I admit that I don’t have a lot of experience in the real world. By that I mean the world where people go to work in an office or a store or a job site of some sort. I have no idea what it’s like to work all day with other grown-ups, having grown-up conversations about grown-up things.
I was a stay-at-home mom for 14 years (which believe me is a completely different world), and now I am a high school teacher. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, and I love being a teacher. Both jobs come with a lot of perks, but they both involve certain job hazards too.
When it comes to working with teenagers, most people assume that the tough part is their their know-it-all attitudes or their rebellious natures. Psssshhhht! That stuff is easy. There are clear ways of dealing with blatant misbehavior. The real difficulties when it comes to working with adolescents are much more subtle and much trickier.
7 Lame Things About Teaching Teenagers
1. You start to sound like them.
I don’t know when it started, but I frequently call my husband dude. I told my daughter that my night out with my friends was lit – even though it was really just a very nice time. I do everything like a boss. I rarely refer to anything as cool anymore but rather as swag or worse, super swag. And last week, much to my shame, some of my students overheard me tell another teacher that her outfit was on point. Even though the kids weren’t facing me, I could feel them rolling their eyes.
2. You never know if they are secretly saying something naughty.
While it’s true that I am way too up on current slang for my own good, the teenage dialect is an ever-changing thing. I can never really keep up. And kids delight is getting away with things – especially in a way that makes their unsuspecting (okay, I suspect) teacher look silly. So, when I ask my students what they did over the summer and one of them says, “I went camping,” I am forced to wonder if the giggles from his classmates are because “camping” is the newest code word for something else – drugs, sex, bingeing on video games. Who knows?
3. You never know if you are accidentally saying something naughty.
Trust me. Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it’s okay to repeat it – no matter how innocent or fun it sounds. Don’t believe me? Just tell your kids that you and your husband are going to Netflix and chill this weekend and see how they react. Also, AF does not stand for Absolutely Fabulous.
4. You question every fashion choice.
Teenagers are brutal critics. And the last thing you want is to be the feature character in some cruel meme that they will undoubtedly create using a photo they found of you on the internet wearing a Barry Manilow t-shirt and skinny jeans. I mean, I can only assume that would be awful. On an unrelated note, when you work with teenagers, it’s important to be sure that all your social media account settings are private.
5. You get horrid pop songs stuck in your head.
It never fails. You’re going about your business, having a perfectly lovely day, when all of a sudden you realize that you’ve been singing Into You by Arianna Grande for the last half hour – which by the way, is not a secretly naughty song.
6. You find yourself saying, “When I was your age…” way too much.
You might be right. Maybe things were better back then. We didn’t require constant entertainment. We knew how to wait for things. We knew the value of a dollar and hard work and talking to people face to face. But it doesn’t matter, because the second you say, “When I was your age…”, you lose them. Teenagers can never imagine that you were ever their age. And even if you were, things were so much different waaaayyyyy back then that your stories are completely irrelevant. Saying “When I was your age… “ is definitely not swag.
[More on what a neuroscientist and mom knows about teen brains here.]
7. You don’t know whether to baby them or tell them to grow up.
This is the paradox of the not-quite children, not-quite-grown-up people known as teenagers. One minute you just want to wrap them up in a fuzzy blanket and give them cookies and milk. You want to make things easy and fun – because after all, they’re just kids. But the next minute you can’t believe how immature and irresponsible they are, and you want to jerk a knot in their tails because this crap just won’t cut it in the real world. And if they don’t grow up and get it together they are in for a tough road ahead. It’s exhausting. Caring about not-quite-children, not-quite-grown-up people is utterly exhausting.
Of course, even with the exhaustion, the pop songs, the questionable vocabulary, and the constant fear of becoming a meme, working with teenagers is worth it. I like to think they keep me young. My mirror and stiff joints say otherwise, but I like to think it. I also like to think I’m making a difference in their lives too. They frustrate the heck out of me, but for the most part I get them. They aren’t children anymore. But they aren’t quite grown-up – which means they still need a little babying and a little tough love now and then, and I’m happy to give both – like a boss.
Want to Help Your High School Kid? One Teacher Shows How
High School Stress: What This Mom and Teacher Sees
More by Laura Catherine Hanby Hudgens:
Missing My Babies: 5 Things That Surprise Me Most
Playdates for Moms: I’ll Mix Cocktails, You Bring Back 2004
Teenagers: I Want to Remember These Last Times