Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Source of Rebellion

One thing I've noticed as a teacher and coach is that many teachers/coaches practice the mantra: "Do as I say, not as I do." I have taught with teachers who chastize students for their disorganized backpacks and lost homework, willfully ignoring the hypocrisy of piles of mis-matched, months-old projects and papers strewed about their own classrooms. I have coached with coaches who scream at kids for lack of communication and discipline, only to cancel practices at the last minute and show up late for meets. So much of the rebellion of youth is directed at this hypocrisy, I believe.

As adults, we expect imperfection from one another. We're adults, after all, and we recognize that we ourselves are flawed. So perhaps part of the adolescent reaction is disappointed idealism. As adults, we are also generally on the same footing--even in hierarchical relationships, such as those between boss and employees, there is at least an appearance of equality. All bosses in the modern western world at least attempt to convey openness and approachability, even if all they really want is complete dominance and servile employees. Teenagers, however, are expected to live by the same rules that have been around for generations: they must obey and respect authority without complaint. All this at a time when they are finally becoming aware that the world is not the rosy picture of story books and sitcoms, that reaching the age of accountability doesn't equate to instant wisdom, and that even the finest people and the most inspiring leaders have glaring inconsistencies of character.

Isn't the least we can do to ease this transition keeping up with our piles of grading and showing up on time for meets? And when we inevitably do fall short, why is it so difficult to apologize and acknowledge what went wrong? I'm with the teenagers on this one.


Mademoiselle H said...

I totally agree with this post!! I had a conversation with a fellow teacher about swearing in our classrooms. Somehow it came up that I let my kids say "crap" and he was completely shocked that I would allow that. I figured that I used that word (note the past tense--I'm so righteous) so I couldn't tell my students not to do so. He, on the other hand, didn't let his students use the word despite the fact that his favorite adjective, noun and verb starts with a certain letter f. Sometimes there are different rules for teenagers and adults that make sense but I often feel that we as adults sometimes like to make rules simply to exert our own authority. Despite being a person who tows the line, rules for that reason make me want to do the exact opposite so I'm with you in getting where the kids come from. It's 6:30 and I'm at work so forgive this for being long and nonsensical.


jolie fleur said...

I've been thinking about and reflecting on this post for awhile and I really think that you've hit on something profound. I'm already starting to think about the teenaged years for my kids (even though they are only 5 and 1!) and I think I see a pattern that works. It has two parts--one part that expects responsibility on the part of the teen. Teens seem to want to be taken seriously and given responsibility for their actions. On the other hand, the second part of that is they want to have leaders who expect as much from themselves! It is hypocritical to expect perfection and responsibility and not to live that way! How much more powerful an example would be someone who held themselves to the highest standard and invited you to share in that respect and ideal?