Teenagers are like caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, cute little puppies, and the old prank of putting a bag of dog poop on someone’s front porch and lighting it on fire. It’s a joy and burden to spend my weeks among them. They are funny and inspiring, and they are also a sticky, smelly, inappropriate mess. If you can, you should probably only be around them in moderation.
The moderation bit was what I was trying to get at the other day when I was picking up pizza on a Friday for dinner. It had been a long week. The girl (teenager girl) taking my order asked if I had any exciting weekend plans. I said, “I’m going to do my best to stay away from teenagers.” She looks at me strange. I add, “And I don’t think I can do it.” She looks at me like I am a dirty creep, some kind of character that needs registering. I explain that I am a high school teacher and it has been a long week, but the suspicious look never leaves her eyes.
All this to say that I have mixed feelings about teenagers. Their energy, optimism, and enthusiasms can be inspiring and exciting; their disdain, apathy, and negativity can be overwhelming. Of course, any generalizations about teenagers can also be said about children and babies, toddlers and pets, teachers and truck drivers, and certainly me.
I appreciate teenagers. I really do. As I type this, I just found a note from a student on my desk thanking me for teaching him to be himself, and to find motivation. So that seems good. I am at the end of a week, in the middle of a year, and tired.
Variations of these three statements continue to arise and I continually see them as reminders that I still have a job to do.
1. It can’t be that famous if I haven’t heard about it.
(I’ve heard this said about Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, U2, The Beatles, Buddhism, poetry, etc.)
2. Nobody knows what it’s like to be a teenager.
(I’ve read this as an opening sentence in more than one essay, in more than one school.)
3. Why do they call it a World War if it only happened in Saipan?
(This same question, with different specifics, keeps getting asked over and over.)
I appreciate teenagers. I do. If you are a teenager, and one of my students, please remember that I love you (appropriately, in the way an English Teacher should love his students) and that you should be reading a book. And once you finish that book you should pick up another one. Repeat. And then laugh with me at the 3 statements above.
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