from tots to teens

I have been amongst the teenagers for 11 years now.

I started in January of 2001 with my student teaching and I have been in the same district as a long-term sub and then as a contracted teacher since then.

In my first couple months in a high school, I was asked to prom by a senior boy who mistakenly thought I was a new student.  I was 21 at the time, but looked about 17.  We were both pretty embarrassed when I had to correct him…and decline the invite.

When I started subbing, my youngest brother was in high school.  If I subbed in his building, he hid from me and I ignored him.  His friends, however?  Loved it.  There were many sister jokes flung about.  Needless to say, I sort of avoided subbing in his school…for both of our sanity.

My first contracted teaching job started in the fall of 2003, was his senior year of high school.  And thankfully–for both of us–it wasn’t in his school.  I was 25 and not feeling totally like an adult yet.  With a brother the same age as my students, it was hard for me to be a disciplinarian.  I was good at being bossy, but not so good about dropping the hammer when necessary.

In the five years after being hired, I gradually got old matured into adulthood, but the teenagers stayed, well, teenagers.  By the time I was pregnant with Eddie in 2008, I had established a nice reputation of being a good teacher, but strict on behavior and tough on grading.

And then came Eddie.

Suddenly I was a mom.   And I realized…all those teenagers?  Were someone’s baby.

It was like getting punched in the face with the obvious.

I remained a tough teacher, in fact, I think I got tougher.  I knew that the parents of these kids wanted them to succeed.  In my mind, no one has a baby hoping he/she will fail high school.

When I was pregnant with Eddie, my students used to joke that he was “doomed”.

Doomed because I know what the kids listen to, what they talk about, how they slack, what kind of drama goes on.

Doomed because I bring all that up, tell them in the grand scheme it doesn’t matter, and then expect success anyway.

Doomed because I value education.

Doomed because I don’t put up with disrespectful ridiculousness.

Doomed because I had the perfect “mom look” when things were getting out of hand.

Doomed because I don’t just threaten, I follow through.

Doomed because I care.

And then those kids would stay after school and confess that Eddie was so lucky to have me as a mom because they didn’t have those things at home.

I would go home on those days and scoop up Eddie and weep.

Now that I am a mom of a wiggly toddler and pregnant with a wiggly fetus, I am constantly aware that my boys?  Will be 15 year olds someday.

Family members have already told me that “The Sluiter Boys: Eddie and Charlie” sound like a mischievous pair.  Eddie’s listening ears are about as well-functioning as a 15 year old boy.

I keep taking breaks from this post to teach those teenagers.

And because this post is in the back of my head, I find myself noticing all the teenage boy behavior even more than usual.

Last hour I had to tell a group of boys to keep their hands to themselves three different times.

This hour, I have already had to tell a couple boys to focus on the warm-up instead of talking about video games.

And just now, I turned to the kid next to my desk and said, “A, is your warm up done?  Get it out.  We’ve been in class for 7 minutes.  It should be done.”

Will this be Eddie?  Or Charlie?

As a teacher I know some of kid behavior is upbringing.  But by the teen years much of it is peer-related.  And a good chunk is just teenager-y-ness.

As our kids get older, we are less and less their main influence in decision-making and beliefs.

I see this all the time.

Frustrated parents come in and tell me they just don’t know what to do anymore. That they are at their wit’s end.

And I wonder…

Was it always this way?

Or did you have a great connect with that little boy or girl at one point?

Did you sit and play and read and have conversations?

Or is this a result of years of thinking a kid should be a certain way, but not showing him/her how to be that way.

And the big one…am I showing Eddie how to be a responsible, respectful teenager?

I know good parents end up with troubled kids.  And I know troubled parents end up with amazing kids.

I have literally seen it all.

And day after day I wonder…is what I am doing going to matter?

I don’t have that answer, but I have to believe it will.

I have to believe that my best will be good enough.

Because it is all I have to give my boys.

*Thank you to Sherri for the idea to write this.

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