their criminal acts.
    Read “If I had a Son” by Jack Cashill.
    I simply cannot imagine trying to teach anyone, anything, in this type of environment.
    You go in there bro and teach them about slavery in America, but nowhere else; teach them about racism in America and the need for reparations. And you’ll be tenured in no time.

  28. OK i’ll stop After this. Warren Wayne had us construct a brood house, raise chickens, watch them hatch. Made us figure out the height of a tree using a ruler, attached to a plumb bob and a compass. Real world and engaging.

    He taught critical thinking and problem solving.

    No other teacher, before or since did that.

  29. PHenry, sounds like Warren Wayne would have gotten my interest up. Even though all my tests showed I should have been a top student I just never adapted to a schoolroom environment. I did have a couple teachers that made a typical schoolroom interesting but by then I was headed other directions. I’m fortunate to have done well without a formal education. A good, engaging teacher can change a young person’s perspective.

  30. Roger, you’re faced with a large ‘generation gap’ trying to teach Millennials who generally already know everything. And you’re OLD, so what could you possibly know?

    The only advice I can give is to always teach your subject because YOU love your subject. If students in your class aren’t inspired by that, let them go. You can’t be all things to all students. Your enthusiasm and mastery of your subject must come straight from you. It’s what you bring to the class every day.

  31. ethos pathos and logos balance it with music and poetry i.e. intimations of immortality remember the medium is the message

  32. Roger I wish you well. Forgive me for being such a prick, but I’m 78 years old and sick of bullshit.
    When I was a prick in school I got my ass kicked by a Christian Brother. And if I reported that to my parents, I’d get my ass kicked again.
    No fucking Law Suits back then. Good Luck Roger.

  33. Tell them what you are going to tell them
    Tell Them
    Tell them what you told them.
    Then I make the stronger ones teach the weaker ones
    Be the teacher you wished you had

  34. Rodger F.
    In your class that you are teaching in high school show them a movie and then have them read the book on the same movie and then do a study and on the subject.
    It was one of the best classes I ever had in middle school. Now it would be a High School class: 12 Angry Men, The Oxbow Incident, Fail Safe, and many others.
    You can ask for movies they like and add in ones you like and call for a vote on what the class wants to watch and study,but make them movies that will make them think.
    Quests, Hero’s, Moral Dilemmas
    You can help direct the choice.
    Good luck with your class,and welcome to iOTW.
    Don’t go easy on them they need tought love.

  35. So much great advice here, I bookmarked to read again.
    I have been a church youth counselor and Boy Scouts assistant scoutmaster for nearly 3 decades. Be yourself, be honest, humble, have fun. I think it is okay to be their friend, eventually, but always the teacher first. Have high expectations and hold them to them – you do so because you want them to do well in this world, because you care about them.
    Read Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. That book is two things – one the story of a person who was born into slavery, the second the story of a person who had a passion for learning and a willingness to do whatever it took to reach his goals, and who transferred that passion to thousands of students.

    I may be in a little different situation, one in which I can be more familiar with the kids. I recall in particular a teacher I had in 7th and 9th grade (and in summer school oceanography where he trotted us through a nude beach!), who had a bit of a cruel streak in him but deep down sincerely cared about every one of us. Although I have had a lot of great teachers he is the one I most think of as caring about the needs of his students.

  36. Truth is you can’t teach anything to a kid with an iphonee.
    He/She can pick up on any subject, according to Widipika ? and Google. So, What the Fuck does going to school mean anymore? Except fucking up your drive to work with all these School Bus fucking stops, picking up little spoiled
    pricks at every house along the street.

  37. Moe, “Truth is you can’t teach anything to a kid with an iphone”, teach? Hell you can’t even talk to them.

  38. Based on what I’ve learned when managing people, make sure to keep them focused on the task. In this case learning. Don’t pander to your students. To them it’s lame.

    Millenials in particular, because of their digital learning environment, think they know more and have a tendency to jump ahead
    and miss important points. Remind them they’re taking classes because they will obtain unique knowledge in a classroom setting. Knowledge they may not apply properly on their own. Millenials will challenge you, so know your stuff as a skilled expert in your field.

    Be professional, firm but also, personable, relatable as circumstances call for it. Joke and have fun with students but always make sure they understand you’re their teacher – someone they should respect. Mutual respect is the ultimate goal. As others have suggested, students are not your friends. It’s logical because they would consider you an equal and assume you lack the skills to teach them.

    Also. identify as soon as possible the traits, weaknesses strengths of each student. This is key to addressing issues that are bound to manifest. Also, it gives you the advantage and time to counteract problems and be better prepared to tailor your teaching methods for each individual. Another tip be aware of the corporate vision and “atmosphere”. It helps you as an employee.

    Stay confident in your experience and successful career over the years and realize you’ve got what it takes to reach your students.

  39. I’d have to ask you a few questions first before I can completely understand what you’re looking for? I am unclear on what you feel is the problem? You start your statement out describing yourself as a very competent and experienced individual who’s skills will no longer be needed in the near future. Is this what you have been asked to teach in your classes? Are you referring to your coding skills? Or the specific coding language? You clearly have decades of experience that can be extremely helpful and much of it may not be the actual coding part but what about your ability to interface between coding types and forward facing types (i.e sales)? You clearly know how to distill information down to non-computer types if you were consulting to Forbes 100. Young people behave differently and many above have noted that you may be looking to be liked or misinterpreting their behavior as not being liked? Without asking for too much information try to define what YOU see as the problem. And what are you be asked to teach? This may help in getting your answers. btw…I have multiple children, one who is a genius who dropped out of an Ivy league school and now works for a major bank in NYC on a 9 person team streamlining code. He’s way over my head and I have no idea what he’s talking about most of the time but we still talk, lol. Cheers and good luck!!

  40. First off, you can’t teach anyone, anything.
    The most you can do is show them the way.
    Learning is discovery.
    As Aristotle told Alexander: “There is no Royal Road.” Each must pursue knowledge in his own fashion, at his own pace. Those who aspire to teach, guide.

    Once, a student attempted to “stump the teacher” and asked a convoluted question. I replied “I think you’ll find the answer to that on page 78 (which, just by pure dumb luck the answer happened to be).” The entire class settled into a more serious mode. And when a student, near the middle of the semester, as I was distributing graded tests by calling out each name, asked “Don’t you know our names by now?” I replied “No. You all look alike to me.”

    I’m sure none of this will help, but good luck and God Bless.

    izlamo delenda est …

  41. Lots of excellent advice here. Here’s my 2 cents:
    I have always maintained that it’s a poor teacher who can’t learn something from his students. Listen to them when they have something to say, and be honest and open with your answers and opinions. Treat them like peers with less experience than you have.
    Focus on teaching them to think critically, and they can find their own answers.

  42. In addition to all the excellent advice given above (there are a couple of jokesters);
    Be friendly, but not friends. Being “friends” makes it difficult to enforce dicipline.
    If you choose, you can be friends after class has graduated and final grades given out. But I would advise against it. You may decide to teach more classes, and have the same students in the next class.

  43. Try to teach them to speak a sentence without using the word “like”.

    I am in a large professional company and there are a number of young employees that, even inn front of a group, speak like a teen and use “like” several times in a sentence. It is very unprofessional and I generally disregard anything they have to say.


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