a pic from my second year of teaching many years ago
Growing up I was not a strong, dedicated academic student. While privileged to attend some of the best schools in the country, I frequently felt disengaged and at the same time overwhelmed.
Sometimes I felt there was something wrong with me when I didn’t grasp things as quickly as others. Some teachers were visibly annoyed when I lagged behind and needed more explanation or review. When I became a teacher I had a similar feeling though from a different perspective. When my students didn’t understand something, rather than getting frustrated with them, I tried to figure out a way to reach them so he/she would understand. I wish my teachers had known that what might have read as apathy was really just a painful feeling of inferiority.
I also wish teachers would have acknowledged the impact of outside life on my school life. Teens wrestle and juggle so much - friends, relationships, puberty, family, sports, college-pressure … just to name a few. Some days it was challenging to show up bright eyed and ready to learn. The break-up that happened during lunch break isn’t so easily brushed off. The lack of sleep due to a late night game and a last minute paper assignment, makes it tough to stay awake in class.
So, I thought it would be cool to give the majority of this blog word count to teens who wish their teachers knew a few things. Let them share their perspectives and not have to wait 30 years (like I did).
Lucky for me I know a lot of teens! I also know teens who are entrepreneurs, which means their lives and calendars have even more demands on them. Here’s what a few of them had to say ….
1. We Aren’t Lazy, Just Busy
Now I’m not a big fan of the word “busy” or the busy culture we are have created, but I do think Abi E., teen entrepreneur and founder of Smile It Forward, has a point. “I know some teachers do, but I wish all teachers understood that students have a busy schedule outside of school and that sometimes it is really stressful trying to do it all, especially with all the homework they give us. I wish that they would cut back on the homework and know/ understand that stress we are going through and take action on it.” While adults do have some control of their schedules and demands, teens really are at the mercy of teachers and adults.
2. Sometimes It’s Hard
“I wish our teachers knew that it’s hard. It’s hard to grow up in this world. It’s hard to grow up … but I wish they knew we care. We truly absolutely care about this world. We’ve experienced school and life in ways no one else has. We’ve had times where we’ve wanted to give up. Where we couldn’t imagine being any more anxious.” Lily S., teen entrepreneur and author, touches on something that I hear about a lot - feeling anxious. And she’s right, teens today are navigating a world we (adults) aren’t familiar with. Our teen years didn’t involve social media or even the world wide web. We are trying to keep up! So, imagine how hard it is for them.
3. It’s The Little Things
I posted on all my social media channels asking teens to finish the statement, “what I wish my teacher(s) knew”. To my surprise a former student of mine responded. Haley R. shared, “The small things that show students that teachers care! It means a lot. I still remember everything you did for me like making me keep a feelings journal between you and I only. Students never forget!” Her comment was a great reminder that there are times to step back from the academics and focus on the student. Since, as Haley shared, they never forget.
To the teachers reading, this closing is for you -
Students - many teachers teach because they believe it is a calling. In their classrooms they may be overwhelmed by demands generated by test scores and state standards. It might be a surprise to have 30+ students in a class and learn the expectation is for every student to be at grade level by the end of the year. Even if they had not been at grade level the previous year! In different ways the education system brings struggles to both teacher and student. So perhaps the next article should be - “What teachers + students wish school administration knew…”