A fellow language teacher posted this piece on Facebook, and has graciously allowed me to share it here with you. May you and your students find not only safety, but peace on campus this week. with love, Laurie
Teenagers Are On My Mind. By Andrea Shearer:
Teenagers are on my mind. I love teenagers deep in my aching chest. I mean I literally love this one and that one and those two over there and group after group of teenagers. I didn’t plan it. I just do.
Elementary school teachers and high school teachers view each other equally incredulously of how the other can teach their respected age group. I will pass on a room full of 5 year olds. I’ll take a room full of angry teens any day. I love working with them. They make more sense to me. Even their dysfunction makes sense.
Just on the other side of puberty and the protective force fields of their parents’ love, teenagers’ grief for their fleeting childhoods and hope for and anticipation of their futures leave them almost in suspension. They are in the infancy of adulthood, still with the tender hearts of children but the intellect of adults, their stories aren’t written yet and they are just beginning to write them. Fledgling idealists. They are experiencing their first true loves beyond that of their parents. They are stunned as they get their hearts broken for the first time. Their understanding of the world around them abruptly shifting, their values being shaped by the daily battle between their intentions and their outcomes, they are in denial of many harsh truths. Denial is, after all, a stage of grief. Nothing in their lives up to now was their choice or is their fault and they haven’t had a chance to do anything about it yet. They are surprised when they screw stuff up. Their own weaknesses stand between them and what they would do if it were up to them. They are so full of everything they need except comfort and experience. It takes time and wisdom and cultivation to make a sensible place in this world for yourself.
But I’m experienced enough to know how to cultivate comfort. My wish is that my classroom be a refuge, offering a comfortable space to cultivate wisdom. A place to bring a tender heart and a budding intellect. A fertile garden in which to grow. In providing that refuge, I witness so many of their tragic realizations about this world. I try to be present as so to catch any opportunity for joy and exploit it for wind in their sails. The rest is up to them.
I’m failing right now to express how sad I feel about school shootings and the reality these kids are growing up in. Every time I try, I end up reducing it down to how much I cherish them. They are important.
When I meet people and they find out I’m a high school teacher, often times, the first thing they do is express how dangerous it must be, to work in a profession with such a high rate of violence. People thank me for having the courage, not to deal with their hormones or bad attitudes or to shape the minds of tomorrow, but to walk into a building every day that may very well host a bloodbath because, for some reason, we don’t know how to stop that.
My sadness and sorrow is perpotionate to the degree to which I love the particular creature that is the human teenager. They are my people. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to be protected. They are trying to grow up. We are treating them like they are worthless. They are hurting. They need us.
Be nice to teenagers.
And figure this out.