As a teacher, I consistently run into people who assume that I only work with high school, middle school or college age students out of duress. The looks I get when I assure them that I enjoy students in Middle School through College are pretty priceless. It’s as though I’ve suddenly grown a third eye or sprouted a horn out of my forehead. And then I simply compound the issue by telling the person that I find it laborious to work with students below about 5th grade. It’s not that I don’t enjoy one-on-one time with younger kids – I adored that time with my own four children and continue to do so with the niece and nephews- but large groups of students in the early elementary age-group is absolutely exhausting for me whereas large groups of students from middle school up is exhilarating!
What truly breaks my heart is the fact that it’s almost unacceptable for me to say that I do not necessarily enjoy working with classrooms full of elementary students. But when people say that they don’t enjoy working with teens or pre-teens, that’s completely understandable. Why is that? Do teens need less encouragement or support from the adults around them? Definitely not. Are they challenging to deal with? Absolutely!! They are starting to develop the ability to voice opinions that differ from the adults they know and they aren’t always polite when doing so.
My experience has proven time and time again that teenagers not only enjoy meeting challenges, they also love to hear that the adults who work with them -teachers, coaches, directors in performing arts activities, etc. – are proud of the work they’ve done. And let’s be honest – their age and physical ability make them capable of more complex activities than their elementary counterparts.
Truth be told, I have a deep respect and admiration for teachers who work with elementary age students (mostly because I have absolutely no idea how they do it!). As for me, I will continue to enjoy working with teenagers. I will continue to set the bar high for them and let them know just how crazy proud I am when they exceed my expectations. If I can convince just one teenager that there is an adult that cares about them, I will consider my life a success.