There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to be an English teacher; I love reading and writing, I love talking in front of large groups of people, I love having summers off. But the main driving force of me wanting to be an educator is because teenagers are disrespected and undervalued.
When I was a teenager, I remember feeling like nothing I said mattered and everything I was feeling would be scoffed at. I often see adults making fun of teenager's feelings, merely casting them off as "teen angst." This belittles these feelings. Because they are teenagers experiencing love, hormones, anger, fear on a heightened level, that doesn't mean that their emotions are any less valid than our feelings of love, anger and fear.
Teenager's feelings are just as legitimate as adult's feelings. They are the same.
However, they are not treated as such. When adults experience extreme loss, depression, anger, if they're lucky, they have an awesome support system that gets them through this tough time. We listen to our friends, be there for them, and get them the help that they need.
The same cannot be said about most teenagers. Whenever teenagers experience extreme loss, depression or anger, many adult responses are generally, "Get over it." Or it's not treated as a real issue because they're teenagers. They'll grow out of it.
And because of this, we have a whole generation of human beings growing up thinking that their feelings don't matter. That they don't matter.
This needs to change. Every single day, I see examples of how pure and real teenagers and their emotions are. There's such a positive push for support and change within these individuals. They are inspiring and their feelings and ideas should be just as respected as any other person's. They're certainly as brilliant.
One of the sweetest girls I know broke down the other day and I held her as she cried about how she felt like she couldn't eat because she was "too fat." And, even through her moments of self-doubt, she lights up (literally) every stage she goes on and spreads kindness everywhere she turns. And she's so beautiful.
Another one of my students has been in constant trouble with administration throughout his school-years because most adults just label him as a "trouble" kid and defines that destiny for him. What they miss is his absolute soft-heart and want to make the world a better place. The other day, we sat down for an hour having a truly inspirational conversation on how to change gang violence in Milwaukee.
These feelings and judgements aren't something that only adults go through. Teenagers experience the same things, with usually less support.
There is no such thing as teen angst. There's just angst. And we need to start reminding ourselves that these feelings are real. That the ideas that teenagers hold are real. And that these ideas can change the world.