At Laughology we are passionate about giving young people a voice – so that’s just what we’ve done. Below you’ll find a great blog from Mina. A big thank you to Mina for her time and effort on this, we know you’ll love reading this as much as we did and it’s a fab insight into teenagers, their thoughts, beliefs and how they wish to be seen and treated.
My name is Mina, and I'm fifteen years old, living in Kidderminster with my mum and sister. I spend a fairly large portion of my life writing, and I intend to keep it that way for some time. I love punk and alternative music, but classical is rad too, and I really like writing my own music. I'm a pretty loud LGBT+ rights supporter, and I'm very interested in memes. Someday I hope to become a professional meme.
Teenagers want to be approached as adults. There’s no doubt about it. They have a lot of responsibilities, and are always being told about how soon it will be that they cross the line into the adult world and that they ought to be prepared for it—but how can they be expected to be prepared when they are viewed as children and are unaccustomed to being treated as if their opinions have value?
My view is that teenagers should be approached more as equals and individuals rather than as an age bracket as a whole. Not all teens are moody, listen to angry music, and hate their parents. Although a fair proportion of the teenagers I know are perfect stereotypes, many are not, and many only fall into the template of a stereotypical teenager because society simply expects them to.
Admittedly, there is often a lot of conflict in the relationship between parent and child, but perhaps the reason why a lot of teens dislike their parents is that their parents are simply not kind to them. They have little patience with their children, and often view themselves as being practically deities, expecting every command to be followed with no motives and no prospect of a reward. Parents are not viewed as confidants by their children, and neither are educators. They are viewed as authority figures, and although this is the traditional relationship dynamic between children and adults, I think it is ineffective and benefits neither the adult nor the teen.
I feel that my relationship with my parents is a valuable one, because they don’t just tell me what to do, they explain why they want me to do things. They listen to me, and will not force me into things if my reasons are valid. They treat me like I’m an adult, and because of this, I treat them with respect and appreciation. I don’t lie to them, and I ask their permission for anything I’m not sure they would be happy with. And because of the respect I hold for them, they are continuously kind and tolerant towards me. The system works.
People underestimate the value of kindness. Many teenagers want to rebel, and in my experience, they are very likely to do so against someone old-fashioned and closed-minded. However, I have never known a teenager to act out in a lesson where the teacher is kind and friendly. I’m not suggesting that the education system should mollycoddle teenagers—my point is far from that. I believe that teachers should try to relate to students, but remain firm in their rules. The best teachers I have known have not been strict, but have had clear rules, and followed through on every rule as promised. What a lot of younger teachers don’t realise is that students won’t dislike you if you enforce the rules; they will only dislike you if you create unnecessary rules that interfere with their happiness and therefore effectiveness, or if you punish them for things that were never before mentioned as being wrong.
The education system has its flaws, and often these flaws contradict one another. Older teachers cannot identify with their pupils, and therefore students feel isolated and attacked when they make mistakes, but younger teachers often identify too much with their students and seldom follow through with punishments out of fear of being disliked.
Although treating teens the same as adults would most likely give them more responsibility than they could cope with, I think that gradually starting to take their opinions more seriously would make the transition from child to adult smoother and happier.
There seems to be an invisible line that means the difference between a child’s opinion being dismissed and an adult’s opinion being praised. An adult’s perspective is automatically considered as more valuable and developed than a child’s, especially a child in their teens. This is due to the tendencies teenagers have to be drastic and impulsive. But the cause of their impulsivity is suddenly having all the responsibilities that come with rising up through the education system and having no one to support them but their peers.
Although this may contradict my earlier point—that we ought to treat teenagers more like adults—even adults sometimes just want to be cared for and nurtured, and teenagers are the same. The element of being treated like children that teenagers dislike is being patronised. Nobody can turn down kindness. There is a difference between being condescending and being kind, but unfortunately, some parents and educators still have yet to grasp it. Every teacher should be respected, and remain above students, but this doesn’t give them a pass to be rude to students for pointing out their mistakes, nor does it mean that they should ignore students’ welfare to maintain their high-up position.
Top tips to create an effective classroom environment
- Appreciate that sometimes students may hold different views to teachers, and do not punish this sort of free thinking if you, as a teacher, disagree with it. I have been told in the past that my opinion was wrong, and it was incredibly disheartening—opinions should never be viewed as wrong, they are merely free formed thoughts that invariably differ from person to person.
- Teachers should admit their faults, and not reprimand students for pointing them out. Noticing an error could be viewed as proof of knowledge. A teacher who refuses to get down from their high horse is very discouraging, and doesn’t serve as a particularly good example to students who need to learn from their mistakes.
- Listen to students’ wishes, and adapt to fit their different learning styles. Vary your teaching methods so that the most effective learning approach for every student is covered.
- Understand that some students work better independently, and some work better when collaborating with other children of different abilities. Try to give the options to work alone or in groups as often as possible.
- Offer to let students listen to music. If students work more effectively on days where they are allowed to listen to music, then by all means, continue! Listening to music when doing silent work can relax the mind and increase effectiveness, and is a very simple way to improve the students’ mental welfare.