It’s What Happens

I teach. It’s what I do. I teach teenagers. A lot of people I meet consider this to be a mad career. Teenagers are horrible. They wonder why I don’t teach younger kids. I teach because of a long series of accidents and uninformed choices throughout my life. However, after starting my teacher training in 1995 I found that I loved being in the classroom and working with kids. I consider myself utterly fortunate to have discovered a career that I enjoy so much. I have often said to myself that the day I “have to go to work” is the day I quit, at the moment I still get up every (working) day and “go to school”.

Teenagers are hilarious. They try to argue and make valid points, they are starting to learn the craft of putting together valid arguments and come to valid conclusions. Some can do this well, others take quite a bit longer. They often try to communicate their thoughts are struggle to do so. Daily I am involved in creating new thoughts and ideas and methods for explanation. This is great. It’s exciting and when the teenagers mess it up it’s just funny. I work with some of the brightest and [unintentionally] hilarious young people.

You’ll have to take this on trust but having a teenager try to explain his/her actions in a logical manner leaves me laughing (inside rather than in their face). Although my role is to teach mathematics I also aim to offer up techniques for questioning and finding out what really happens, how to get evidence, how to appraise arguments. I see this as far more important than the actual mathematics I teach. If I can help people seek their own evidence and make their own decisions then I have succeeded in improving their contributions to future society.

The title of this communication is “It’s What Happens”. I’d just like to point out that society seems to have a massive “downer” on teenagers.

Said Socrates [not the footballer]:

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

This is a quite well known quotation. It’s definitely gives the impression that we hate teenagers and have done for many years of society. There are often modern headlines in the newspapers and web-news-services where the implication is that modern society is going to ruin because of a type of behaviour of teenagers or young people. This is utter rubbish.

Here’s some cases of behaviour of the youth ruining society:

  • Pinball machines in the 1940s
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950s
  • Sex and drugs in the 1960s
  • Punk in the 1970s
  • Alcopops in the 1990s
  • Mobile phones in the 2000s

Most of the people “corrupted” by these forms of behaviour are now the ESTABLISHMENT. I’m pretty sure that if you look hard enough you will see that society isn’t ruined. My theory is as follows:

People who write opinions and the news are jealous of teenagers. They don’t like the freedom, the care-less-ness, the risk taking, the fun that teenagers have. It reminds them of what they have lost and the dreams that have dimmed. It reminds them of mortgages, children and politics. They want to be young again.

The constant dislike of teenagers in the press is a constant of society, it will always be there. Are the youth terrible? Are the youth poorly behaved? No, not really. Teenagers are meant to be restless and care-free. It means they move on and develop in to fully functioning adults. It’s what happens.