A friend and former colleague invited me along to chaperone a field trip on Thursday. I jumped at the chance. For one thing, it got me out of the office and still allowed me to support science education and student learning. Secondly, I do miss being around teens and many of those on the trip are ones who were in my own classes over the last two years. They are seniors now and I was excited to hear all of their post-high school plans. I had a great time with them.
I wish I could say the same for others who were out and about in the world and saw our group of young adults. While we waited for a bus in Seattle, I saw numerous people glance at the kids with either a look of fear (Boogie-boogie! They're coming after you!) or disgust (How dare they take up air and space in my vicinity!). I don't get it. Why is there such prejudice against teenagers?
I understand that there are some "bad apple" teens. I've had some in my classes over the years who have done some horrific things. There have been rapists, drug dealers, and thieves among my students, but it is such a small percentage overall. If adults never engaged in such behaviors, I might understand some disdain from people in that age group...but it just ain't so.
The kids yesterday seemed blissfully unaware of some of the looks they were getting. I have had some conversations with students who have experienced prejudice based on their age. I don't know what to tell them---I don't understand why the service they receive at stores and restaurants can be so different just because they aren't grown-ups. Yes, I know a few kids probably have acted like butts, but painting all kids with the same brush should not be acceptable.
I hope that if I don't get back in the classroom soon that I find a way to keep this perspective. I hate to think that I'll become one of those people who forgets what it's like to be young and full of hope and promise. I want to remain able to admire the spirit of youth.