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Monday, November 7, 2011

That's the Way It Must Be

Given the numerous visitors to my latest post "Keep Going, Don't Despair" (I give thanks to all of you), I feel motivated to continue sharing my 25 year experience as a teacher. I noticed as I grew older and as I became a grandfather that we tend to forget how we behaved as children and as teenagers. My mother, 94 year-old, reminded me that as a teen I often stayed in bed till 11:00 o'clock on Saturdays, a lazy memory I had conveniently forgotten. My own grandchildren often keep me on my toes as they behave the way happy teens do: They experiment, they investigate, they want new adventures (while I enjoy my cozy fireplace), they explore and taste life to the fullest. Yes, they make mistakes, yes, they act foolishly sometimes; heck, they even get into fights with each other, they scrape their knees when falling off the skateboard or climbing trees, scaring their mothers, but that's the way it must be.

Connecting with a child or a teen, actually it's more difficult after puberty sets in, represents a challenge for us older adults. They see the world with different eyes as their growing years have been filled with television, movies, videos, and documentaries. They are truly the visual generation, whereas parents and teachers over 40 tend to be more auditive and reflexive. We were reading books and pulp magazines; today they watch shows and play video games. We were listening to songs; today they watch the video of the song. When we marvelled at the prospect of going to the moon, today's blase youngsters ask why not go to the next galaxy. We wrote on a typewriter, cussing the ribbon that ran out of ink; they flash their fingers on an electronic keyboard and instantly send the message. It is as if a more advanced civilization had suddenly invaded the Earth to teach us, primitive humans (you and me), how to enter the age of modern communications.

My father didn't want me to go to college; he used to say with great conviction that books do not teach us how to live in the real world. I went anyway, as soon as I became independent, because I recognized the fallacy of his argument. Books reflect reality as they are written by men and women who want to transmit their own experiences and mistakes. Without books, we would live as nomads on the prairie chasing buffaloes.

Communicating with teens requires a lot of patience, a good sense of humor, and a genuine interest in their goals and interests. It is also essential to show respect for their ideas, however irrational they may appear; some of the no-nos include:

1)    Laughing at their misadventures with the other sex
2)    Yelling  at them to finish whatever task you gave them
3)    Revealing their "secrets" to other adults or teens
4)   Telling them that they will never succeed
5)   Heaping ridicule upon their ambitions
6)   Forcing them to do anything
7)   Not listening carefully when they talk to you in private
8)   Not keeping promises
9)   Favoring one sibling over another
10) Beginning a sentence with :"In my days.."

Adolescents go through phases as they progress toward adulthood; a teacher or a parent must be aware of the changes so as to know what can be expected and what not. Not all teens mature at the same pace, especially boys. The acquisition of complex abstract thinking takes place between the ages of 14 and 18. When the youngster starts asking questions about the meaning of life, you know that he or she is ready to talk about the most important aspects of  human development on this Earth. If you cannot answer those questions, get somebody who can, as young minds can easily stray from the right path by seeking answers from the wrong people.

Most important "Do's":

1)   Answer all questions or tell the teen that you will find a solution (and do it)
2)   Watch carefully for any sudden change in behavior; it may indicate the use of drugs or alcohol
3)   Make sure you are always available as a teacher and parent; it may be something urgent
4)   Study carefully their body language; it may tell you much more than their words
5)   Be frank and honest; they spot "phoniness" immediately and clam up
6)   Admit your mistake if there is one; you will impress them as a teacher or parent
7)   Become their friend but not their buddy
8)   Demand respect at all times
9)   Model the behavior you expect from them
10) Use democratic strategies in the classroom and at home; they will feel that their opinion is important

More than ever we must connect to the younger generations; the present conditions in the world augur a vast change in all areas of human endeavor and our children and students must be ready to face it when their time comes.


Anonymous said...

Why do we neglect parenting? The truth is most adults have no idea how to educate their kids and Jacques shows us how.

Elena said...

Once again you have demonstrated to us all that parenting is an ongoing process. When we marry and have children we bring with us both the good and the bad of our upbringing shedding the bad and molding the good to our own unique situation. Parenting is a 24hr, 365days a year job requiring loads of patience,unconditional love, tons of insight and indepth wisdom, oncall 24hrs each and every day. If you think this unreasonable may I suggest, NOT having children as children are only as good as their parenting was. Children are a joy and so full of honest wonder, I personally feel the best time of my life has been the well spent time being a parent and so enjoy reaping what was sown! Our children need someone leading by example and believe me when I say it is not for the weak of heart and just like our children make mistakes, so do we, however, a true parent knows when to apologize and how much the after hug means to their child. Children are precious gifts, worth their weight in gold!