R-E-S-P- you know the rest

One thing school teachers are discovering about teaching this current generation of students is that respect is no longer automatic for a teacher or other authority figure. Instead, respect is mutual-- when the teacher respects the students as human beings who bring unique skills and talents that can deepen the learning of everyone in the room, the students will respect the teacher as someone with greater knowledge and perspective. But it's a process.

One of the quickest ways to show disrespect for students is to discredit their experiences and remind them of all the ways they're going to change before they reach adulthood. Yes, that's going to happen. Years (often days or weeks) from now, those students will look back and laugh at the things they thought were important. But in that moment, each moment of what they're going through is life-changing.

So I propose that all youth ministers stop using the phrase "real world" when we talk about adult life. The distinction means nothing. The responsibilities our students have are just as real to them as bills, relationships, job stress and medical problems are to us.

Jim Hancock and Rich Van Pelt in their book "The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis" share the valuable insight that when crises first land in our laps, we have to remember that we are not allowed to define for any other person what qualifies as a crisis.

In the same way, we may not allow ourselves to define what is "real."

I'm on this track today because of Jim Burns' HomeWord program, titled "Real Life Begins After High School." It's a valuable program, and the guests' (Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz) book "Goodbye, High School: Hello, World" sounds like a great too, but both carry unfortunate titles that show a bit of bias against youths' experiences. Let's be more careful.

1 comment:

Esther said...

That's a really good point. Letting kids learn as they grow without patronizing them is a difficult problem to tackle. That argument makes a lot of sense. Yeah, you gotta just be there for people even if you think what they're going through is stupid.