We’re wrapping up the Back to School series as we celebrate the heart of our nation’s classrooms: our teachers. There are so many inspiring teachers that we couldn’t narrow down our conversation to just one guest. We had to talk to two very special teachers: the National Teachers of the Year for 2017 and 2018, Sydney Chaffee and Mandy Manning. Mandy’s classroom is in Spokane, WA, where she teaches immigrants and refugees to the US, and Sydney teaches students in Codman, MA, who find themselves in a minority population. Both teachers guide us through typical days in their classroom, tell us about the teachers who inspired them along the way, and give us a peek at the big and small things their kids share (Fortnite!). We’re so inspired by the way Mandy and Sydney infuse courage and wisdom into hard truths their pupils are learning about the world, and they remind us that every kid has the potential to be amazing—we just have to believe in them.
We’re still in full swing with our back to school series, and we’ve saved the best of our academic years for last – Elementary School. If you’ve ever been tempted to lose faith in this upcoming crop of youngsters, we’re here to bear witness that these kids are #killingit. Leading the pack are prodigies like 5th Grader Ryan Hickman, who started his own recycling business when he was just three years old (yes, 3!). Ryan’s now 10, and his business is thriving, and his goal, by the time he is the ripe old age of 12, is to recycle 1 million bottles and cans. He talks about his business, and how he raises money for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Orange County (which he’s shared about in numerous TV news stories and on The Ellen Show). Ryan also gives us a peek into what elementary school kids are into right now (besides being business magnates), including challenging Jen to a rousing game of his favorite card game, “War.”
We’re winding back the clock and revisiting one of the most pivotal times in our lives: middle school. And guiding us through the junior high hallways of 2019 are Jen’s daughter Remy and her very best friend Ella! These girls have weathered middle school and all its new responsibilities, social commitments, and shifting dynamics with so much grace and heart. And they give us the inside scoop on what’s in (TikTok and Snapchat) and what’s out (*gasp* Instagram!), their best advice to their younger selves (if someone gets mad at you for trying to make new friends, that’s their problem) and what they wish their parents knew (everything is, um, a lot—so maybe give us some space?). Remy and Ella’s friendship is giving us life goals, and the girls remind us that good relationships help make some of the weirdest times not only navigable, but tons of fun.
Hit up your locker and meet us in home room because today we’re going back to high school with Jen’s very own two high schoolers, Caleb and Ben Hatmaker. High school is a formative experience for all, and Ben and Caleb’s journey will likely resonate with each of us: making great friends, getting buried under homework, trying to make our parents proud. But it’s eye-opening to learn about what Gen Z is dealing with that we didn’t have to: paralyzing academic pressure, a laser-focused emphasis on getting a four-year degree, having instant connection to information and peers 24/7—it’s a lot. Ben and Caleb reveal what they like about being in Gen Z, and they give us the 411 (*ahem* perhaps under duress) about all the stuff the cool kids are saying (Cap? Dap?) that we immediately plan to use everywhere and make uncool—and they drop a bomb by telling us Agatha Christie has made a comeback. And Jen lays down some old-school wisdom by teaching the boys what a “busy signal” is.
Pull out your notebooks and sharpen your pencils, because today we’re starting a brand-new series called For the Love of Back to School! Ahh, school. Some things never change (football games! clubs! writing your entire term paper the night before it’s due!), but today’s kids are dealing with challenges that weren’t around when some of us were younger. We wanted to get the inside scoop on the ways young folks think about school and the world they’re learning to live in, and we’re starting with two people Jen knows pretty well: her two college kids, Gavin and Sydney! Gavin’s a senior at Texas Tech, and Sydney’s a sophomore at UT Austin, and they graciously let their mom to grill them on all kinds of topics: what’s different about college from what they expected? Why are they excited to be part of Gen Z? What do they wish their parents knew? (and what do their parents, ahem, not know—besides Sydney and her friends have a major crush on Michelle Obama?) One thing the Hatmakers take away from their chat: as you learn how to be an adult or how to be the parent of an adult, keeping the lines of communication open lifts up everyone.