151. Teenagers

All of us adults have been teenagers, and if all goes well, all of our children will be teenagers. But sometimes, when we’re caught up in some of the difficulties teenagers go through, we may start thinking they’re a different species. Our children may see them that way too, either out of loyalty to us or because of their own difficulty understanding their older siblings. When I first started teaching, I taught teenagers. I’d just recently finished being one, and though I thought that some day I would want to teach younger children, I thought I wasn’t ready yet. Maybe not, but I certainly wasn’t ready to teach teenagers yet. Some of them reminded me of the ones who had terrorized me only a few years earlier. Some reminded me of the ones I’d considered superficial. Only a few reminded me of the ones who’d been my friends. It’s important to see the children in our teenagers. With all their fads, crises, and rebellions, they haven’t forgotten the children they recently were, although it may not seem so recent to them. Some of the things that delighted or concerned them still do. But they’re changing quickly, and it can be disorienting. Some of them are already nostalgic for their lost youth. It’s important, too, to see the adults in them. Some of them are old enough to drive, vote, drink, and see movies children aren’t allowed to see. Since those four activities are four landmarks, they seem, to teenagers, to be the way to be adults. Well, maybe not voting; that only happens periodically, and is done privately. If we’ve successfully treated our children as human beings with rights, responsibilities, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and potential, then as they get older, it stands to reason that we should continue this approach. I don’t know what happens to sometimes prevent that from happening, but I’m convinced that it’s not all the fault of the teenagers. As I entered the Fort River School one day, to work with second-graders, there were a few parents selling wrapping paper to raise money for teaching materials. One of them looked at me and said, “Mr. Blue?” She told me she’d had me as a teacher. I tried to place the face. I assumed she’d been a second-grader in one of my classes. But it turned out that she’d been one of the teenagers who’d had me as a teacher. She had good memories of that time, and so did I. I’d almost forgotten.

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