Confessions of a High School English Teacher

Truth time: I really don’t like teenagers. Please don’t judge me. I’m not a horrible teacher, I promise! Let me explain!!

 

On an individual basis, I appreciate and respect and care for the vast majority of my students, who are all technically part of this “teenage” monolith. But as a collective idea, I’ve always felt that teenagers suck. I think I felt this way even when I was a teenager myself. It’s just a tough stage in life, those transitional years between childhood and adulthood, when you think you know everything and really know nothing. (Which stands in contrast to early adulthood maybe only in the sense that as a young adult, you can finally OWN the fact that you know nothing, that you’re openly on a path to figuring it all out without shame.) As a teenager, you are trying to discern who you are while simultaneously managing a desperate need to fit, to belong. You are all at once making mistakes, battling for more freedom, but balking at the impending expectation that you take true responsibility for your actions.

 

It’s a curious thing, that in thinking about becoming a teacher, I never once considered teaching any age group other than high school. With full knowledge of my distaste for teenagers, I said, Yes, I am going to teach children during this particularly tough moment of their young lives, when, let’s face it, they are often difficult to love. I’m not sure what’s behind it, except that transition has always fascinated me, and maybe my hope is that I can positively impact their transition to young adulthood. I want to urge them to emerge from their awkward, icky teenage cocoons to live as contributing, responsible, and educated human beings. Plus, sometimes they are funny!

 

So, in the spirit of providing evidence to support my dislike of the teenage collective, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve seen my students do that totally and completely baffle me. Enjoy!

 

1. Before going to their first period class, they bury themselves in an embrace with their significant other that lasts way past the point of reason. It’s like they’re preparing for a month-long separation, not a 50-minute English class. Listen teenagers, I appreciate you have fallen truly and deeply in love, but spare me the overt reminder at 7:27 in the morning. I’d like to digest my breakfast.

 

2. They get tattoos. Now, I’m not conservative or prude, and it’s really not the tattoos themselves that bother me, although I do cringe just a little when one of my female students leans over a bit too far, unveiling a lower-back tat. Poor girl, forever unfavorably branded. No, it’s really when they return to class with said tattoo, covering the whole of their left forearm, and can’t open a book or write because they’re in too much pain. OR (and this actually happened to me) they try to reschedule their final exam because they have a very important appointment with their tattoo artist, for which they already put down a nonrefundable $100 deposit. What is up with these whacked priorities, kiddies?

 

3. They smell. Didn’t they get the body odor talk during gym in 4th grade like everyone else? And dousing yourself in a can of AXE body spray or a bottle of Victoria’s Secret Supermodel perfume is not a suitable substitute for an honest-to-god shower with shampoo and soap…

 

4. …And yet, they are soooo vain. Vain enough to take out a compact mirror in the middle of class (THE MIDDLE OF CLASS) to check the status of their hair, teeth, skin, latest zit…you get the idea.

 

5. They wear skirts that could double as tube tops. Forget the fact that their chosen attire is more appropriate for the Jersey Shore after 11 pm than 8 am ANYWHERE, let alone school, or that many of them are still wearing braces. Let’s simply address the practicality of the issue: it just cannot be comfortable to sit in a dirty desk chair all day with the backs of your upper thighs plastered to it. Think of all the other people who have sat there before you! Think of the germs! Think of the likelihood you’ll be able to cross and un-cross your legs without flashing half the class! Put on some pants!! (And no, leggings don’t count.)

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