Monday, October 24, 2011

You must be this tall to teach

So here's the thing: I do not like working in high schools. I feel terrible for thinking it. I really, truly do. I try to be sensitive to the fact that high school can be really rough and that the kids are probably going through emotional hell or emotional detachment or something else. The thing is, I can't actually keep that in mind because I am too busy being annoyed by the constant belligerence and attitude and insubordination. I can never believe how many kids I meet with a "me against the world" perspective. I'm sure it is not an unwarranted perspective: I will never really know what a kid has had to endure prior to the 90 minutes I spend with him/her. But sometimes I just want to shake them and explain that not everyone in the school system is out to get them, and that "me against the world" doesn't get you much in life because if you make everything a competition then the world is probably always going to win. 

It's not that I don't like teenagers in general. When I was roadrunning and talked to them individually or in small groups, I loved hearing about their plans for the future and how they're coping with the transitional phase in their lives. There's just something about the high school setting that morphs teenagers into... what is the socially acceptable word for "not-nice mutant creatures?" 

Part of me thinks that my issues with high school students are based in countertransference. I never thought of my high school years as particularly atrocious, but thinking about them makes me feel so awkward and anxious. When I re-dated my high school boyfriend I practically (and by practically I mean definitely) had a panic attack when it came time for me to re-meet his family. Once I dissected those feelings, I realized that I was horrified about the idea of spending three solid days with people who knew me exclusively from high school. That is not the version of myself I like to remember, and it's definitely not a version of myself that I like to be reminded of. And even though high schools are filled with plenty of teachers my age, I still feel like too much of a peer to the students. Perhaps by the time I finish my degree I will feel old enough to work with that age group, but now it might be a bit too close to home. 

The thing that I'm questioning is how much I should push myself to work with middle/high school students while I'm subbing. Part of me feels that I should get experience with all age groups since I don't know where I'll end up as a counselor. Better to be overprepared, right? On the other hand, maybe it's okay that I have a preference of age group and that I stick to it. I really feel that I have more opportunities to set kids on the right path by working at an elementary school. By the time they're in middle/high school, personalities are set and it becomes more difficult to 1. make time to meet with them, 2. unite stakeholders, and 3. implement effective behavior modification techniques. Today a teacher was talking about the vocational test that the seniors will take this semester, and all I could think was, "Isn't it a little late?" I feel that a lot of the tools and interventions that counselors are using in high school are about eight years too late. (As a counselor, I'm hoping to implement a lot of vocational programming into my curriculum. I just don't think it's fair to let kids get to their teenage years without any sort of guidance about what they want out of life. Indecision is fine, paralysis is not.) All tangents aside, I am torn between sticking to what I know/enjoy or going outside of my comfort zone. The thing is, I'm not convinced that leaving one's comfort zone is always a good or meaningful experience. Taking risks can certainly lead to personal growth, but sometimes I think people are pushed into risk-taking just for its own sake. If a person is open to growth or change in other ways, do we really need to force them to climb a mountain or sing karaoke? Anxiety is a powerful catalyst for change, but if we aren't using it consciously and intentionally then there really isn't a point. Then again, I am a huge wimp in a lot of ways and really cannot be trusted with this self-serving monologue. 

Tomorrow I am back in the same position as today; hopefully I will gain some wonderful new insights, or at least partake in some wonderfully disgusting tater tots. However, I am very much looking forward to my third grade jobs later in the week.

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