Monday, June 27, 2011

Teething Toddler Tantrums - Kids Are So Immature

Summer is slowly ticking away and I look forward to school starting in the fall. In August, I will be starting my Master’s Degree in Teaching. I have no clue what to expect, but am excited to get started. I will also be substitute teaching in the public school system. However, I have some concerns.

When I am finished with my schooling, I will be a high school teacher. I relate better with teenagers than younger kids. I have done youth ministry for many years and almost always work with the high school youth.  I occasionally venture into the junior high crowd, but not often.  I have a real problem working with younger children.

I was reminded of this two weeks ago when our church had VBS. Due to my work schedule, I could not be there the entire week. I was only available for two days.  Because of this, I could not get plugged in early and pick the job I would like to do, which is usually to take pictures of the event. I told Mandy, the coordinator, what nights I would be there and she could stick me wherever help was needed. 

On the first night that I was available, Mandy sent me to work with the 2 and 3 year olds. I was not excited about this assignment, but it was where they were short-handed for the night. Luckily, I was just there to help and not actually lead anything.  Give me a group of small children and I can keep them entertained for about 30 minutes, but nothing constructive will happen. I have no idea how people can teach a group of small children. It just does not work for me. We spent most of the evening coloring, cleaning up messes, and holding the ones that started crying.

Kids really seem to like me, but I have no idea why. Most of them I am simply tolerating until my time is up. Every now and then, there will be certain children I enjoy, but generally, I am not a fan. I even feel this way about babies.

I know most people just go ga-ga over a baby, but not me. I never have. Every time one of my friends has a baby, eventually they ask, “Would you like to hold him?”  I politely decline, and they say, “It’s alright. Here,” and then hand him to me anyway.  I know it’s alright. That is why they asked me to begin with. They had already approved the action before they asked. However, since I said no, I had not. Somehow, I always end up with the baby anyway. So, I bounce and sway and look at it until it starts to cry and then hand it back, grateful that we got that part out of the way.

It's OK. Barney scares me too.
I also do not believe that babies are very cute. They usually have splotchy skin, mis-shapen heads, and smell funny. They cry and sleep and poop. I do not see the fascination. As they get a little older and I can play with them, they begin to get a little more interesting, but even then, it has it’s limits. It is empowering to be thought of as the coolest person on earth because I can bounce a ball against the wall and catch it again. I feel so superior when I successfully roll a ball to a toddler but he cannot get it back to me with the same dexterity. However, sooner or later, he will cry for no apparent reason or fill his pants with putrid sludge. Since, I am very careful to never be left alone with small children, when these problems arise, I can easily escape responsibility for fixing it.

Dealing with older kids is a much different story. I have some sort of connection with teenagers I have never been able to understand. I like kids that age and they seem to like me. When I had my own business, it became a hangout for many of the local teens. When I was the pastor at Bakerville, many of the teens in the church would drop by my house, just to ‘hang out.’ I had no problem with that, I just couldn't understand the draw.

My favorite part about teenagers is the fact that you can talk to them.  By that, I mean have real conversations. They have been in the world long enough and their intellect has developed to the point that they can make meaningful observations about the world around them.  They have opinions and can usually explain them. However, they still need guidance, but do not just want someone to simply tell them what they need to do or think. They can appreciate the discussion and reasons behind why something is done a certain way. I remember being a teenager and thinking I had the world figured out, but I was still seeking answers and there were not a lot of adults who would really talk to me.

At my shop about two years ago, one of my co-workers was commenting to a customer about the number of teens that had started coming to the shop since I started working there. The customer asked me why teens seem to gravitate to me and I told him I had no idea. I really didn’t. I had asked myself that question many times. However, one of those teens was sitting in the room and she blurted out, “I know why.” My ears immediately perked up. I wanted to know this as well.  She told us, “It’s simple. You talk to us.” I pointed out that I can't be the only adult that talks to her.  She said that other adults simply acknowledge her and a few might try to make small talk, but none of them really seem interested in what she has to say.  She said, “You actually talk to me and then listen to me. We have real conversations about important stuff.”

I had to think about this for a long time. The concept is so simple. I screw up a lot of things in my life, but this is one that just comes naturally to me. I pay attention to teenagers because I like them. I enjoy talking to them. I like going to video game parties and just acting goofy. Maybe it is because I have a teenage mindset. I don’t know, but I enjoy their company and being part of helping to shape their minds as they are growing into adulthood. As a teenager, I sought out those adults who would truly listen and I had the privilege of growing up to be one of those adults.

I am really looking forward to completing my degree and then getting to be in the classroom every day sharing in their lives and helping to prepare them for the world outside. The high school years are a very important time in a person’s life. It is during the teenage years that they are forming what type of person they are going to be. Loyalty to friends, work ethic, outlook on life and various other qualities are formed during this period. I revel in getting to be a part of it.

During the education process I will have to do assigned field experience. I do not get to pick the age group for these assignments and am quite nervous about having to interact with small children for a grade, but I will push through. In the end, I will get to do what I love the most: teach and work with teens. Plus, I will have summers off.

12 comments:

  1. Always a laugh! The older I get the less patience I have for children. This includes my own! :)

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  2. Something happens as we get older. I think they have gotten louder.

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  3. I am so glad that you are going to be a teacher Brett. Honestly, I knew you were going to school, but I didn't realize that this is what you were planning to do. And I really think this is wonderful! Teens are definitely drawn to you. I was when you were leading youth group. I remember being sooo upset when you announced that you were going to Lincoln because I knew that you wouldn't be around anymore. Parents will be glad to have a teacher who actually cares about their kids and the people they are going to be rather than someone who took the job for conveniences only. You'll do great things as a teacher! :)

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  4. Funny post, Brett! And honest. My husband and I will start a family one day, but being an only child, I never understood the concept of raising a big brood of them, lol.

    I am a substitute teacher, and my favorite days are when I get to sub in a high school. By this time, the students are old enough to distinguish between talking and yelling, and they do the work that you assign them. Best of all, they can go to the bathroom by themselves! Whenever I sub for elementary schools, I deal with the exact opposite.

    Best wishes for your teaching career. Keep us posted.

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  5. I think I've only talked to you once, and there were about 8 other people involved in that conversation, but you actually listened to us. You cared about what a group of teens had to say. We're not used to that. It was a nice change.

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  6. Brandi Palmer, thank you for the support an encouragement. I wish I had figured this out years ago.

    To my other Brandi, I totally agree on the bathroom thing. I know it is a natural thing, but when it is not my kid, it is really weird for me. A while a teenager can be much more trouble when they intend to be, I still find them much easier to deal with.

    Jessica Ames, could you please remind me where we met? I am glad that I left a good impression, but am not sure if you are the Jessica that I am thinking of.

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  7. We chatted on the last Wednesday night of church at FCC Moweaqua. You showed a group of us a pic of Hitler the spider on my phone and you also scared me with your snake one night while I was with Stefan.

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  8. I remember now. I never got your last name, so I was thinking of a different Jessica. Thank you and give Stefan a hard time today from me.

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  9. Well...even though I'm over 30, many people are still waiting for me to "grow up"...which makes me a pseudo-teen....AND I'VE ALWAYS LIKED YA! :D

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  10. Ian, I've always like you too. I enjoy seeing the youth I've worked with grow up. You've done well. I guess I still like you.

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  11. Wow. So. Alike.
    Babies are pointless. I've had fun with young kids, but I prefer Jr. High. I've taught both high school and middle school Sunday School classes, and the high school kids are little more concerned with being cool. Middle school kids have more questions and don't seem afraid to ask.

    Actually, in my current class they seem really really grateful that I let them ask whatever questions they have, and will find an answer if I don't know!

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    1. The similarities are piling up, aren't they. Not many women hold the same opinion of babies as I do.

      I love teaching and have taught jr high, sr high and several adult classes. I don't know why I didn't pursue this career path sooner.

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