“Have You Met Any Actual Teenaged People?!”

Barbara
Barbara Wolf Shousha, UNHS Director

I did not ask this question. But I wanted to.

I had to bite my tongue as I listened to a group of adults discuss the teens at a nearby coffee shop table. The students under discussion were wearing earbuds and likely could not hear the remarks…

  • “They only care about their music and their phones.”
  • “They don’t take anything seriously.”
  • “They’re young; they don’t have to be serious. This is their time to be free of responsibilities.”

My kinder nature triumphed over snark, so I did not wade in to the strangers’ discussion. But I felt irritated because the conversation represented what I dislike about the two extremes in how our culture regards teenagers

  1. Either people judge teens as shallow and unserious or
  2. They pander to youth as too young to handle any actual responsibilities

To listen to some of the comments, you would think these adults were anthropologists examining some strange culture: “Observe, the teen….in it’s natural habitat…”

Here’s a tip: Teenagers are people. You can actually meet them and interact with them and learn about them as individuals.

As an educator, I have studied developmental theory and stages of development. I’ve read literature about adolescent brain development. But nothing substitutes for real experience.

We are fortunate to work with young people as they develop their academic and personal skills. We see students balance academics and sports and arts and volunteerism and family obligations and work.

Young, yes.
Unserious? Sometimes.
But they are not free from responsibilities.

We challenge students because we want the best from them and for them. We hold them accountable because we believe that they should want the best from themselves. We understand that they do not always want to learn verb forms and periodic elements. (We ARE nerds, but we are realistic nerds.) And yet, we see them step up and meet their responsibilities and do the work of becoming educated people.

We’re proud of them.

If you’d like to meet some of the actual teenaged people with whom we have worked, feel free to check out some of our student profiles.

Author: University of Nebraska High School

Accredited online high school program providing award-winning curriculum to students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.