Working with high school students has many joys and pains, but I would not trade it for anything. Over the last several months I’ve been helping at a high school camp off and on and it has been some of the most fascinating people watching since my last trip through the LAX airport.
An anecdote, today a group of kids came up to me giggling profusely to ask if I was dating the other staff member. I said ‘no, we are just friends. Why?’. Their classic high school response? “But you and ___ sit together every day and talk a lot quietly.” (yes, because we are talking about you children..) I laughed and moved on, but I forgot how wonderful it is to be young and naive where simply talking to a member of the opposite gender could be date worthy.
The main observation I made; however, was how wonderful children are at being a self-fulfilling prophecy. I work with bands and anyone in the music world knows that each instrument has its “stereotypes.” My other staff member told one section that the low brass was kicking their butts with technique, the kids answered “yeah, that always happens.” SO FIX IT. I work with flutes a lot and every time I corrected them or they messed up they would double over and giggle about it for five minutes. Girls, it is not cute. Why is it that I correct a female of another section and she says “yes ma’am” and fixes the problem but I tell a flute player and a fit of giggles ensues? Why do clarinets always struggle the most with technique? Where do these ideas come from and how do we let kids realize they can be who THEY are and not just fall into this habit?
I am completely guilty of this, I laugh mistakes off, flip my hair, and let people call me a ditz because I, in fact, play the flute. Reality? I am quite smart but my mouth gets ahead of my brain and those mistakes I make are not that funny. I have worked consistently over the blast year to be more than my stereotype, (Not “just” a pretty girl in heels) but it can be challenging because we are consistently told this is how ____ players act.
So I challenge you, next time you see a child misbehave and you think “they are only 2” or “well it is a freshmen boy”, hold that child to a higher standard. Kids are remarkable beings capable of so much if we just believe in them. Stop boxing our children in and making a world of clones because those children turn into people like me; people who need a break from life because they are so burned out trying to be an expectation.