Being the adult

street art photo

Street art Mott Haven, Bronx

As I’m hiring for the next school year, I’m starting to see a key teacher quality I hadn’t recognized before: the ability to be an adult around teenagers.

This may sound obvious.  What I mean is that the teacher knows that they are the adult, and that the student is a kid who may not yet possess all of the politeness, life skills, and behaviors they need to be productive and have good relationships.  The teacher knows that as the adult, they have the main responsibility for creating a respectful relationship.

As I’m interviewing teacher candidates, I see two ways of approaching teens:

The first way is the adult/responsible way, and it ranges from a calm neutrality—“Teenagers are teenagers, they have their ups and downs, let’s keep teaching and not take it personally”—to compassion—“It’s tough to be a teenager and we need to guide kids through this time in their life.”

The second way is the victim way, a constant skirmish between the teacher and student: “They’re making it difficult for me to deliver my lesson” or “I’m not letting Student X back into my class until he apologizes.” Continue reading

Can you trust a 16 year old?

 

julie nariman's old driver license

Me at age 16, the day I got my driver’s license.

On March 14, students across the nation are planning a walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting.  The recent surge of student voice has gotten me thinking about how much responsibility and trust we give, or don’t give, to teenagers.  How capable are teenagers?  How reliable are their opinions?  How smart are their decisions?

 

In high school when I was 16, I had a Driver’s Education class which meant that I got to practice driving once a week instead of going to one of my regular classes.  At first, my instructor just had me drive around the school parking lot, but as I got more experienced, we’d drive on highways and busier roads.

One day when I got into the car, my instructor asked me, “Do you have your learner’s permit?” Continue reading