Traveling with a crew of teenage girls can be a challenge. This year's camp crew consists of nine young ladies. So far we have had only one instance of tears, and those were really because I made an error in judgment. (Oops.) Don't worry, it'll be fixed soon.
You see, I forget what a fragile time high school is for many teenagers. I really shouldn't. I mean, aside from a four-year hiatus where I spread my wings as a college co-ed, I have spent the last twenty years in high school. (Aaak. No wonder there is something not quite right about me!) In becoming a teacher, I was given the strange opportunity to revisit those awkward years from a very different perspective. And for some reason I stuck with it. It agreed with me the second time around.
I often look at my girls and am amazed at their poise and confidence. I never had that. Or at least not to the extent they do. Many of them glide into a room certain of their belonging. Or they profess their worldviews with the absolute conviction of someone three times their age. I still feel ill qualified for such professions.
But then, there are those real moments when they go back to being confused, uncertain little girls. They wonder why they weren't named editors, or why a certain boy doesn't call them back, or they won't go to the cereal station alone because people will look at them and judge.
Obviously, there is a certain distance I keep from my students. But, on the other hand, I get very close to quite a few of them. Especially when I work with them outside of class. In the case of my yearbook and newspaper staff members, we travel together twice a year. We eat meals, explore our surroundings, plan adventures suitable for everyone, fly/train/drive for long periods of time, etc all together. The WHOLE time.
During those extended periods of time they drop their pretend selves (worldviews and confidence be gone) and turn into their real selves. Sometimes those selves are not so pleasant, and sometimes they are wonderfully sincere. Last night I saw Ellen's real self and she was so disappointed and was, well, crushed that I hadn't chosen her as an editor. The thing is, I wanted her to be one. I overlooked her because of her other obligations and assumed that because she hadn't approached me about editing, she didn't want the additional responsibility. Boy was I wrong. And I feel terrible.
But you know what, that wounded little girl came to me and asked me why. She had tears in her eyes and her chin was quivering. She sucked it up and approached the bag-bad-evil-advisor who crushed her. So brave!
Thinking back to my high school years, I am pretty certain that I wouldn't have had the guts to approach someone if my hopes had just been dashed. I would have curled up in a ball and cried. I would have pulled into myself and been sullen and hurt. My point is that I'm pretty proud of Ellen.
Overall, I'm pretty proud of all of my girls. I'm always a little surprised and pleased at their behavior and manners. I guess that's why I'm still teaching and advising. They make it fun, and more importantly they make me hopeful for the future. We need more Ellens in the world. Even if she won't go to the cereal bar alone. Baby steps, right?
Why am I just mentioning the girls? Honestly, I didn't have boys figured out when I was a teenager, and things haven't changed too much. While they do some great and amazing things, for the most part they still don't care that their feet stink or who hears them burp. That, and I don't have any boys on the trip with me. :)
Are you one of those adults who just dislikes/distrusts teenagers? Or, have you had a really great, uplifting experience that gives you hope too? Anyone out there brave enough to go to the movies alone? (Because I think that is the adult version of the college cereal bar.)