The Wisdom of Teens by Sara Kunkel, Hope Middle School Teacher
As adults, we have all been asked the age-old question, “What do you do?” I consider it a bit of a social experiment to note what response I get when I proclaim, “I am a middle school teacher.” Without a doubt, the most common response is something like, “Oh boy, God bless you,” or “How do you do it?” or “I have a hard enough time with one teenager.” I proudly take the opportunity to share how AMAZING middle school students are, how much I love my job and how I feel fortunate to get to spend my day with these amazing human beings. Culturally, we sometimes discount the wisdom, the energy and the joy that our tweens and teens bring to our world. They have so much to offer when we take the time to listen.
In light of the current situation, I decided to ask students from 5th grade to 10th grade in West Seattle what wisdom they would share with future generations going through times of uncertainty and change, here is what they had to say….
- “It’s like swimming, if you don’t keep moving forward you’ll drown so don’t stop, don’t give up, it’ll be worth it in the end.” – 8th grader –
- “If you feel down and in the dumps, don’t hide it or keep it inside…talk to someone.” – 8th grader-
- “You have to try pound cake.” – 8th grader –
- “Always have something to look forward to, trust in God and try to keep one constant even if it is tiny.” -8th grader –
- “God is watching over everyone, everything has a purpose and you are amazing just the way you are.” -6th grader-
- “In the big picture, maybe a few months of doing life really differently is a nice break from everything being the same.” -5thgrader-
- “It’s OK to not be doing very well. You will get through it.” -6th grader-
- “Every day feels different. You just have to get through it. Do little things that bring you joy. Stay close to friends. Remember your dreams, on the hardest days.” -10th grader-
- “Each morning, you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them.” -8th grader-
- “Live in the moment. Don’t try to plan anything out. Live your life at that time. Try not to think about things that are out of your control.” -9th grader-
- “No matter how long you are in the pandemic or things aren’t going well, it will always get better.” -8th grader-
- “Go with the flow. When things happen, they happen.” -8th grader-
- “You need to be able to adapt and work with what you are given with a positive outlook. Acknowledge that things may be difficult and that is OK.” -9th grader-
- Talk to your friends every day, laugh, get fresh air and try to live for the moment.” -9th grader-
- “Don’t let fear win.” -7th grader-
- “Just do it now so you don’t have to do it later because all of your stuff will pile up.” -9th grader
Much of what we work on behind the scenes at Hope Lutheran School’s middle school is emotional and mental health. When students don’t feel supported emotionally, it is so much harder for them to invest in their academic life. Many parents have asked us how they can support their child. How profound to learn that what students have said they need is to be seen, to be cared for, to have companionship, and to be heard.
Here is what students had to say when asked what they need from the people who support them….
- “Mostly what I need is help and company. I want to know that people are there for me and I can talk to them whenever.” -8th grader-
- “A QFC gift card.” ☺-8th grader-
- “I feel alone. I just want to feel wanted, loved, accepted.” -8th grader-
- “I need people to make me laugh and to have smiles on their faces (even though I can’t see them because of masks). -8th grader –
- “Encouragement to stay motivated.” -8th grader-
- “Love, encouragement, recognition of hardship, support and understanding.” -8th grader-
- “Companionship.” -6th grader-
- “To remind me that they care.” -7th grader-
- “I need someone to ask how I am doing.” -7th grader-
- “I need love and guidance.” -9th grader-
- “Patience.” -7th grader-
- “Be present in my life. I need to have confidence that they are there for me.” -9th grader
I have so much hope when I listen to the wisdom of our future leaders. It is advice that all of us would do well to follow as we support them through this challenging time in their lives.