This summer I decided to spend some of it subbing for summer school.  Doing this still left me with a lot of time on my hands and the following is what had popped into my head:

I have this theory.  No matter how old I get, working with teenagers will keep me young.  I enjoy being in the “know” of pop culture and if you’re going to keep up to date, talking to the teenagers is the way to do it.  When I began grad school and told people that I wanted to teach high school, I was kind of scoffed at on occasion.  The scoffing wasn’t necessarily pointed towards me, but at the potential students that I would be working with in the future.  What is it about teenagers that people find so distasteful?  In fact, this is what drew me to want to work with this age group.

I find teenagers to be fascinating.  They have a unique perspective of the world and while they still have a lot to learn, we can learn a lot from them.  We often discount their behaviors as simple defiance but don’t give them the chance to explain why they are feeling a particular way.  And when we do give them the chance to explain, we don’t listen.  This dichotomy between the adult world and the teenage world frustrates me to no end.  How can we tell this group of people to act like adults but still treat them like kids?  The teenage years are an incredibly difficult time in a young person’s life. They’re expected to have more responsibilities at home (some even raise their siblings so mom/dad can work multiple jobs), they attend school, and their social lives are budding.

Teenagers are young, impressionable, and struggling to find themselves in a cruel world filled with stress, anxiety, and hormones.  As adults, we often become so consumed with the stress of our own lives that we forget what it was like to be a teenager.  We forget that many of the issues that we dealt with at that age did take a toll on us and were not frivolous teen problems.  I see all the time a lack of respect for teens from adults.  As the people in their lives that they look up to, we need to learn how to show them respect.  You give respect to gain respect.  If we expect them to follow that rule, we need to do the same.  It’s a two-way street. Treating their problems as small or insignificant devalues them as people, shows them that we don’t care, and breaks down their trust.

I believe this is a big reason why I enjoy teaching English.  I want to be someone they can turn to and trust.  I want them to know that I care.  I can create this safe place where we can discuss big issues, how they relate, and the best ways we can solve them.  It’s a pretty incredible experience when you can get a room full of teens in a deep conversation.  Some of them don’t even realize that they could stretch their brains in such a way. We share this space of learning and it’s funny to take a step back and see that some days I feel like I knew much less about a topic or issue than I thought.

So, yes.  I teach high school and I like it. No, I love it.

Published by Christopher Torres