If you can’t handle me at my worst…


I have come across this quote many times this summer; so many times, in fact, that I’m now taking it as a sign.  I’ve always liked Marilyn Monroe; I didn’t know her of course (I wonder if anyone could actually say that they did?), she died long before I was born.  Her pictures are hauntingly beautiful, as are her words or — just in case she’s been misquoted — words attributed to her.

I think her statement is true about relationships and reveals a deeper insight into the inner workings of a troubled soul. But let’s set this aside for a moment and consider how this applies to high school. Because, I assure you, it does.

That last sentence is definitely a part of the teenage mentality. It’s how they think, it’s what they believe to be true.  It dove-tails nicely with “Don’t act like you know me” and “Only God can judge.” It is difficult not to laugh when they say this – in complete earnestness – but to dismiss it is to relinquish any hope that you will have a genuine connection with your teens.

I’ve said it before: kids know when adults are sincere.  If they get any inkling that you are not being real – about anything – then they feel that they are no longer obligated to talk to you or act in a way that you expect or find respectful. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it.  This behavior can spiral out of control and into all aspects of the teen’s life.  What I triggered, you might have to deal with; what parents triggered, I might have to deal with — and all variations and vice versas you can think of.

The bottom line here – beyond not triggering it, obviously – is to respond, not react, to a teenager.  Bad behavior does not mean a bad heart, it does not indicate a bad soul, and it certainly does not mean that they’ll be a bad adult.  Fully embrace teenagers as real human beings with raw feelings and often uncontrollable urges who – because of or in spite of this – will increase in their beauty and usefulness. Communicating this embracement in the classroom and incorporating this into your lessons and conversations will elevate you in the eyes of your teens. They will be more likely to listen (don’t be fooled if it looks like they don’t) and you will experience the joys of smiles, honesty, progress, and engagement.

This does not have a guarantee of instant success; however, it is a promise of reward after time well spent.  You may never see the end result, but the promise remains true.


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