Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Teenage Brain

Yes, such a thing exists.

I don't have any teenage children, but I am lucky to have daily contact with about 80 of them, probably 70 of which have close to zero interest in learning Spanish, unless it helps them figure out how to get more beer, sleep more, or have immoral relations with the opposite sex. Say hello to our future.

And until the last week or so, I was on the brink of surrendering to their apathy. Giving up, because it appears almost all of them have. Here are some key insights that have helped me back away from that brink.

1. A fantastic article found here in National Geographic about the development (or lack thereof) of said teenage brain. Turns out, in a way, it just isn't their fault. Our brains develop from the back to the front, and the very last bit to develop is the part that cares about consequences. Their gray matter is still stuck in the "How fun is this this going to be?" and "Will this make me popular" stage of evolution. So, expecting them to have a natural curiousity about the world around them the first day of my class isn't realistic. It is there when they are young, back when learning involved centers, storytime, and make-believe. But, worksheets and standardized tests take the fun out of school and these teenage brains don't have enough wrinkles in them to really think about what their decisions now will mean for them in ten years. I mean, we've got to figure out which color of Tom's shoes to buy next for heaven's sakes! (If you don't know what those are. . . find a loop and plant yourself firmly outside of it--because that's where you are.)

2. I cannot expect myself (or anyone around me) to be fantastically good at something within 3 weeks of trying it.

3. Stepping back and reevaluating is a sign of strength NOT weakness. I am learning every day, adapting, changing, reviewing, and noting what works. This week I am stepping back and in some ways starting over with my classes. And that is okay. They are learning Spanish. But, more than Spanish, I want them to learn to succeed, and I want them to believe that they can do it anywhere, in any class. If they are willing to work, communicate, and try.

4. God loves us, every one. Even teenage punks with sagging pants and cell phone addictions. Even lazy students who seem to have zip zeal for life. He loves them. He wants them. He misses them. He wants them to feel light and love and hope. He loves these students as much as He loves sweet, obedient me. He loves these scantily clad gals as much as He loves the beautifully virtuous young women who attend church every Sunday. He loves them. And I can too. I can't teach them scripture. But I can be a light. Scratch that---I can reflect a light. I can hold up the light of Christ and teach with joy, hope, and love. And maybe they'll learn some Spanish.

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