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Sometimes you wonder if you’re hitting the mark with the students who give nothing away. But you just keep flying the freak flag, doing the crazy spontaneous things, giving the love and support wholeheartedly, laying down the boundaries over and over, and saying the words that you hope will hit the mark, even if they are met with blank faces and all-out resistance.
But time and time again, I get the unexpected reminders that teenagers, particularly Year 12 teenagers, do have highly evolved crap-detectors on their heads and NOTICE.
From one of my Year 12 Tutor Group Sirs, who gives NOTHING away, and suffers my conversations with mono-syllabic responses, via another staff member:
“Yeah, Kwokkie, she’s a total embarrassment, but she’s cool. You know she cares + she works hard for us. I rate her.”
That’s THREE SENTENCES and massive ones, straight to the heart.
When subtlety fails:
Sir Year 9: “Thanks so much for playing for me this assembly, Ms Kwok!”
Me: “No problems. I like dark chocolate, by the way.”
Sir Year 9: “Me too! I’ve got a couple of Lindt flavours that…”
Me: “No, let’s try that again. I’m telling you, I-LIKE-DARK-CHOCOLATE-AND-I’M-LEARNING-NEW-MUSIC-VERY-FAST-IN-MY-SPARE-TIME-AND-PLAYING-FOR-YOU-IN-MY-FREES-ON-FRIDAY.”
Sir Year 9: “What, I don’t get…OH.”
Me: “Indeed. Dark chocolate Lindt will be great.”
Sir Year 9: “I’ll stop by Woollies on the way home.”
Good man. That’s what I want to hear. 🙌
I have been thinking a lot about nuances in language as a starting point for connection, as I’ve been reflecting on my role in caring for and mentoring my Year 11 Tutor Group.
Listening to a conversation between the incredible Brené Brown + Marie Forleo, and Brené said something to effect of:
Don’t ask someone who is in suffering to ‘call if they need anything’. They won’t call. It’s an empty sentiment designed to make us, the helper + supporter, feel better. Ask them instead: ‘What does support for you look like right now?’
And my heart did a backflip.
I realised that I had been asking my students to “call if they needed anything”. I had missed the opportunity for connection every time I said that. I needed to change my words, and therefore my intent, as the beginning point for connection.
The sheer power of language is unmistakeable.
We had one very germy Miss Year 12 who came in especially to do her Solo Performance assessment today before going home to die quietly.
As she was getting ready, a one Sir Year 12 took a can of Glen20 from the side pocket of his backpack, (where the water bottle normally goes! ), and proceeded to spray a protective circle around himself and the healthy members of the class.
“I am NOT getting sick this year. I REFUSE to get sick this year!”
Poor Miss Year 12 is now feeling FABULOUSLY LOVED, and choking back incredulous laughter in between the coughing and spluttering.
And then he holds up the Glen20 and very seriously asks: “Ms Kwok, do you want a protective barrier as well?”
“Sure, why not?! Bring it on! Give me the Glen20 treatment!”
Next-level hypochondriac or smart-kiddie?! You decide.
Miss Year 11: “Tough call for me last night Ms Kwok; I had to choose between making brownies or plucking my eyebrows. So I chose the brownies + decided to rock the hairy brows.”
Me: GUUUUUUUUUUUUUURL! I be so PROUD! 🙌
YOU ARE WINNING AT LIFE. 👊
An excellent reminder that teenagers need to practise emotional literacy as a skill, and we as teachers need to model healthy emotional problem-solving behaviours to the students under our care.
An interesting read in terms of teaching teenagers, who have crap-detectors on their heads in knowing if you truly see + value them for all that they are. To be totally present is to care for them. 💛
I knew that if I loaned headphones out to Year 6s, 7s and 8s, there was a high chance to me not getting them back. Actually, there would be zero rate of return. Minus rate of return. Into the red, without any borrowed headphones in sight.
But I wanted to have headphones available for those students who didn’t already have them on person.
And then I remembered THIS genius borrowing system, one I learned as a teacher at Brighton Secondary School, as a means of borrowing drumsticks + mallets, two very highly desirable + expensive-and-annoying-to-replace commodities.
Students would surrender their shoes in return for borrowing the requested equipment. And not the pair; just ONE. You can forget a student ID card, or even a mobile phone, but ONE SHOE?! Impossible.
I remember the first day I tested this out.
Sir Year 7: “Ms Kwok, can I please borrow a set of headphones?”
Me: “Absolutely. Please give me one shoe.”
Sir Year 7: “Uh…I’m sorry?!”
Other Year 7s started to look up and giggle.
Me: “One shoe, please!”
Sir Year 7, still unconvinced: “Uh, okay. Which one would you like?”
Me: “Any one. Just under the desk would be fine.”
Sir Year 7 limped around lopsidedly for the entire lesson, with the fluorescent pink headphones I decided to loan him. He became somewhat of an accidental hero in the eyes of his classmates.
I’ve not lost a single set of headphones all year.