A rude awakening

By admin
05 September 2013

At the start of my teaching career I was still wearing rose-tinted glasses. I was wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and (foolishly) ready to revolutionise teaching.

I’ve been a high school English teacher for three years now and it’s been an eye-opener. In my inexperienced mind all the kids in my class were going to be sprouting Shakespeare sonnets off by heart and overloading my desk with shiny red apples and #1 Teacher mugs within the first week of school. I couldn’t wait to inspire a discipleship of alliteration-loving angels.

The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was a shocking wake-up call to realise the kids couldn’t care less about school and homework. The girls are more concerned with Heidi Klum’s love-life, achieving the sought-after status of girl-with-the-shortest-skirt-in-school and BBMing at the speed of light.

The boys are even less interested in anything academic and all moan about how “lame” Justin Bieber is while secretly trying to copy his hairstyle. They also seem compelled to dispense insults every five minutes to maintain their position as class clown.

Then there’s the competition to sit next to the pretty girl in class – who is inevitably named Natasha or Sasha – so they can bask in the hormone-induced high that radiates from her glossy blonde highlights and perfect skin. (Yes, there are in fact 15-year-olds with acne-free skin – who said life was fair?)

The boys’ ultimate goal, however, and it takes extreme effort, is to look as if they make no effort at all. Because which self-respecting teenage boy actually wants people to think he cares about anything?

Besides trying to teach Shakespeare to learners who care more about iPads than poetry, I also have the joyous task of marking their essays. Essays written by kids who don’t want to write and who, in some instances, frankly can’t write. After marking one batch I usually need to take 10 deep breaths and chant a calming mantra so I can forget about seeing jewels spelt as “jools”.  After the second batch of essays drowning in red ink I’m often just about ready to stab myself in the heart with my pen.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. To distract myself from my disappointment in their work ethic I instead focus on the funny side of things. Like the absolute confidence teenagers have even in the face of blatant ignorance.

Think about it (by which I mean think like a teenager for a moment). Teens look like adults and therefore should think like adults, right? I mean some high school boys make Kobus Wiese look underfed. And the girls wear so much make-up they make drag queens look demure.

Despite looking “adult”, teenagers are anything but. During three years of daily interaction with them I’ve had a glimpse of what goes on inside teenagers’ minds. After hacking through the Taylor Swift lyrics and Vampire-crazed movies you’ll eventually get to the teenager’s outlook on the world and life in general.

Here are some of the gems I’ve come across. Hitler is still alive. We pay to use libraries. The telephone was invented only 10 years ago. Leonardo DiCaprio painted the Mona Lisa. And if anything is on Facebook then it must be true. Nothing we presently teach at schools is worth learning because “we are never going to use this one day, Ma’am”. This is the popular mantra of the present generation. I mean, being literate and knowledgeable is so last season.

I’ve actually considered recording myself, uploading the video to YouTube and playing it back to my learners. Perhaps then they would finally pay attention to me.

  • By Melissa Oosthuizen
  • Melissa is a teacher, newlywed and a book lover.

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