Monday, December 7, 2015

Teens, trials and tribulations - oh my!

The funny thing about teaching teenagers is how completely naïve they are.  Most teens like to think that they’re street-smart and world-wise, but it’s just not true.  Even teens who come from a rough background still are kids, and act like kids. 

I always knew that when I went into teaching, I couldn’t teach kids younger than 13.  Little kids don’t understand sarcasm, and you can’t reason with them either.  Teens can usually try to talk at an adult level though they may not always succeed.

But until I started teaching, I had no idea how incredibly impressionable students were, and how easily they can be manipulated. 

Case in point: teens believe EVERYTHING they read on the Internet.  Too many students have tried to tell me earnestly that 9-11 was an inside job, and that the moon landings were faked.  When I ask where they got the information, they confidently say, “it’s all over the Internet.”  “All over” to them means “a site I stumbled across, and I didn’t have enough common sense to judge objectively what I was reading.”

By the way, if you think 9-11 was an inside job or that the moon landing was faked, just shut up.  No one listens to you anyway, except teenagers, and they’ll grow out of it.

Teenagers are also unaware of how easily adults can manipulate them.  The fact is that they’re still kids, so just like a friendly stranger with some candy, an adult can get a teen to listen to them and like them by giving them what they want, albeit briefly.  Thus, teens love the teacher who doesn’t make them turn in homework, or who lets them use their cell phones or watch movies in class.  Students will say that teacher is “cool” and “really chill.”  Teachers who try to be friends with the kids will be welcomed initially until some of the wiser students realize it’s weird for an adult to want to hang around with you or seek your approval.

Clichés are also something that teens don’t question.  They believe those general platitudes and spout them frequently as though it passes for original thought.  “Hatred is wrong!” they’ll declare fervently.  “I HATE country music!”  They’ll internalize anything you see on a motivational poster – “If you believe it, you can achieve it!”  This is what will pass for original thought in their next persuasive essay, along with clichés that would make most adults roll their eyes.

Teens feel everything so deeply, even a short conversation about a movie can end in bloodshed.  So I thought it would be fun to read some of the things that students have said to me in all seriousness.

“Taylor Swift sucks, cause, you know, she just thinks she’s so great.” 

“People who hate One Direction are just haters.”

“I don’t know why we have to take a different language class because we all speak English.”

“I don’t care what other people think about me, cause I’m just myself, you know?  Not like those other losers.  I’m not lame like them.”

“I’m like, so NOT religious, but I go to church and stuff.”

“Ms. Marlowe, why do girls talk about dumb stuff?  Why don’t they talk about stuff people care about, like games or sports and stuff?”

“When I grow up I’m gonna be a rich doctor and take care of my mom… I’m not doing this classwork, it’s lame.”

“Women need to be with a man they can respect, so I’d NEVER let a girl tell me what to do.”

“Knowledge is power, right Miss?  Nah, I don’t know the answer.”

“You shouldn’t let other people’s negativity bring you down.  They’re just jealous b#####s.”

"The Illuminati is totally real Miss, and you're naive if you don't think so.  FOR REALS."