As my first month as a full-time High School Special Education English Teacher comes to an end, I wanted to reflect for a moment about all the things that no one tells you about when you are studying to be a teacher. These are things that I’ve encountered since school started and they have been challenging.
You will deal with teen pregnancy (I should have assumed that, but I didn’t expect it to hit me as it has). One of my students is going to be a dad. He’s excited and seems to have changed his life because of it. But how do you balance that he is still in high school? How do you support him without “approving” of his actions? And what the heck do you say when he proudly shows you pictures of the ultrasound and tells you he’s having a boy?
Teenagers can be angry – very angry. The venom in the writing of one of my students shocked me. On the outside, this students appears fairly happy. And at what point do you worry?
Students are coming out before they are able to drive. I have one student who wrote about coming out in his writing assessment. I don’t remember knowing so much about myself at age 14. Ok, I knew I wasn’t gay, but I didn’t know much more than that. Some of my students are VERY secure in who they are as gay men (I haven’t had any girls come out – but David told me that he has friends who have identified themselves as bi-sexual and lesbian). I was NEVER instructed how to handle these things in the classroom! So, what do you do when students are writing alternative words for “like” on the board and one of them writes “queer?” And does it matter that the student who wrote it is gay? If it isn’t offensive to him, should it be to me?
Honestly, I can’t even believe that I wrote that sentence! I handled this by discussing the word “queer” and asking another student his opinion of the word and would he be offended if someone said he was queer. Then I explained the connotation I had about the word and what it meant when I was in High School.
Teenage girls don’t understand the messages they send when they flaunt their bodies. They don’t understand that they are disrespecting themselves when they show too much. For example, when a young woman wears very short shorts and bends over…and I see more than I want to see (a crease between her thigh and you know where…) that she will attract unwanted attention. I am NOT saying that a girl deserves what she gets when she wears provocative clothing, but there are some things that are inappropriate wherever you are!
Students are not making adult connections the way they need to so that they can become successful adults. Many kids are on their own a lot of the time. They don’t have an adult to talk to (Mom and/or Dad is too busy) and the kids are lost. They don’t feel that their parents are there for them. I’ve had several students tell me that my boys are lucky that I am their mom; that they wish their parents cared that much for them.
Students are rude and disrespectful. I know that this has always been the case, but sometimes the kids don’t realize what they are saying (or doing) is disrespectful. They don’t understand why it is not alright to do certain things in a classroom that they can do other places. They don’t respect adults. They don’t know what their limits are and treat teachers as friends.
Some of my students will be arrested and go to jail. Some will attempt suicide. Some will be truant and jeopardize their own futures. And some will be sexually assaulted. I didn’t like being a teenager and hated high school, but I honestly believe that teenagers today have things harder than when I was a teen.
No one tells you that things are so tough for teenagers when you are studying to be a teacher. No one tells you of the true challenges you will face that have nothing to do with curriculum, assessment and education. They don’t prepare you for the time and energy that these things will take. And the heartache.
(Watch for Part 2 – The Joys)