We recently asked our Eighth Graders how they think adults would describe them. Some of the words they chose include “technology-addicted,” “rude,” “annoying,” and “irresponsible.” Others said “lazy,” “reckless,” “selfish” and “moody.” It always makes me sad to see their thoughts. Why do adolescents get such a bad rap? I know I may be biased, but I find people this age to be inspirational, idealistic, sincere and refreshing. Students this age have not yet developed a sophisticated social filter, so their thoughts and opinions are very raw and honest. Perhaps it is this very lack of a filter that earns them a whole host of negative associations; maybe we adults have developed such complex filters that we are able to avoid the hard realities that, if we truly took them in, would overwhelm us or force an unwanted lifestyle change.
Anyone who remembers what it’s like to be age 10-15 can certainly remember the emotional ups and downs that could occur on any given day. Feelings of self-confidence seemed all too fleeting and were frequently overshadowed by fear and self-doubt. Despite the roller coaster that is the inner life of the adolescent, many would agree that a desire to be heard and respected by adults is something experienced by all members of that age group. So what happens when you juxtapose this desire to be heard with the belief that no one thinks you have anything valuable to say?
And our adolescents have a lot to say. They think about important things. They are concerned about some big issues. We asked them this week to share some of their concerns, and here are just a few examples of what they had to say:
• Global Warming
• Endangered animals
• Social Injustice
• Human Rights, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.
• World Hunger/Poverty
We also asked our students about their hopes, and not surprisingly, they had a number of very high hopes for our world:
• That people will find it within themselves to be kind to others
• That one day we'll live a world where everyone is accepted for who they are
• A world where people don’t have to live in fear and can love again
• A future that is bright for everyone
• For everyone to have a home
Positive change starts with hope. And children are the wellspring of hope we need to make positive changes in the world. Each day we run into too many adults who are filled with cynicism and despair. (Ironically, one of the things they are cynical about is our youth!) We desperately need to reframe our view of adolescents so that we can benefit from the abundance of hope they bring to the table.
Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” captures the essence and importance of hope:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
But don’t just take my word for it. Come see our students in action and treat yourself to a morning of inspiration and hope. This Thursday, October 29, Middle School students will be hosting our Seventh Annual Month of the Young Adolescent Leadership Summit at 8:30am in the church. This year students have decided to address the problem of cigarette butt litter on our streets and in our parks. They have some interesting ideas to resolve the problem, and they’d like to share their thoughts with you – the adults in their community.
So come. Come listen. Come bear witness to these developing leaders.
Come for inspiration. And come for hope.
Month of the Young Adolescent is an annual international collaborative effort of education, health, and youth-oriented organizations. Initiated by the Association for Middle Level Education, the month is designed to focus on the needs of children ages 10 to 15. The key messages for the celebration are:
• The importance of parents being knowledgeable about young adolescents and being actively involved in their lives;
• The understanding that healthy bodies plus healthy minds equal healthy young adolescents;
• The realization that the education young adolescents experience during this formative period of life will, in large measure, determine the future for all citizens; and
• The knowledge that every young adolescent should have the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and aspirations, and post-secondary education should be a possibility for all.
Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org