Updated: Apr 28, 2021
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 build rules in the class or home:
We make the rules together:
If my students walked into my class and I presented them with a list of rules, they would most likely follow them. But, if we made the list of rules together, they would embody them. Rules create safety. They are important. But, if I am the only one making them, then I am only communicating what safety means to me. I still wouldn't know what it means to them. Yes, I am the professional, and yes, I know better, but what if I allowed my students to spend some time coming to that realization themselves? What if I guided them to understand what makes a safe, respectful, and creative learning environment? Even for families living with teens. The notion of "my house, my rules," doesn't always work because we all live together, so the rules need to make sense and be inclusive of everyone's needs. Yes, you are the grown-up, and yes, you know better, but you can guide teens to determine what creates a safe, peaceful, and collaborative home environment. Does this take more time? It might, but as teachers and grown-ups, this is a fundamental element in building class and home culture. Everyone wants to feel safe. Every student wants to belong. Every student wants to build community and have friends. Rules can be reframed as a recipe to building a clan, a village, a system that works for everyone to feel safe and be successful.
Follow me on Instagram for more tips on this series!