As an effort to increase my experience past just elementary aged students I decided to enroll in a class on adolescent development this quarter. To me, adolescents are such a misunderstood group of students however it’s so interesting to me that so many adults feel that way, knowing that at one point in their lives, they too were an adolescent. We all have first hand experience being an adolescent, we can remember how we felt and what mattered to us, yet we seem so confused by these students.
I work at a middle school two days a week in two different seventh grade classrooms and have seen such a variety of students. I see the kids who really love school but pretend its “lame” to fit in with their friends, the ones who seemed uninterested in learning and always ask off-topic questions to see if they can get the teacher off task, the ones who are too afraid to ask for help so instead they goof off the entire time and pretend they don’t care and the ones who just want to fit in.
Today, I witnessed something very unusual – and truthfully, I hope to never see again. A male student found his way onto the top of the cafeteria roof and threatened to jump off. Students crowded around to see what was going on… Some students started crying when they realized it was a friend, some were sad they didn’t have their phones with them so they could film what was happening, while others wanted to stay and watch “in case he decided to jump”.
Many emotions ran through my mind and the first being of sadness and confusion. When did it become okay to treat people with disrespect and make them feel as though they were not worth it? We live in a world where people, who would be too coward to be rude to someone face-to-face can now hide behind cameras, cell phones and computer screens and intentionally harm another human being.
For me, I have learned to love the differences in people – mainly because if we lived in a world where everyone was the same it would be very boring. I have been put in situations where I have had to work with others whom I have had nothing in common with, like school projects, or workplace teams. Nothing in common that is, other than the fact that we are all humans and we want to be treated with respect. I have never met a person that told me they wished that people would be mean to them, or to tell them that they didn’t care if they lived or died.
As an educator, today changed me. Today was a reminder to me that there needs to be more times where adults teach children and other adults for that matter, to have respect for one another. We need to live in a world where people have differing opinions because that is what instills the desire for change. We do not need to live in a world where people feel that something as simple as how someone dresses, or what they believe in is cause for making them feel as though they are not of value.
If you do nothing else today, smile at someone. We never really know what people are going through. Whether someone is thirteen years old or thirty we never really know what they are battling or going through. Specifically, as a teacher we all have the opportunity to change the lives of our students and make sure that every student who walks through the doors of our classrooms knows that someone is happy that they are present.