Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life: Would You Rather Fast-Forward Time or Rewind it?

on January 28, 2014

Slice of Life
I’m participating in Slice of Life, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at Two Writing Teachers.

We began our argument-writing unit, and yesterday I used a warm-up activity called “Would You Rather..?” suggested by Kelly Gallagher in his book, Write Like This. I divided students into four groups and gave them a “Would you rather?” question to ponder and then respond to individually (each student would have to make a decision and take a stand).
One of the questions was “Would you rather fast-forward time or rewind it?”

I thought about my own answers to these questions, particularly what my answers would be when I was in the 8th grade. To me it was a no-brainer…of course I would have chosen “fast-forward time” when I was 14! Who wouldn’t want to be older when you are the difficult age of 14?

Imagine my surprise when I realized that only three or four students out of all of my five classes chose “fast forward time.” I was amazed at their quick decisions to rewind their lives. How do you want to rewind your life when you’ve only been on the planet for 13 or 14 years?

Many said they wanted to be “little again…like 5 or 6” or “in kindergarten so we could take naps and have recess” but some said “we didn’t have any stress when we were little.”

I continued to question students to be sure they understood the question. Maybe they misunderstood what I was asking them? “Wouldn’t you want to be 16 so you could drive a car? Or maybe old enough to go to college and be on your own?”


Scratching my head, I asked other teachers what they would have answered at 14. They all said “fast forward time” immediately. Not one person said rewind time. My colleagues were equally baffled.

So why am I writing about this today? I guess because it bothers me at some level. I want to know why today’s young people don’t look forward to growing up. It reminds me of an article I read a few years back about the growing number of teens who aren’t applying for their driver’s licenses when they are eligible. Many simply aren’t interested in driving cars. This was unheard of when I grew up. Of course you would get your license! Even if you didn’t have a car of your own (as I didn’t until I was in college), driving a car was a rite of passage and it meant freedom. EVERYONE had to get a driver’s license.

I am not sure if my students’ longing to go back in time is a reflection of how coddled they are and being “little again” means more parental caretaking and less responsibility-taking on their part, or if it’s a result of  feeling like they were forced to grow up too fast? Whatever the root cause, it saddens me that this generation of students does not see independence and adulthood in a positive light.

What are the implications for their (and our) futures if this reluctance to grow up is more widespread than the students in my 8th grade classes?


16 responses to “Slice of Life: Would You Rather Fast-Forward Time or Rewind it?

  1. Meg says:

    Very interesting results about the question. I have a daughter who is 23 who has no desire to drive. She has lived in Boston and is now living in New York where she gets by without a car. She has lived with us this past year although I drove her many times she also used public transportation. She is afraid to drive. She wasn’t coddled, but think she had some bad experiences being a passenger when riding with friends.

  2. This is really food for thought. Are you going to spend more time investigating? I would like to know what you discover.

  3. litcoach09 says:

    This makes me want to ask the students in my school (7th and 8th graders) that question. I might pose this to some of them in the hallway tomorrow and report back.

  4. Sonja says:

    I’ve noticed the same thing with my students. I’ve wondered about the root cause (or causes) are, too and would love to see if perhaps the students could give us some clues in another writing piece.

  5. Jenny says:

    When I was growing up, all I wanted was to fast forward time. I wanted to drive, stay up late and eat dessert for dinner if I so inclined to do so. I’m 27 now and I wish I could go back. Not to redo life, but cherish it more when life was easier. Students tell me often they wish they could fast forward time, which is weird that not many did for you. I just tell them they need to cherish what they have because once you move out and go to college, life is very different. Of course I have learned that most people need to learn by experience rather than “you should” do it this way.

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Thanks for your comments, Jenny. My own children (22 and 24 yrs. old) feel the same as you do now (they would love to rewind time), but even they said at 14 all they wanted was to grow up. Not sure if this is a reflection of the times we live in or not?

  6. Leigh Anne says:

    This is very interesting. My son is 17 and he and many of his friends were not invested in getting their license. I, too, thought this was strange because that is what we lived for back then!

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Isn’t it strange? Many kids seem to think that it is just “easier” for their parents to drive them around than to actually do it themselves. Maybe our parents weren’t as “available” as we are to our kids these days? Not sure what’s behind it.
      Thanks for commenting!

  7. Cathy says:

    First of all, what a great question! I am pondering it right now. In some ways I want to rewind time as I miss so many people from my life. What I wouldn’t do to hang out with my grandparents again, to see my mother-in-law, and to enjoy the kids when they were a bit younger without the hurry and fuss. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing what my kids will do with their lives, who will be the new people I’ll come to know and love, and what will I do with my own future.

    It is interesting that kids want to go back. You are right, I think I would’ve chosen move forward and fast. A week or two ago, I had a first grader say “Wouldn’t it be nice if life had a rewind button.” I really had to pause to look into the eyes of that six year old for a minute. Surely there was a much older soul inside.

    My own daughter, now 18, struggles between a race to move forward with college and life and a desire to have less responsibility and fewer important decisions to make. Now that she can make her own food, she hopes I’ll do it. Now that she can make her own business calls, she wants me to make them….the list goes on and on.

    Maybe we felt this way and we have forgotten? Interesting.

  8. What an interesting question. When I was 14, I definitely would have chosen to fast forward time. I couldn’t wait to drive a car and grow up. Now, I think I’d want to rewind and go back. They say hind sight is 20/20. I wonder what my own grown children would say. It also makes me wonder what my fourth graders would say. They are 10 years old. Do they feel the same pressures your eighth graders feel? I see some writing for my kiddos next week.

  9. I plan to use the same exercise from Gallagher’s book later this year when we start our unit on argument writing/persuasion. I don’t know if the results will be the same as yours, but I’ll certainly let you know. What I can say is that I just recently had a conversation with a colleague whose daughter is turning ten this weekend and she told me that her daughter told her she doesn’t want to grow up. In fact, her daughter said, “At least I still have 8 years to be a kid.”
    I’m still ruminating on your results, but part of me is not surprised. Does this generation have the skills to cope with responsibility and the stress that comes with it? Maybe they just know they’re not ready.

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Thanks for your comments, Rhonda! You raise a good question–does this generation have the coping skils to deal with adulthood? My husband and I were talking about about whether or not we were truly aware of the stresses of adulthood when we were that age. I don’t think we were? It seems like our kids know way more aobut the realities of life than we did at their age. Could that be a factor? To be continued…

      Thanks again for stopping by the blog!

  10. Ken C. says:

    The times, they are a-changin’! I’ve read other accounts of the car’s declining allure to young folk. Some say it’s lack-of-money driven. Others it’s part of the depend-on-parents-until-you’re-35 driven. Either way, a tough pill for Detroit to swallow!

    I did this Gallagher activity last year and most kids went backward because they assumed going forward meant losing years of their lives. Logical, that.

    Me, I take no stock in the saying, “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” I would. LOTS of things. Just saying…

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Hi Ken! Thanks for stopping by the blog. Like some of your students, some of mine were confused by the question as well and didn’t want to lose years, but most just kept repeating “I want to be little again.” Yikes! Who will take care of US when we are too old to do it ourselves?!

      Some students said they wanted to go back to undo things they shouldn’t have done, so there was some regret involved in their choices.

      Will have to investigate a bit further…

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