They say that teaching is like parenting. You guide young lives at the start when they can hardly stand. Then little by little you let go of their hands because you’re certain they can take care of themselves by then. Isn’t it a wonder how sometimes the role gets reversed? We end up learning or being looked after by people we’re supposed to care for and teach. J Just when you thought you know what you’re doing, someone will come to you and tell you “Look, this is how you do it.”
I’ve been working with little children for a long time. And it’s something I consider pure fun. Time flies when spent with them. There’s never a dull moment. I know I’m at my best. I know what words to say and what stories to share. So when I started working on the ship and was asked to work with very young kids I was delighted. But then after some time I realized I have to make adjustments because I also need to work with teens, which for me a scary part. Yeah a bit frightening. Something I’ve never done before. I’m certain they can be much of a rebel. They can be pushy. They can go out of their way to get what they want. They can size you up and test your authority. Talk about power struggle. They can do crazy things just to appear cool to their friends. On the other side they are just too fragile for me like those cute babies loving moms carry. Little kids in big bodies that’s what they are. Still looking for their identities, still searching for some parts of themselves.
Surprisingly during my month long stint in HQ and HQ+, I must admit I had the best time. And this is in total contrast to how I felt the first time I worked with teens in my previous contract. I was so afraid then. I guess it helped that now I am more open to try new things. Truly, things become more exciting in the absence of fear. Of course it didn’t happen instantly. It took a while for me to warm up. But in the end, I learned many important things. This time around, they’re the ones teaching. So thumbs up to them for doing a great job! 🙂
How to work with teenagers on board??? For sanity and for future reference, I came up with this list.
- Treat them like a friend. Tell them stories. Listen intently when they share their own. Ask them how they are, what they do, what they feel. Don’t boss them around. Don’t make them feel inferior. Don’t threaten them.
- Set boundaries. Make the rules clear. You stick to them no matter what even though you’re friends. You don’t blur the line. Doing otherwise can be risky.
- Be confident and comfortable. Don’t make them feel you’re afraid. They will smell your fear and they will feed on that. They will test you again and again and wait for you to make mistakes so you can fit the image they have of you in their heads. If you don’t know what you’re doing don’t play smart. Admit it and they’ll be happy to help you out.
- Talk to them right away when they misbehave but do it discreetly. Never embarrass them in front of their peers. They don’t want their cool image shattered. Sort things out together. Talk like two grown-ups. 🙂
- Find ways to make them meet new friends. Come up with activities that will make them get to know each other. It would be nice to be surrounded by young people having the time of their lives.
- Remember their names so they will never forget yours. Greet them whenever you have the chance. Make them feel welcome.
- Listen to their music. Sing the songs they sing. Never mind if you’re out of tune. Dance with them when they party. Show them you, too are having fun.
- Play with them. It can be a quick game of Foosball or air hockey. Maybe board games, Wii or PS3. You have to get involved. You don’t just stay in one corner and watch them do their thing. They will welcome you when you show interest in the things they do.
- Make them feel important. Be appreciative of the things they do and the little achievements they accomplish. It can be in dancing, singing, magic tricks, telling jokes, doing arts and crafts or simply helping you clean up when the day is over. Also, show them you care. Don’t be afraid to tell them you’ll miss them when they say goodbye.
- Take pictures. Make tangible memories of fun with them. Let them in to your life. This way, they will let you in theirs, too. 🙂
More than all of these (which I think will really help me as an educator and future parent), these kids also taught me important lessons on a personal level. While quietly yet happily looking at them from the background I learned to make the most of the time you have at hand. To break the ice and to loosen up. To be crazy. To embarrass oneself. To be not perfect and just be cool with it. To laugh out loud. To find interest in other people’s stories. To play and to give your best shot. To take a chance on love. To argue and to make up. To do nothing and just chill out. To be here today and to have fun. “To suck the joy out of life.”
Many thanks to all the teens from PD1301 to PD1304. I will miss hanging out with you till midnight. 🙂