As a teacher, I get asked, “how do you get along with teens so well?” I never thought of myself as “getting along” with teens, as it was second nature to me. I also never thought of it being a special talent; anyone can learn how to get along with teens. I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this, and I would like to share my “special talents” or “secrets” with beginning teachers and parents in this series of "How To Get Along With Teens."
First, I’d like to point out that I have taught teens for 16 years, roughly around 4000, and although I don’t have children of my own, I have referred to my students as “my kids” since my first year of teaching. They are my kids. All 4000-some of them. I have played a huge role in their lives, and they have done the same for me. Some of them are now my friends and colleagues!
I have also made mistakes and have asked for forgiveness, many times. I am not perfect, nor am I the perfect teacher, but I also don’t hide that. I create a culture in my practice that is based on honestly, strong values, and respect, and I have developed strategies to break past the language barrier that usually makes it hard for teens to articulate their frustrations.
When parents and beginning teachers reach out to me, I offer what has been my life's work in teaching them how to build strong relationships with teens. Don't get discouraged! The good news is that your teens will grow into adults, but when you’re a teacher, they stay the same age till we retire! Therefore, as teachers and parents, our role is to manage the behaviors while nurturing the relationships. Hence, teachers are experts in working with teens and they have a lot to offer. Always reach out to a teacher; we love helping!
This week's tip for teachers and grown-ups is about how to set expectations and be flexible:
Have clear expectations but be flexible. Life is not black and white. I hear this all the time: "We are preparing kids for the real world." To be frank, their real world is grade 8. When we say that we are preparing them for the real world, we are undermining their current experiences and implying that if they don’t correct certain behaviors, they will fail. 'Fail' is the only thing kids hear through most of what we tell them. How can we expect anyone to succeed when we continuously remind them that the alternative is failing? When I started my Masters degree, my supervisor asked us to open up our calendars and save the date of our graduation. They asked us to invite those people who we wanted to celebrate this with us to also save the date and fly down to join us on this special milestone. We then set up calendars that had categories like, sleep, eat, exercise, research, watch TV, listen to music, assignment days, and off days. We then were told that everyone gets an A and in order to achieve that we were to commit to this work and they would support us along the way. Not everyone’s A was received on the first go. Some of us had to redo work a number of times after feedback, but we all got an 'A', eventually. Clear and flexible. Create a practice where the emphasis is on growing, rather than the end result.
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