How to Listen: Advice from Teens

By: Kaitlyn

Last summer, I wrote a series of what kids have taught me after I spent the summer working at a daycare.

These past 5 months, I have been student teaching as a high school English teacher. Last week was my last week in the classroom (I’m a sub now, so I don’t have my own kids) and I’m not going to lie, I was (am) super emotional about it.

I knew I was going to get attached to my students, but I didn’t know how much I would learn to just unconditionally love them. Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I miss seeing the same faces of my students every day.

In the last five months, my students have taught me more than I can possibly just list in one post, but as I sit here right now, here are the main things that stand out to me:

1. The “tough” students are the ones you end up unconditionally caring for (Not that you don’t love the others)

This semester, I had a lot of terrible situations to deal with (drugs, family issues, car-accidents, suicide, etc.). I’m not going to be specific because of confidentiality reasons. Dealing with these issues were tough and heartbreaking, but they were the most valuable experiences I had. Seeing what my students go through on a daily basis made me love and respect them. I think it’s easy to write kids off as “trouble” kids and assume that they’re going to amount to nothing. But that’s not the case. That can’t be the case. I refuse to let that happen to any student. There’s so much potential there that just gets ignored and looked over. We can’t ignore them. Every single student has the potential to do great things; let’s not just be another person in their lives that tells them that they can’t do it. Because that’s a lie and I refuse to lie to them.

2. Reading a hundred literary analysis papers in a row can be a little exhausting after a while. But what makes reading student writing so great is that they constantly surprise you by how talented they are. One of my students wrote this in her last paper, “You can change the world, even if it’s just one person’s world.” Words can’t describe how much I love that quote.


3. High schoolers are AWESOME!!! They’re really just like mini twenty-somethings. When I was in high school, I don’t remember being nearly as mature or well-spoken as my kids are. At all. And when they talk about their weekend, it’s like they’re talking about my entire college experience. Basically, what they do all day is sit on social media, watch hours of Netflix and eat chicken wings.

4. Teenage power and voice. Teenagers are beautiful people. I think oftentimes, people write them off as being too emotional and angsty to be legitimate members of society. This is such a misconception. I think that teenagers are the most IMPORTANT members of society. They are the change-makers. Their drive, passion and determination are inspiring every day. People can learn so much by just listening to teenagers and their ideas. I ran two extra-curriculars for students in the mornings. And even though it was at 6:30 in the morning, students still came in with their Starbucks to discuss current events, politics and women’s issues. The conversations I had in the early mornings in that classroom were unlike any that I ever had as an adult. They speak their opinions with no self-doubt or censorship, they come up with creative solutions and most importantly they listen to one another. Listening is something adults rarely do. We could really take a lesson out of their book. We constantly argue and violently defend our own opinions, but we refuse to legitimize anyone else’s opposing opinions. Every single person’s opinions are valid. Teenagers understand and acknowledge that.

I had an awesome last few months working with my students and I truly can’t wait to do this and have these experiences for the rest of my life.

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Oh, hello!
We're Sarah and Kaitlyn, roommates from Milwaukee who started this blog to promote creativity and life.
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