Teenagers 101

What a Top Teacher Wishes You Knew About Helping Your Kid Succeed

 Teenagers 101

Author: Rebecca Deurlein
Pub Date: November 2014
Print Edition: $16.00
Print ISBN: 9780814434659
Page Count: 256
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434666

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There is a story I like to tell my students on the first day of school that perfectly describes why I love teenagers. Yes, I said it. I love teenagers. I realize that this makes me a bit of an anomaly, and I’m okay with that. I sympathize with how hard they are to understand, and I get how difficult they can be to work with. I know all about their mood swings and unpredictable behaviors and inexplicable decision-making skills. But maybe after my story, you’ll understand a little better why, despite all of that, I still have a profound appreciation for this misunderstood group.

Here’s my story: When I walk into a roomful of people for the first time, introductions are made, and the most likely next question is, “So what do you do for a living?”

I smile and respond, “I’m a teacher.”

Usually, the faces of the other people light up and they nod their heads appreciatively. “That’s great!” a few say, grins spreading across their faces. “What grade?”

Now, I know what’s coming next. It’s become a game to me, timing how long it will take before the other people’s demeanor changes to reflect the information I’m about to share.

“I teach high school kids,” I say, and I start counting.

Within seconds, eyes widen, faces fall, smiles turn into frowns, and heads shake. The responses vary—“Oh my gosh, how do you do that?” “You’re kidding? Why?” and in the South, “Oh, bless your heart”—but the sentiment remains constant: Why in the world would anyone want to do that job?

Remember, I tell this story to my students, and at this point, I have their rapt attention. Where is she going with this, they wonder? It’s the first day of school. Is she really going to tell us that everyone thinks we’re monsters?

I pause, and then I explain:

“The sad thing is that most people don’t understand you. They don’t get how awesome—and I mean that in the true sense of the word, as in ‘filled with awe’—it is to be in the presence of your age group. When I try to put my finger on it, I picture a teenager, straddling an invisible line. On one side of the line is adulthood. I have heard teenagers like you share the most profound, insightful thoughts that just blow me out of the water. I’ve seen you empty your pockets so that strangers can have Christmas toys for their children. I’ve watched you stand in line to give blood and go out of your way to help someone whose locker contents have just spilled into the hallway. I’ve been flabbergasted by thoughts you’ve shared that are wiser than anything I’ve ever heard another adult say.

“But on the other side of that line is childhood, and you still have one foot firmly planted there. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t make me laugh over something silly or ridiculous that you do or say. You are full of life, invincible (if only in your own minds), and still childlike enough to be full of wonder. In short, you are incredibly unique, and I love spending time with you every single day.”

I realize that this is an unusual take on our normal view of teenagers. Maybe it’s how I’ve managed to teach for so long and how I continue to love my job while so many other teachers drop like flies. But it doesn’t change the fact that you, and many, many other parents out there, try as you might, just don’t understand teenagers.

You picked up this book because there is at least some aspect of your children that stumps you, keeps you up at night, or drives you batty. And you’re not alone. The responses I’ve heard at countless functions over the years have proved to me that teenagers are an enigma to just about everyone, including themselves. Parents the world over are just like you—they want answers, not just to make their lives a little easier, but to help their kids grow into successful young adults. They want their home lives to be more peaceful, for daily activities to run more smoothly, and for their relationships with their teenagers to be closer, healthier, and more respectful. Believe me, you’re in good company, and you’ve come to the right place.

What makes me an expert on teenagers? I’ve been a high school teacher for seventeen years, which means that thousands of teens with their own sets of challenges have passed through my door. I’ve supervised, sponsored, motivated, or counseled thousands more. While you have experienced only the teenagers in your own home, I’ve experienced all manner of kids who were reared by parents with a wide range of philosophies and beliefs. I’ve seen what kinds of kids have gone on to great success and what kinds have floundered for years because of, in large part, how they were parented. I’ve recognized patterns of behaviors, warning signs of self-destruction, and body language and words that imply problems and concerns. I’ve pretty much seen it all, and I will share with you what I have witnessed and how my experiences can help you as parents.

Regardless of your unique situation and family dynamic, it’s likely that I’ve worked with children just like yours. I’ve taught in six schools, public and private, in four states; all grades; all socioeconomic backgrounds; all races and cultures; and all abilities, from special education to gifted and talented. My students, regardless of their situations, consistently earn the highest scores in the school on standardized tests in English, my subject area. This means that I find ways to motivate even those kids who seem unmotivatable. I have to. I’m a teacher. If I can do it with thirty kids in the classroom, you can do it with your own children, whom you know better than anyone. I’ll share tips and strategies that will give you some insight into your kids so that you can motivate them at an entirely new level.

In my role as a teacher, I’ve always believed in developing relationships with parents and communicating with them clearly. Partnerships are crucial. I am with your children eight hours a day and see them in an environment where you will never see them. I watch them interact with their peers, handle or not handle stress, make decisions, work or not work, take advantage of or pass on opportunities, and even lie and cheat when they’re afraid. I see how they act and speak when you’re not there to watch them. I am your eyes and ears when you can’t be there, and I have a lot to tell you about your kids. I will surprise you with their deeds—both good and bad—and help you to translate the information I share into better, more effective parenting practices.

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