6.14.2014

Why I (Not-So Secretly) Like Teenagers

A disclaimer before I begin this post: I used to really dislike teenagers, back when I was one. From the inside looking out, I found teenagers to be petty and irritating and overly dramatic and I swore I would never ever teach high school students. I think I said this because I secretly knew in my gut that I was going to end up being a high school social studies teacher but I just didn't want to admit it to myself. Because teenagers.

Now, however, with ten years separating myself (age-wise) and standing from the outside looking in, I still sometimes find teenagers to be petty and irritating and overly dramatic, to be honest. But I don't always feel that way, and usually I find teenagers today to be funny and open-minded and talented and hard-working. And I actually really love working with teenagers, for reasons I will shortly give you.

But first, let's back up to what inspired this post. If you are on social media anywhere, you are probably familiar with the Albert Einstein technology picture, which shows a questionably-sourced Albert Einstein quote about the evils of technology paired with a photo of teenagers on their evil technology. In case you need reference, there's a picture below (which I wish I could source, but the original site didn't have a source or a link because they're professional like that).


So let's just ignore the first blatant criticism of this image, which is that we have no idea if Albert Einstein ever actually said this quote. Then let's ignore the second blatant criticism of this image, which is that it doesn't include any sources. (I'd argue that the "generation of idiots" in the second photo should be people who randomly post this image as fact, but that's getting off topic.) Ignoring those two things, I look at this supposed "generation of idiots" (teenagers) and I still have problems with this image because, as I've said, I actually really love working with teenagers.

"But why?" you ask....

1. They're ridiculously, beautifully open-minded. Gay marriage, racial differences, special needs - teenagers today are more accepting of everyone. I see lesbian couples who are able to participate in the gross PDA rituals that formerly only straight couples used to participate in. Which is great for equal rights but I still tell them to cut it out because it's still PDA. I also see lots of mixed-race couples, boys who are openly gay, "normal" students working closely with severely handicapped students....these teenagers aren't held back by the discrimination practices of former generations.

2. They're really smart. Like, really smart. When everyone is complaining about US students falling behind other countries in all of the things, I think our students are actually becoming brilliant. First of all, there's the fact that they have to learn about at least 5 different topics a day and retain that information. Consider your job: you probably have one topic to focus on, whether it is creating a marketing campaign or studying the blood-clotting abilities of some special plasma fluid, but you don't have to switch from a mathematical frame of thinking to an analytical method of thinking in a matter of minutes. Yet these students do just that, several times a day, which I think makes them brilliant. Then there's the fact that they are so well-informed about the world. Often my students will engage in intelligent debates or conversations or ask questions about what is happening in the world, which I think is fantastic. They just need someone to give them the resources.

3. They're caring. My first year teaching, my middle school students created a fundraiser for the people affected by the tsunami in Japan. We raised a couple hundred dollars, and they were so inspiring in how much work and effort they put into the fundraiser. It was beautiful. Students at my current school support the special education program at every assembly, and they do it so enthusiastically I'm usually moved to tears (I'm also usually really sleep deprived so don't think I'm a really emotional person).

4. They are hilarious. If there's one thing that's guaranteed, it's that I'll laugh at least five times during my day. Teenagers today have a wonderful range of humor, from dead-pan to slapstick, and I love it. They're a lot funnier than most adults I know.

5. They understand technology. They don't always use it very well, but they get it. And more often than not, they get the boundaries of when it's appropriate to use technology in my classroom and when it's not.

Here's the thing about teenagers, and everything else in this world: our perception often defines them. If we perceive teenagers as idiots, then that's all we'll see. And we'll be very sad because that's a very sad way of living. But if we choose to see them as brilliant, sensitive, caring, hilarious, open-minded human beings, we'll see them as the wonderful people they are and could be.

PS Seriously, stop spreading around that quote by Einstein unless you can actually find the source for that quote.

Again, I wish I could source. Ummm....Source: A comment someone left on Facebook.
PPS Can you tell I'm on summer break by how positive I'm being about my students?

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