10 Classroom Scenarios That Make Teachers Feel Really Old

“Teaching kids keeps me young!” That’s what a lot of teachers say, but that doesn’t always translate. Let’s face it, the age gap between us and our students gets larger every year and sooner or later, your age will show. Here’s a list of 10 moments in every teacher’s life when they realize they are, in fact (gasp!) old.

1. All those TV references

Sometimes you forget just how much time has passed between your youth and today. So you see a kid goofing off in the back of your class and you think you’ll be clever by calling him Zack Morris. Or you say out loud that someone’s outfit is so cool that the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be proud. That’s when you get a classroom full of blank stares and you realize you have overshot your class by about 20 years.


2. Dinosaur Technology

Sometimes technology moves so quickly we don’t even realize when phrases have become obsolete and in some cases completely meaningless. Try telling a student about the mixtape you have.

“What’s a tape?” “What do you play it on?”

Or try explaining to them how your MySpace page was straight fire back in the day.

“Your space? Oh you mean it was called MySpace. Was that an app on your phone or something?”

Even phrases we take for granted like “rolling up the windows” or “hanging up the phone” goes right over their heads. The only response you’re likely to get is a few furrowed eyebrows and a couple of heads tilted to the side trying to decipher what the heck you’re talking about.


3. Staying Cool With The Lingo

Deep down all teachers want is to be thought of as cool (or whatever the kids are calling it these days). To this end, a lot of us try to infuse as much kid-speak as possible into our teaching. Sadly this almost always ends in disaster. Don’t believe me? Try using “yeet” correctly in a sentence. Just whatever you do, try to avoid telling all your radical dudes and fly girls about this dope book that my main man Shakespeare dropped. It won’t go well.


4. Doing Birthday Math

Whether you teach math or not, we all have at least one moment a year when a student’s birthday rolls around and you do the math to realize, horrifically, what year they were born. Did you know that Middle Schoolers have never known a world without YouTube? Or that high school seniors were born the year Tom Brady became the starting QB of the Patriots? Or that the TV show Friends has been on Nick at Nite Oldies for the past 7 years? Or that Macaulay Culkin is now older than the actress who played his mom in Home Alone? Ouch!


5. “Do you play video games?”

Teachers get asked this question a lot because video games have pervaded the lives of kids like never before. Of course, teachers want to stay in touch so we have no problem telling students about all the video games we play. Super Mario Bros., Tetris, maybe even Goldeneye if you rocked a Nintendo 64 back in the day. That’s when you get a classroom of confused faces. You know, kids today have never defeated Bowser and it shows.


6. “There was a Batman before Ben Affleck?”

If reading that last sentence didn’t make you spill your coffee, consider yourself lucky. Making the occasional movie reference is a great way to connect with kids… if they’ve actually heard of the movie. Many a History teacher has made an Indiana Jones comparison to no avail. Scores of Science teachers have waxed poetic about Star Trek only to get responses like “Is that the one with the lightsabers?” I dare any of you to mention the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys. Fun fact: Students watching Home Alone today is like us watching a movie from 1960 when most of us were in high school back in 2000.


7. “This song is my jam!”

Hey if you can’t connect with your students through the art of motion pictures, maybe you slay them by talking about your insane record collection.

“A record? Like you set a world record for having a lot of music?”

Nevermind, you can dazzle them by bringing in your CD collection that you burned from Napster and jammed out to on your Discman or boombox.

First of all, what’s a CD, who is Napster and why did you set both of them on fire? And is Discman an old school Marvel comic hero? Like Avengers for old people or something?”

No, wait! I got it! Tell them you now have all your favorite music conveniently downloaded onto your iPod. Wait, what? Kids don’t even KNOW what iPods are anymore? Ugh!

Feeling old yet? Just wait until you hear students talk about that really old singer, the one their parents say used to be in a band or something? 

You know, Justin Timberlake.


8. Spongebob: A Bridge Between Worlds

OK, so your movie references are outdated and you tried listening to “current” music and it made your ears bleed. What about TV? Hey, the Simpsons have been around longer than these kids have been alive, right? Sadly, none of them watch that show. Fun fact, if Bart Simpson actually aged, he would be 38 years old today!

Thankfully, there’s Spongebob Squarepants. That yellow beacon of hope reaching out to connect the worlds of children and adults. Of course, that’s when teachers get cocky and decide to hum a few bars from the Animaniacs theme song. Whoops! That show went off the air before your students’ parents even met.


9. “What kind of phone is that?”

Not only will students not understand the concept of “pay as you go” phones, they’ll be equally baffled when you show them that flip phone you’re using. 

“Wait, you mean your phone has buttons?”
“What do you mean it doesn’t take photos?”

“What do you mean I have to click the number 1 three times to type the letter C!?”
“Why does your phone bend in half?”

And good luck trying to upgrade your phone, your students will always have nicer phones than you.


10. “What’s a library and why would I go there?”

Assigning research papers is nothing new, but explaining HOW to do research certainly is.

Woe is the teacher who dares to suggest using an encyclopedia! Students will just think you’re mispronouncing Wikipedia. And if you even try to wrap their little brains about spending a day at the library to check out real books, printed on real paper? You’ll get laughed out of the classroom!

And don’t even think about mentioning microfiche or the Dewey Decimal System!


Also read: Teaching in the ’90s vs. Teaching in 2020: How the Times Have Changed

10 Things That Make Teachers Feel Really Old
11 Things That Make Teachers Feel Really Old

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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