I have been a teenager now for over thirty years. I made a decision long ago to be like a Toys”R”Us kid and never grow up. I wear Vans and play video games. I love Batman and the Punisher and watching goofy videos on Youtube. I have an adult job, though. Many would say it is an important one. I mold young minds. I am a teacher. As a teacher and a veteran teenager, I have heard all the criticisms about teenagers today. After eighteen years of teaching children and young adults, I want to dispel a few myths about teens and discuss what is right with today’s teenagers.
Myth number 1: Teenagers are lazy
Some say teenagers are lazy. I wouldn’t call it lazy. I would call it “conserving energy”. The fact of the matter is that teens will work very hard when motivated to do so. Most of my seniors have very busy schedules that include one or two part-time jobs or sports or even church before school. If you think about it, they don’t necessarily “have” to work, get involved in sports or go to church before school. However, they sacrifice sleep, one of their most precious commodities, to do all that they do. One great illustration of this “will work when sufficiently motivated” principle is a video game called “Dark Souls”. This game is very hard and the player fails a lot of the time only to start over and try again. Despite it being intensely hard, 2.7 million copies were sold and spawned a successor, Dark Souls II, released last year, that has already sold 2.5 million copies. A large portion of these games were purchased by teenagers. If teens are inherently lazy, then why would they choose a game that would require not only hard work but repeated failures and requiring players to go back and do the work over again? Are we adults any different? Do we work when motivated and avoid things that don’t motivate us?
Myth number 2: Teenagers don’t care about their health
Sure teenagers may have a pretty skewed idea of what makes good nutrition or what affects your health (I heard students claim that “weed” is better for you because you can’t get lung cancer from it) but they know what makes them fat. My students complained about the school lunch and the changes that came after Michelle Obama targeted school lunches as the reason why our kids are so fat.
“Michelle Obama says you all are too fat and school lunches are making you fat.”
“Michelle Obama needs to stay out of our lunches!” exclaimed one of my girls. “School lunches aren’t what’s making us fat anyway, it’s going to McDonalds for dinner every night that is making us fat!”
Myth number 3: Teenagers are rude
I have been impressed by the politeness of my high school students. I have noticed that kids who didn’t even have me as a teacher or even know me would hold the door for me, say excuse me and thank you. This behavior is across-the-board all races, and social-economic statuses. I am impressed that they seem to be treating me how they would want to be treated (Golden rule anyone?). I also noticed that as they mature they seem to care about their appearance. Most high school students look pretty “put-together” and not looking like they rolled out of a dumpster somewhere like I feel like we looked like sometimes when I was in high school. Granted there is a bikeresque look to some of the students who have as much ink as any respectable prison gang-leader but at least their clothes match, and doesn’t look like it was balled up in the corner of their room recently.
Myth number 4: Teenagers are dishonest
At the end of nearly every day, the office is calling over the public address system for someone to come claim lost items that have been turned into the office. It is not surprising to me that some things are turned in by honest students but what surprises me is the number and cash value of the items that are turned in. No one would notice a student bending and picking up a phone they found on the ground and passing it off as their own. The real shocker is cash that is found and then turned in to the office. Teenagers are motivated by sleep, food, friends and money (not necessarily in that order). I am so impressed at the character of the teenagers at my school that turn in items that don’t belong to them. Despite the fact that nobody would know if they didn’t do the right thing, they do the right thing.
Magazine, newspaper, and internet articles are filled with what is wrong with our nation’s youth and highlight the mistakes they make. I maintain there is more that is good with our youth than bad. Teenager’s hear adults telling them how disappointing they are or how they “aren’t doing it right”. Sometimes they forget that our teen years are about figuring out what works and doesn’t work. So the next time you feel compelled to criticize teens just remember some of us aren’t done growing up.
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