Our parents bribe, cajole, and threaten us so we eat our carrots and Brussels sprouts. At some point, though, we accept that we really can't live on Pop Rocks and root beer. We really ought to eat those things that came out of dirt. Once we open our minds to them, we may even find they're not so bad.
This is one of many cool things about teaching teenagers—and no, I'm not really talking about diet and nutrition.
With the ages I teach—and particularly because I've stuck with many students over several years—I get to see a lot of them making transitions to self-aware maturity. The kid who used to blow off everything academic starting to take things more seriously, even looking back and saying he wished he'd buckled down earlier so he could've learned more. The girl who voluntarily comes in during lunch for extra help, even though we both know she'd rather be chatting with friends than torturing herself with math.
I don't get to see the transition for all of them. Some come to me with a very grounded worldview already in place. Some leave my class still thinking life will be a party—they'll put it together later ... or maybe not. (I'm pretty sure some on-paper adults are still patently immature.) But when I do see it, it's very cool.
A current example: If you recall, I teach deaf kids. That means they all have IEPs (Individualized Education Plans, required for any kid with special ed services). This month has been IEP season at my school, so we sit down for a meeting with each kid (and a parent or two) and discuss where they're at, where they want to go, and what they need to do to get there.
Most teenagers are counting down the days to graduation. "Come June of (name-the-year), I'm outta here!" My students are generally no different. Technically, though, they can stay with us until the year they turn twenty-two. Most shudder at the thought.
But then some of them take a realistic look at their goals. Maybe they want to go to college, and they look at their reading and writing levels. Not good enough ... but right in a range where an extra year of high school, really working on it, could make the difference. And they say, "Yeah, I think I should learn more so I'm ready, because college is hard."
That's not just going for the carrots—that's reaching for a big scoop of the whole vegetable medley.
I love that moment.
And I'll keep trying my best to make those veggies tasty.