There are moments as a teacher when you feel that you have strayed from your plans for the class. Class conflicts, poor marks and brutal work habits are some of the ways that we recognize our struggle with how to move a class forward in their learning.
Specifically, teenagers are a difficult age to crack and maintain a good rapport with. And when you find yourself already off to a rocky start, hope it seems is your solitary comfort. In the past, when I have felt that I am losing a group, I would surprise them with an act of kindness...
Spend an entire class putting curriculum aside and find out what they're interested in. Ask them favorite movies, television shows, bands, video games, tech. devices. When they see that you are willing to put them ahead of the learning (even if just for a class period), you will gain respect as a person - not just someone doing their job.
Take what they tell you and find a way to turn it into an independent project, unit or at least a lesson focus. They will appreciate having input into their learning and want to engage more in the process of it - especially since it will be driven by THEM - not just your curriculum documents.
I hope anyone reading this (especially those who teach teenagers) find this helpful. I have a soft spot for teaching adolescents having taught them for 9 years. It is a daunting task, but so rewarding when you break through and cause meaningful change and guidance for them.
They put up walls that you don't expect, do everything in their power to hide the cracks from you, and yet, if you can find a way in, they will be awed by your interest and resilience. Teenager brains are wired to become unwired and unpredictable. They don't know why, but they crave and seek out conflict in a way that is hard not to take personally.
When all is said and done, teenagers are the most vulnerable and important age group some of us will ever teach. They need strong role models and purposeful guidance in making their life decisions - often far before they plan to or are prepared to. Be cautious, but don't show fear. They admire confidence and appreciate honesty. As such, your strength as an educator should be your best tool for success.
This post was inspired by a reader question from an article I wrote for suite101.com entitled, "Expert Teachers in the Classroom: Part 1 (The Knowledge).