What I Love About Teens
First a confession. I taught elementary students for more than twenty years before I moved into the high school setting. At that point in my life, teens scared me to death. They seemed to have raging hormones, defiant attitudes, piercings, tattoos, too-tight clothes or pants falling off them. And worse, they didn’t like their teachers. My elementary kids loved me. I felt sorry for high school teachers. Then I became one. I was scared to death. Yeah, there were some rough moments. But here are the qualities I learned to love and admire about teens.
They laugh easily. They can laugh about absolutely nothing and then laugh at the fact that they are laughing about nothing. Being around young people who joke and laugh is refreshing. It makes me remember the joy of silliness simply for the sake of silliness. Laughing feels good.
- They are young enough to question what is right and wrong. As we get older we tend to accept things that are unjust. We’ve seen unfair situations and have grown to tolerate them. Young people are looking at these situations with newer eyes. They help us question the status quo. They change things because they still believe they can. They help me believe I too can change situations that are unjust.
- Teens are hopeful. Their whole life is before them. They are excited about all the possibilities. They help me become more courageous and optimistic about the future. Their hope is contagious.
- Teens understand technology. Boy do they! They’ve been immersed in technology for their whole short lives. But here is the really wonderful part. They will share that expertise with you. My favorite teens, of course, were the ones who would assist me with technology issues without teasing me about my slight ineptitude in that area. I’ve learned so much from them as I taught them. It was a symbiotic relationship. It was teens who encouraged me to blog. They believed I had something of value to share with others.
- Teens have great passion. They are ‘all hands on deck’ when they take on a project of their choice. They volunteer to take on huge tasks without even questioning the magnitude of it. As we get older, we tend to stop and think, “Do I really have time for this?” Teens can often accomplish amazing feats because they just go forth and do.
- I love their resiliency. I’ve watched teens who lived in some very challenging situations accept adult responsibilities and handle them better than a lot of adults. Usually no one knows their circumstances. They raise younger siblings, pay household bills, moderate difficult situations at home, or deal with a parent fighting an addiction. Some have an absent or unknown parent (or parents) and they accept the parent role long before their chronological age identifies them as such.
- Teens are generous. They will take in a friend, buy someone’s lunch, care about the homeless, volunteer in a soup kitchen or rake leaves for the elderly. Unfortunately you won’t see these stories in the media. But I’ve been on the front lines and have witnessed it again and again.
- When I taught young children they used to write me little notes. Dear Mrs. Easley, I love you. Do you love me? Check yes ___ or no___. They’d draw me a picture or bring me a flower or an apple. I knew I would miss those notes when I moved to high school. I was wrong. I have a giant 3 ring notebook full of notes, cards and some pretty lengthy letters teens have written to me. I have many more letters and notes that won’t fit into that notebook. There are, however, a few differences in high schooler’s written communication. They usually drop them on your desk privately on their way out the door when no one is looking. But if they trust you, many will pour their hearts out on paper in great detail. They will share their worries and also tell you how much you mean to them.
- They will remember you. There is a fast turn around with teens. Almost immediately after they leave high school (or your home), they value you. They send you emails, call you, and will meet you for lunch. I taught so many preschoolers, kindergarteners and first graders. Do they remember me? I’m not sure. I know I remember them. The moment teens toss their graduation hats into the air, they begin to remember you fondly and seek out your advice. Some realize this even sooner.
- Teens are loyal beyond belief. If you care about them they will care about you. Your age doesn’t matter. They will shun your enemies and fight battles for you whether you want them to or not. Teens may test you a little initially, but once they know you truly care about them, they will challenge anyone who seeks to harm you.
My best advice for working with teens? Ignore the sagging pants, the sometimes surly early morning attitudes, and the crazy styles of the day. Look beneath the pink hair and beyond the melt down of the moment. Focus on the best qualities you find in the teens you love. What we focus on will grow. Visualize the success that you can see in their future and describe it to them. Young people often first recognize their talents and visualize their future success when it is pointed out to them by someone they love and respect. Are you that person?
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