Loss of Innocence

My wife and I attended a hockey game in Tacoma featuring the now non-existent Sabre Cats, and a little boy of about 3 or 4 years old cheered the entire game for the Sabre Cats. He had a little jersey on and waved his pennant the whole game. He also had the cutest little, high-pitched voice.

“Go Sabre Cats, go!” Actually, because he was still learning to talk it sounded like “Sabo Cats!” Normally, this isn’t too extraordinary until I explain that he was the only one still cheering. The score was 7 – 0, and the Sabre Cats were not winning. Still, that little boy cheered the entire game.

My wife and I still remember that little boy yelling to the team “You can do it, Sabo Cats!” with 30 seconds left in that hopeless game. Quite honestly, it was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen. He was just so full of excitement and support and still truly believed his hockey team had a chance.

My question now is: when do our students lose this innocence, this idealism, this sense of dreaming?

By the time I get the students at the high school level, a deep cynicism or pessimism has set in with quite a number of students. Some teachers claim that the kids begin to change in 6th grade. Some of the reasons include:

  • the students begin to move from teacher to teacher,
  • puberty sets in,
  • peer pressure begins to work on the kids,
  • school becomes work instead of games, and
  • parents begin to give students more independence (spending less time with them).

I’m not sure what it is but I do see a marked change in students over time, and I feel that much of my job is to help my students find some passion again. “You move towards that which you think” is a mantra the students hear from me often. Many seem to believe their dreams are unreachable, even small and realistic ones. Too often I hear their lack of self-esteem dominate their actions.

When do you think these changes hit the kids? What causes the changes?


7 thoughts on “Loss of Innocence

  1. McSwain

    From what I see as an elementary teacher, it happens gradually from 4th grade, but really kicks in in 6th grade. As a colleague of mine said, that’s when their heads start spinning around Exorcist-style. I think it’s peer pressure, puberty, and the fact that as they are less sheltered and more exposed to the world, they really do lose their innocence.

  2. Marc Lebendig

    As a high school teacher like yourself, I don’t feel like I can identify the tipping point. A couple of thoughts, though: it’s interesting that there are always those students, even in high school, who don’t experience that loss. As I think about the several students I’ve had who fit into that category, I don’t see a similarity beyond personality. Some students just don’t seem to be as affected. Likewise, I would suggest that many of us went through a similar period, and later moved beyond it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t combat that way of thinking, but I think for a number of students, it changes over time. In The Good Enough Teen, Sachs argues that this is a necessary period during which teens are essentially expressing grief as they learn some of the harsher realities of life, and like any other grieving process, they need adults who can guide them through it.

  3. Jim Van Pelt

    I think I agree with Marc. Losing innocence is a phase that a lot of people go through. Regaining innocence and idealism, and acting on the belief that you can achieve a dream and make a difference are a part of rediscovery. High school teachers have the opportunity to help turn kids on again to the wonder of what is around them. That’s why high school seems so very cool to me.

    My oldest son is 18. I feel like he’s deep in a place where he doesn’t see opportunity or possibility. He’s cynical and lost a little bit. I think he’ll find his “thing,” though, whatever that is, because many people do. I’m certainly doing everything I can think of to help.

    One of the strongest epiphanies I had as a teacher was becoming a father. Since my oldest turned four or so I stopped seeing the kids in my classes as only students and started also seeing them as somebody’s child. Finding the thing that you will love most in life, and recognizing yourself as capable of making change are integral to my job as a teacher.

    Sorry, Doc. You struck a nerve for me.

  4. drpezz Post author

    He just made this little “ohhh” sound and then asked if he and his dad could come back the next day. The entire time I saw him, though, he kept waving his pennant. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Clix

    *grin* Awwww.

    The thing is – and this is a question we raised in the ninth grade literature curriculum when we read “The Scarlet Ibis” – sometimes you create worse problems when you continue to persist in the face of certain failure. There comes a point when it is both practical and more graceful to admit defeat.

    But that doesn’t mean you can’t come back the next day. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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