How to Reach the 21st Century Student

This post was quest-written by Darlin’, a not-at-all-disgruntled-teacher, from


On the same degree to which my preteen students often leave me perplexed, they almost simultaneously make it all worth while, and I must take time to ponder the ways to reach these complex creatures.  What I have discovered thus far: 

Step 1:  It’s All in the Name.  Introduce yourself as Ms. or Mr. (Insert last name first initial here).  Anything longer than that will take too long to enter into their smart devices.  Plus, it’s more difficult for them to turn your last name into an insult; i.e., Ms. Wright is Ms. Wrong, Mr. Johnson’s Johnson, and Mrs. Brown makes me frown.  See?  Easy.

Step 2:  It’s All in the Presentation.  Begin class with a video.  Make sure they know how long the video is.  This is the only thing that matters.

Step 3:  What are We Doing?  It doesn’t matter if it’s written all over the whiteboard and your forehead, you must answer this question as soon as possible, or the 21st Century student will seem to mimic spontaneous combustion or what might be commonly mistaken as a seizure.

Step 4: No, We Are NOT Having a Free-Day.  But you are free to do whatever I ask you to do.  Completely free.

Step 5:  Yes, We Are Going to Have Fun Today.  Everything we do is fun.  You must get them to understand this.  Assess them quarterly over their mastery of this topic.

Step 6: Avoid Four-Letter Words. Like T-E-S-T, for example.  Instead, use words like “assessment” or “tell-me-how-much-smart-you-are-assignment.”  You must also announce the test tell-me-how-smart-you-are-assignment every five to ten minutes, perhaps with the aid of an old-fashioned megaphone, so they don’t accuse you of not telling them about it.  If not, the risk you are willing to take must outweigh speaking into a giant cone.

Step 7:  No, Your Parent Did NOT Forget Your Homework.

Step 8: If All Else Fails, Tap Dance??

Step 9: Tangents.  They are way too skilled at this for their own good.  You must develop a thick skin, even if they ask you to describe the careful process you took to ensure the pie you baked last night for your book club in which nobody there seemed interested in how many hours you worked to get the crust just right and the tartness just tart enough but not too tart because all they cared about was “was there enough wine?”  No, not even that.

Step 10: If at All Possible, Allow Smart Devices.  It doesn’t matter how boring the assignment, it just got ten times better because you allowed them to peck at tiny keys.

Step 11. Birthday Parties Are More Important Than Your Homework Assignment.  Don’t be hard on them for this; your students may not include “priorities” in their vocabulary.   However, don’t bother them by asking them to look it up in the dictionary; “dictionary” is not in their vocabulary.  According to them, dictionaries date back to the Cretaceous period.  Instead, repeat the following helpful phrase, “GOOGLE the word, “p-r-i-o-r-i-t-y.”

Step 12:  I Lost it Sometimes Means I Don’t Plan on Looking For It.  Make friends with the copying machine.  Though, I’m warning you, she’s a beast.

Step 13:  One Direction is Your Favorite Band, Too.  Don’t know who they are?  Just say it.  You’ll thank me later.

Warning: Listen at your own risk.

Step 14:  Relate Everything to Pop Culture.  Peruse the following examples for guidance:

Language Arts Lesson: Avoid fragments in your writing, or you’ll appear as though missing an essential like that Miley Cyrus.  Math Lesson: One was recently divorced, and one recently had a child.  How many Kardashians do you have?

Step 15: Don’t Underestimate Them.  They might just create your next frustrating iPhone update.

In Jest,

Ms. W.

30 thoughts on “How to Reach the 21st Century Student

  1. Pingback: my HOW TO guest post | key + arrow

  2. would to have loved to have you as my teacher! but then that might be kinda strange cuz you’re my girlfriend now…and hey wait.. i think you use some of these rules on me?

  3. I teach 11th and 12th graders. You hit the nail on the head. Thankfully, we have humor to get us through the day and, if we really stick to it, our careers. Thanks for giving me a little giggle to start my teaching day.

  4. My youngest sister just graduated high school this past spring, and she had been talking about this one teacher, and how she loved her. When I asked her why she said, “She lets us call her by her first name, and we can play with our iPhones.”

  5. This post offers excellent suggestions to reach the 21st century student. As a 21st century college student I would like to add or elaborate further on a couple of the suggestions geared toward a collegiate audience.

    Steps 1-3 are completely accurate.
    Step 4 is true most of the time however there are some days students as well as teachers need to take a step back and relax. This doesn’t have to happen often but your students will adore you when you surprise them with a free day.
    Step 5 is more psychological but works in collegiate academia as well.
    Step 6 is funny because it’s true. Even college students get anxiety when you mention test.
    steps 7 & 8 don’t apply to college students
    Step 9 is shamefully truest among college students. I am a prime example of someone who will purposely ask about some random story just to avoid a lesson.
    If steps 10 & 11 are understood and implemented students respond better to the requests of the teacher.
    Step 12 is going to be a big one among college students. When we lose something there is no desire to find it. We have accepted the consequence of this choice and still choose it proudly.
    I completely wholeheartedly disagree with step 13 but agree with steps 14 & 15.

    These tips are helpful and offer valid information. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

  6. Pingback: 7 for seven | key + arrow

  7. Pingback: How to Reach the 21st Century Student | ashayushi

  8. Don’t forget to tell them the page number as well. They may know little about dictionaries, but they know less about a table of contents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s