July 27th, 2015
Their hearts break and adults tell them to get over it because teens don’t understand true love anyway.
They miss deadlines and adults warn that they better watch out for the big bad “real” world.
They take selfies and adults call them selfish because they only see them looking at themselves and not looking for meaning and identity.
Our society misses out on brilliance because many times we shut down teen voices when we should be elevating them. Too many times we adults tell teens what to think and how to act without listening to and crediting them for their own ideas, their own feelings, their own insight born of those moments searching for truth and identity.
I know this not as a parent, my kids are too young, but as a teacher, someone who has spent 15 years learning as much from my teenage students as I teach them each day.
I’ve learned about speaking your truth and being honest.
I’ve learned about passion and drive and trying to have it all.
I’ve learned about friendship and curiosity and community.
I’ve learned about perseverance and family and asking questions.
I’ve spent 15 years listening. Of being open to their voices and their ideas. Of following their path instead of mine many days because it felt just right.
I’ve tried to show them by listening that their voices matter. That teen voices deserve to be heard. That they aren’t stereotypical selfish kids who only see themselves, but that I see them looking out into the world and trying to find their place.
Last week at BlogHer, I literally sat teary-eyed through most of the Friday morning keynote.
Soledad O’Brien sat on stage with three of her scholars from her Starfish Foundation – all inspiring young women who had so many important things to say. Soledad O’Brien listened to their teen voices, rewarded their passion and perseverance and hard work.
Anna Maria Chavez, Girl Scouts CEO and two accomplished scouts took the stage and displayed the many ways teens do exactly what I know to be true – serve their communities, build strong relationships with each other, explore outside their comfort zones.
And the most exciting new initiative for me at BlogHer was the Hatch initiative – a brilliant way to help elevate teen voices about topics that matter. So many times we assume that the conversations adults are having – online and off – are outside the realm of teenage thought. We as a society don’t bother to ask them how they feel about feminism or racism or any other number of issues. But Hatch asks. And they listen. Then they amplify those voices so that hopefully others will start to listen as well. And it is so clear from the way those kids just took to the microphone that they so love being heard.
Like I wrote last week, this year’s BlogHer wasn’t really just about blogging for me. It was a call to keep doing all the work I’m doing in all the spaces I inhabit. It was a call to find new ways to amplify the smaller, less frequently heard voices. It was a huge moment I can now point to in my classroom and assure my students that I am not the only one listening.
I’m not the only one who knows their hearts really can break.
I’m not the only one who know that they already live in the “real” world.
I’m not the only one who sees them searching for something bigger when they turn the camera towards themselves.