We’ve all seen those movies where the teen sneaks out of the house to go the party where there is a ton of alcohol and drugs. The party gets busted and the parents find the whereabouts of their teen when the police call them. Are teens today really like this? Do they all sneak out of the house, disobey their parents, and try as hard as they can to buck the system? It’s a little hard to believe that every teen has this mentality, but there are many people that readily perpetuate this stereotype. Even as a young adult working in retail, I was actually instructed by my managers to follow small groups of teens throughout the store in order to prevent them from stealing. As an educator now, I am constantly questioned about how I can possibly stand working with high school kids today. Aren’t they snotty? Don’t they talk back? Do they ever turn in their homework? People are constantly feeling sorry for me because of my profession and the terrors they presume that I deal with on a daily basis. According to some of them, this generation is horrible. These kids don’t know the value of hard work, and society is going to hell in a hand basket.
Teens today are not like this. Well, not all of them. 🙂 I admit that I do work in a district that contains mainly middle-class families; however, we do have our fair share of poverty. Many of the kids that I work with are the nicest, most respectful kids. Let me tell you what these kids are capable of doing.
At the beginning of the year, we began our short story unit. The first story that the kids read was called “The Most Dangerous Game.” (Spoiler Alert) At the end of the story, it is unclear as to whether the main character, Rainsford, actually killed the bad guy, General Zaroff. All we know as the reader is that the bad guy lost. It seemed only natural to put Rainsford on trial for the disappearance of the General. The kids eagerly split into groups. One group made up the prosecuting attorneys, another made up the defense, and a third group made up three judges. One student also played Rainsford for the witness stand. The kids were excited, laughing, respectful of each student’s opinion. They all gave a great performance. They opened their text books to pages that they had prepared on their own that showed where Rainsford possibly acted in self-defense or where he possibly planned the General’s murder. These kids are go-getters. They were able to prove that they did their homework by reading, they researched possible reasons for the outcome of the trial, and they used higher level thinking skills to apply the events in the book to the trial for the character. The skeptics of the abilities and positive behaviors of teens would have been pleasantly surprised at this presentation of intelligence.
The year is done now. The students spent the last five weeks of school reading Romeo and Juliet, one of the hardest units of the year. They laughed over the scenes, argued with each other about whether Romeo is a big baby or not, challenged each other to read with inflection, and… understood the story. Yes, they understand Shakespeare, something that many adults struggle to do. They had challenges between Capulets and Montagues that involved homework completion, a Queen Mab challenge, Wii sword fighting, grammar races, and “Who Said It?” challenges. They picked out puns, allusions, and foreshadowing on a daily basis. They caught the flaws in the play that Shakespeare missed. They had fun reading one of the hardest plays in high school. How is all of this coming from a generation that is going to cause society to go to hell in a hand basket?
Kids need a chance to prove themselves. They will rise to the challenge that it set for them, but adults must believe in them. Kids just need a little motivation. They just need to see that some adults are cheering for them and have confidence in them and their abilities.