Last week Amy and I went to the coast to see Humpback Whales. Just before we got on the boat our guide gave us the whole safety routine, then added one more piece that got me thinking. Basically he said, these are wild animals and we never know what they’re going to do, we can’t predict their behavior so they may be jumping or we may not see anything, it’s nature.
While we were motoring around looking for and watching whales I had a lot of time to think and I began connecting our guide’s warnings about wild animals to what we experience with teenagers on a regular basis. Many outsiders, those NOT in education, view these lovely young adults as wild animals. As I think about it, they’re not totally wrong!
Teens, the human variety, are capable of very high level thinking and processing. They are empathetic, sympathetic, and very resilient. Additionally, they are also full of hormones and are constantly changing. In that regard they could be looked at much like the Humpback Whales I was hoping to see jumping all around me – wild and unpredictable.
It would probably be a bit strange if I rallied all the teachers around each morning and reminded everyone about teenagers, “remember, these creatures are unpredictable…it’s nature, please be patient!” However, it wouldn’t be untrue. We’re dealing with some of the most diverse and rapidly changing brains in the world, no matter how well we think we know them nothing can be taken for granted.
The captain of our boat has been taking people on tours to watch whales for years now, he knows these waters and he has learned a lot about the movements of these massive mammals. In an attempt to understand the wild, teenage minds that we encounter each day we work to establish positive relationships with our students. By learning about their personalities we can better anticipate their learning styles and needs, much like the captain of our boat learning to anticipate the whales’ next move. We also have to remember that their brains are changing, each day may not guarantee the same interactions and behaviors as the last.
Keeping in mind that our kids are constantly changing is extremely important for the success of our young students. Just as there will be days when the whales jump and there will be days when they don’t, the same can be said of our students – there will be good days and bad. Also similar to the whales, we won’t ever know when these “jumping days” will happen for our students nor do we know when a bad day will strike. The whales don’t jump every day but that doesn’t mean the captains don’t take tour groups out to sea in an effort to see them. In the same spirit we must prepare to give every student the opportunity to “jump” each time we see them.
Creating the opportunity for kids to “jump” is what education is all about. It won’t happen if they’re not comfortable and prepared, nor is it something we can force. Each student is going to “jump” differently depending on a wide variety of factors. Be ready for anything from these wild young minds, create the opportunity, and enjoy the show!