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 on how to create a safe space for different learners:
If both of us are the same, one of us is unnecessary. Focus on strengths, and support the areas of growth. As adults, we don’t apply for jobs that we are not good at. We challenge ourselves with new things we want to try, but we have the option of letting those go, if we choose so. Kids go to school and they are expected to do well in every subject. If we were to show up everyday, and be good at everything, we would have meltdowns. Smart people simply hire other smart people who will do things they can’t, way better than the would. We seem to forget this in the school setting. So, our job becomes in helping students find meaning in why they do what they have to do. How will this social studies course help you going into medicine? Well, it helps you to critically examine how people behave during a time of crisis, or towards other marginalized societies, and if you’re in medicine, you know the impact this has on health policy. How will math help you if you’re going to be an artist? It helps your brain see patterns, solve problems, and understand systems, and if you’re an artist, like me, you know that is what you’re doing all the time. It’s not about subjects and courses, it’s about learning and growing. How do you handle feeling challenged and uncomfortable? How do make connections? How do you express these connections? How do you make sense of the world? Are you interested in some topics more than others? Can you find your passion? Where do you need more support? Can you ask for help before you give up? These are all important questions to ask when we are working with kids. Although it looks like they all need to be good at the same things, we have an opportunity to shift that perspective for them.
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