And by ADD generation, I don't mean they need to go on medication, but that they often lack the ability to concentrate on anything for more than three minures. It's as if their minds are channel surfing.
I am talking about my current crop of students. They've informed me that Texas A&M is a top tier research institution, so apparently these are the best minds of their generation.
Last Thursday I told two students whose work had been workshoped to wait for a few minutes. The class had gotten out early (This is a new phenomenon; workshops finishing up before class time is over). I needed to explain to them what to do next, but I also needed to talk quickly to a few other students.
Did those two students wait? Well, yes they did, for about three minutes. Then they split, even though class time was not officially over. I turned around and they were gone. I looked out the window for them. Nope.
Well, it was a beautiful spring day. I wanted to tell one student that he'd have to take a zero or rewrite his story, because he wrote a journalism piece, a feature article on a sport. I didn't want to make him feel bad telling him during the workshop that he'd apparently zoned out on all the discussion of what a short story was, and that he hadn't consulted the handouts I'd given him.
Creative writing is a very interactive class. I change up what we're doing about every twenty minutes. In workshop, different students are speaking, and different questions are being addressed.
I don't know if I can change the topic every three to five mnutes to satisfy the short attention spans of the ADD generation. Now there's a challenge! But it's a challenge I don't wish to meet. I'd like to help them learn to concentrate on one thing for, say, at least ten minutes.
Hey, but it's only creative writing. I walked through the architecture school Friday and watched hard concentration over long periods of time by students designing buildings on their laptops. Maybe drawing concentration is easier for this generation than word concentration.
Still, I am impressed with the time and energy my students put into reading their fellow students' writings, marking them up, and then making usually quite perceptive verbal comments in class. They put a lot of time into it, and they are often dead on with what the problems were in a poem or story. Most of them have a strong desire to help each other.
Perhaps they do the reading and marking in their dorm rooms, while emailing, texting, watching TV, eating supper, and talking to their roomies.