Student versus Teenager

I was never them. I can’t relate.

I was looking online for something related to my school, and I came across a LiveJournal by a student (from my school way before I came). He writes sporadically about his senior year (sometimes writing from class)!

Some things he says:

  • I just did absolutely awful on my bio test and I am really disappointed in myself. Weinsieder just farted and I’m in Stats… this is great. Another wonderful beginning to a day in the best school on earth….
  • Last night was pretty fun now that I think about it. Smokin a fatty and then going to Wo Hop then the Knicks game, sounds like a decent night. The problem was… marijuana is not the drug for the Knicks game. I was about to pass out right in the seat.
  • F*** YOU… I can’t believe you. I can’t believe how you can ruin me in 2 minutes of conversation. I don’t know how you can live with yourself, with just killing me repeatedly… I can’t even describe how I feel and how much I want to punch something but I’m not going to, I don’t want any more scars on my hand and I don’t want any more scars period.
  • Weird a** night. Went to the party… threw up..drank a lot… broke my knuckle…went to Vegas on Smith St… met some girls… went to their crib…
  • I was just thinking about going to Europe and how it is going to be amazing. I hope I survive and don’t go to jail and don’t get poisoned. I’m going to be rebellious and get an ear-ring before I go. My parents can’t rip my ear off if I’m in another continent. I have also been thinking about prom and how I really hope it is somewhat okay.
  • Well hmm I dont know what to say. Today I did a lot of loitering, not knowing what to do with myself…. trying to pretend to sleep. I realized that I have to start playing basketball again because 2 years ago I was pretty good and now I can be better if I get my act together. School is wwwiiiiiiiiiiinddddinnnng down and I am getting more and more aburrido.
I’m a young teacher; it wasn’t so long since I was in high school. But clearly we only see a small fraction of our students’ lives. And reading this journal reminded me exactly of that fact. Even though it often feels like they are our jobs, and even though we see them almost every week day, and even though we’re with them for a year, they don’t see us proportionally. We’re just one small piece of something much larger. We’re just one part of a constellation of teachers, while there are other constellation — many constellations. Of friends, of family, of peers, of lots of things.  I started thinking more about this recently, but after reading these journal entries, I’m expanding how I have to think about them.
Back to the kid above. I started out by saying “I was never them” — which is true. I can’t relate to many of things this kid talked about. My life was incredibly different, and I’ll freely admit that. But what comes through in these posts is more than just the drinking, partying, and apathy.
And so I lied. Because I can relate. The emotion drips through in everything he writes — the ennui, or anger, or angst. The boredom. I remember the boredom.  He cares, when he’s trying to project he doesn’t. He thinks, he feels, he is a creature whose life is a series of contingencies, he is trying to figure out who the heck he is and what he’s all about.
And let’s be realistic: we’re only a (very) small part of that.
We matter, but only a small bit. We teachers see one small slice (50 minutes of class) of something really complex (a whole life). And I don’t think I ever really knew that until this very moment.
Will this affect how I teach? I don’t know yet. Because I’m not sure I teach to mold that young person. Dan Meyer asked this exact question a few weeks ago.
In what two ways will your male teenage students spend their free time and disposable cash this weekend? How much does it matter if you don’t know?
Right now all I’m prepared to say is that: the question has a totally different meaning to me now than it did a few hours ago.
With that said, I entreat edubloggers to go out there and find one or two livejournals written by teenagers similar to those that go to your school.
Note: I kept a livejournal in college; I might do a future post on that. Might.

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