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.|
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.