It seems as though each week there is a new trend on social media that teens are obsessed with. Students come into my classroom saying the most random slang terms, ones that make my brain hurt just trying to understand. One time, a student was impressed that I wore Vans shoes because they didn’t think my age group knew about them (I’m in my 30’s…).
With all these trends and slang constantly changing, it’s enough to make you dizzy. While it’s easy to write off these trends, roll our eyes, and make a comment about today’s youth, instead we should learn from them. Taking time to keep up with trends can help you connect with your students and even your own children.
If we think back to the teachers who made a difference in our lives, I highly doubt it was because of their curriculum or how they graded. Most of us look back on our former teachers with love because of how they connected with us. Making the effort to connect and understand students will greatly benefit your classroom management and the overall culture of the room.
- Check out the music they listen to. While their music may not be appropriate in the classroom, you can always listen to it on your drive home. Some artists are actually appropriate for the classroom! Making a playlist with songs they enjoy and are appropriate can show that you are taking interest in them.
- Ask them how their weekend or day was. Simply asking them how they’re doing can make a world of difference for a teen. I personally use warm-up questions to ask them with a short class discussion. It’s here that relationships in the class grow. I find out what movies they watch, stores they shop at, how their friends treat them, and so on.
- Take time to have conversations out of instructional time. I am fully on board with teachers having their lunch time to themselves. Sometimes, however, it is beneficial to get out of the classroom and spend time with your students. Eat lunch with them, chat about non-educational topics, and, above all, have fun! At our school site, and I’m willing to bet others, we have opportunities to simply hang out with our students. Whether it be chaperoning the dance or the lunchtime games, it’s all important in building that connection.
Let’s be honest, teachers aren’t in the profession for fame and money. We are here because we love students and working with them brings us joy. Now that I am a veteran teacher I can feel that joy leaving sometimes. I feel the weight of the profession and I often have to take a step back to refocus.
Remembering what brought me to this profession helps me realign and enjoy my job again. These kids, no matter what grade level you teach, deserve a teacher that truly enjoys sharing space with them. While they may be a little odd sometimes, they can also be wonderfully weird and bring so much joy to all.
Kati Begen is a mom to three children, a high school biology educator, and a credential coach in Fresno.
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