Teenagers

I don’t like children.
Odd, since I’m a teacher, right?
Wrong.  
Children are impressionable creatures.  They need encouragement, kind words and patience.  They suck up all of your time, quite a bit of your money and must be monitored continually.  They’re needy.  They tell long and pointless stories about whatever the topic of the day may be and expect you to be fascinated by their babble.  They make messes, throw temper-tantrums, and generally act as if the world revolved around them.
Teenagers are not children.
“Wait,” you say.  “Teenagers are still impressionable creatures.  They need encouragement, kind words, and patience…”
Fair enough.  They may have a few things in common.  Perhaps my point would be better made by illustration.  Let’s break it down.


1.  Encouragement, kind words and patience.
One of my close friends teaches fourth grade.  Her idea of encouragement and mine are two very different things.
“Oh, sweetie!” she’ll exclaim as she bends over one of her student’s desks.  “You did such nice work!  I’m so proud of you!”  Predictably, the student in question grins happily as he/she continues coloring, practicing cursive or doing whatever it is one does in the fourth grade.
“Don’t pretend to be so cynical, Teach,” my friend tells me when I chuckle at her interactions with students.  “I’m sure you encourage your students, too.”
Heck yeah, I do.  It just looks a lot different.
“Holy crap, Blaine!” I’ll tell one of my favorite ADHD kids as he exits my room.  “You actually made it a complete fifty minutes without knocking over a single container of liquid!”  Predictably, Blaine gives me a high five, then inexplicably drop-kicks his Mountain Dew down the hallway as I pray that the top holds.  
“Nice kick, Blaine, but pull a stunt like that again and I’ll kill you.  If the custodian doesn’t first.”
Kind words and patience.  Check.


2.  Time, money and continual monitoring.
Children need clothes, food, and college savings funds.  Teenagers need bigger clothes, more food and are nearly in college.  
Kids color on walls and break their toys.  Teenagers punch holes in walls and crash cars.
Children grow up to be teenagers.  
I rest my case.


3.  Long and pointless stories
My nephew (one of the few children on this planet I adore because, of course, he is related to me) is the master of these.  This child can talk for ten to twelve hours straight, no exaggeration.  He was forming compound sentences at eighteen months.
“¡Tia! “ (He’s also a child genius who speaks Spanish and English fluently.  Nothing to do, I’m sure, with the fact he was raised in a bilingual household.)  “Did you see the Jungle Book?  Shere Khan is the bad tiger grrrrrr…. and then he roars and ok, you be scared and I’ll be Shere Khan and then we’ll pretend that I’m going to get you and you run away.  No!  Not like that.  You run away like this!  ”  Sometimes Shere Khan gets confused in my head with Batman.  Or maybe Star Wars…no, wait…I think it’s David and Goliath.  Beats me.  All I know is that his four-year old brain moves much faster than mine.  Teenagers are more my speed.
“¡Señora!” one of my senior girls shouts excitedly as she bangs in my room at lunch.  “So.  On the field trip yesterday right after Kendra gave Paul a hand job on the bus on the way to…”
“STOP!”  I roar.  
Is it a bad thing that I can deal with teenage hand job stories better than children’s imaginary fun-play?  I rather prefer to think of it as a gift.  Insert long talk about sex, responsibility, decision making. Legal issues.  Supportive hug, teacher admonishment, heads up to counselor and appropriate administrators for mess-cleaning duty.  No pun intended.  
Oops.  Encroached on next category.
4.  Messes, temper tantrums and center-of-the-universe syndrome.
Kids make the kind of messes where they throw up on something or track mud through the house.  Teenagers draw genitalia on desks.  Or, as in one particular case, on the shoulder of the student in front of him.
My non-negotiable stance:  yanking a kid out into the hall and embarrassing the the holy hell out of him by giving a lecture involving the repetitive (and anatomically correct) usage of the word “penis” is infinitely more entertaining than being on barf duty.
As for the temper tantrums and center-of-the-universe syndrome?  Easy. With teenagers all you have to say is, “Really?  You’re going to act like a child?”  It’s a very simple technique I like to call the “Almost an Adult But Not Really Though You Can Still Totally Use It To Guilt Them Into Not Being Obnoxious” move.  
So, nope.  No way.  Can’t handle tying tennis shoes and holding hands.  Can’t even begin to imagine what spending an entire day in a kindergarten classroom would be like.  You all, you wonderful elementary teachers, can have the pigtails and nose-picking.  I will happily take the short skirts and snotty attitudes and I will be totally fine when, at the end of the year, all I receive is a grudging “dude, Señora.  Your class totally wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
Because for an Almost Adult But Not Really, that’s pretty huge.

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