Updated: May 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 class/home culture:
We are building an airplane while flying it. If we were to google any corporation or organization, we would come across these terms: Mission, Vision, Goals, etc. Although they are not the end all be all of a company or organization, they are important in communicating what the people behind the brand stand for. As teachers and parents, we are building culture. We are building a system. In order for a system to work, we need to have a vision, a mission statement, and strong values inside our classroom and homes. In addition to that, we need to have strong language that communicates this and create statements that are easily embodied, like a mantra. We need to come to this mission statement together. One would say, “Well, organizations don’t change their mission statement every year,” and they are right. And that is because organizations don’t change their entire workforce every year or 4 months, like classes do. If they did, they would also be changing or tweaking their vision and mission. Organizations also get to interview and select the people who will be part of their team, schools don’t. So, as teachers and parents, we are working in reverse. We are building the plane while flying it. In order to create an environment that is functioning well, we need to re-establish these structures every time our room fills up with different faces. This is why I believe that teachers are master culture builders, because they not only do it so often, they are able to identify dynamics that are not working well; they know how to read the room. If they don’t, everything falls apart everyday. The same can happen at home. When that happens, we need to reevaluate our values, mission, and vision as a family and class structure.
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