Monday, February 2, 2015

Are We Listening?


If you are a regular Medium reader chances are you heard all about a certain post by @AndrewWatts. This post, titled “A Teenager’s View on Social Media”, blew up. It went totally viral.

There is nothing terribly shocking about this. Things like this happen these days, good for him. I was not inspired or necessarily affected by the post. It was a nice read, engaging and informative, but I didn’t think much more about it until a few days ago when Mr. Watts posted a followup story.

In “The Power of Blogging”, Watts writes how the viral post changed his life. His post opened up doors and provided him excellent opportunities to sit down with Silicon Valley giants. While basking in the sunlight of metamorphic fortuity, he stressed a valuable message, teenagers have a voice and should be heard.
Some exact words if you fancy:
I am just a teenager (an older one at that) and what this experience has taught me is that our input is valued and that our experiences are valued.We just have to have the courage to write them down and express ourselves, even if people tell us that we shouldn’t.
This struck me. Do I really listen to my students? Am I giving them a voice? Can they share their struggles, thoughts, and opinions with me?

I like to think I am a progressive teacher. I steer away from grades and behaviorist discipline. I give them open-ended projects, and fairly high degrees of choice in the classroom. I try new things and work to connect with their lives.

But am I really listening to them?

At the end of class the other day, I put this question to two periods of eighth graders:
What is one thing adults should know about your lives?
I told them to write a response on a piece of paper, no name necessary. When they were done they put them in a stack and left the classroom. Below is a sampling of what they said.


















































































I didn’t include them all. Some others were funny, some were silly, and some were serious. A grand majority (like 80%) mentioned being stressed, or tired, or busy. Wow. I am not very old, and that is not the childhood I remember.

My students weren’t complaining or exaggerating. They didn’t want me to feel bad for them. They were just being honest. This is their reality. I see it with them, I see it with my high school sister. I never really listened.

Their responses impacted me. Their voices were heard. Thanks to the teenagers who motivated me.

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