I am a high school teacher. A coach. And a fellow parent. So that makes me kind of a big deal when it comes teenagers. Here are a few things we teachers want you to know.
1. Teachers are not omniscient.
Teachers might know fancy words like omniscient, but by all means, we do not know everything.
I had a parent once barrage me during a fire drill. She came up to me in a fury and asked if I was the cross country coach. I smiled and politely replied, “Yes, aren’t you so and so’s mom?” She came back with, “Did you know that the cross country boys are trying to sleep with all the freshmen girls?” I gasped (slightly in mock indignation), “No, I didn’t.” She retorted, “Well, maybe you should keep an eye on it,” and exasperatedly threw her hands up and stormed off as I was opening my mouth to glean more information. I was flabbergasted.
Let’s look at the facts briefly.
· Cross country ended in October. It was January. I hadn’t been with the team since our banquet in November.
· I am a teacher, not a private investigator.
Teachers are busy with mounds of grading, lesson planning, classroom management, extra duties, mentoring, and meetings, to name a few. We don’t exactly have time to run intel on the cross country team’s sex lives or to launch a full out investigation on fornicating freshmen.
Parents, throw us a bone here. We can’t possibly know everything. If you hear something, let us know. Don’t throw a tizzy just because we don’t have access to all the information. It’s not like the boys on the team are clamoring to tell us their plans to screw around. We truly care about the well being of all students, but we can’t possibly know every finite detail of their social and emotional lives. We can’t know about every bullying situation. Every cheating incident. Every fight. Every romantic pair that takes place in the entire school. Not possible, so work with us here please, which brings me to my next point.
2. Teachers can’t solve everything.
If these hormone-driven teens are not physically and mentally manipulating young girls into having sex with them, what more is there for me to do than give them a slap on the wrist and say, “Stop being foolish, boys.” I am not waging an all-out war on stopping teenagers from wanting to have sex. Sure, parents and teachers together can teach about peer pressure, saying no, being respectful, consent, appropriate behavior, and all that good stuff, but we cannot solve every little thing that pops up in these students’ lives.
Other things we cannot solve:
· Getting your child to come to school.
· Making sure your child doesn’t hear bad language.
· Fixing an argument between your child and her friend.
· Controlling who your child hangs out with.
· Assuring that the boy your child is dating doesn’t break her heart.
Solving arguments, getting hurt, and learning from mistakes are all part of life. They build grit and character. If teachers stepped in and fixed every problem your children ever have had, your children would never learn to overcome adversary. High school is just as much about academics as it is about preparing for the real world. I’ll be waiting for my thank you card in the mail.
3. Allow Your Children to Be Bored.
When I was growing up, sometimes I would whine to my mom, “I’m borrrrreeeedddd. What can I do?” She would reply, “Dance the boogaloo.” That was her way of saying, “I don’t know. Figure it out.” After that and to this day I’m rarely bored. Why? Boredom cultivates creativity. It fosters imagination. It nourishes patience. Great ideas stem from boredom.
Some students come in expecting teachers to do a song and dance day in and day out. And I have done that and sometimes that isn’t enough. Parents, if you are providing entertainment for your children all throughout the day, they are not going to be able to cope with anything less than an action-packed, in your face, lots of lights and stimulation kind of day. They won’t learn. They will blame it on the teacher and the class. “It’s so boring.” They will pull out their phones and succumb to Tik Tok videos and Snapchatting mind-numbingly unordinary things, adding more mediocracy to their already mediocre lives.
I once told a group of promising students the blunt truth. At the end of your life do you really want to be known for never breaking your streaks with a friend? “Here lies Allie. She spent x number hours on her phone. She passed her time Snapchatting, texting emojis to her friends, and watching random people film themselves sitting in class with the caption, “Yo, fam, we out here so bored in ms. smith’s class. Hmu.” No, you don’t want that? Ok, then allow yourself to be bored and pay attention.
4. Teach Them Resilience
We live in an age where technology has made a lot of things much easier and faster, which I think is great. However, it might have killed a few brain cells on the way. I have had Honor students look me dead in the eye and say that they didn’t let me know they wouldn’t be at practice because they didn’t have my e-mail. “Oh no problem, Matthew, I fully accept this excuse. But wait, I just checked the calendar and it’s 2020, not 1920. The school website has my email, there is Facebook Messenger, Remind 101, GroupMe, you could have asked someone, or you could have told me to my face when you passed me in the hallway. So go run ten laps for thinking I was that dense.”
Parents, don’t allow your children to give up so easily. If Plan A didn’t work, try Plan B or C or D. No need for you to hand us a dissertation with bullet points on why your daughter couldn’t complete her homework.
Resilience, people, resilience.
5. Let Your Children Do Things On Their Own
Finally, let your children be the ones that email teachers with questions, talk to us face-to-face about concerns, respond to deadlines themselves, and handle adversaries on their own.
I’m looking at you, Karen. Step away from that laptop, delete that email, slow your roll, and let teenagers do it themselves.
You’re welcome, parents.
My name is Lauren, and I was born in New Jersey, grew up in West Virginia, went to college in Pennsylvania, and now live and work in North Carolina. I’m a high school teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, and a writer by night. I love my faith, running, watching baseball, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending I would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, inspiring young minds, and as of recently moming it!