I have been to many schools in my time. We deliver sessions to a range of both public and private schools, so I have experienced my fair share over the past 9 years of challenges when educating young people.
Last week I was invited to speak at a school in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. I was prepared that this school does have a reputation as a lower socio economic school and for me, these are the teens that need our support the most. I am really impressed that this particular school has taken its budget and put it towards these vital sessions and being aware of this, I want to give these girls 150% so they all benefit from our sessions.
As I headed into the library to set up, I was introduced to the educator who has instigated this entire program. Instantly I took a liking to her. I could see she was kind and passionate about helping these young girls out.
As I began to set up for my 60-minute presentation, I place my mobile phone on the desk next to me. My thought process was that I could keep an eye on the time and get a great group photo after our session. Within 2 minutes of my phone sitting on the desk, I am told to put it away in a secure place as once the students entered the building, there was a high chance it would get stolen. Thrown by these instructions, I quickly buried my phone in my pocket and carried on setting up.
As the school bell rang out, the library began to fill up with around 70 girls aged between 14 and 15 years of age. They spoke amongst themselves and were distracted by the gift I have left each of them on their chair. The educator blew a whistle and attempted to settle the group. A hush descended on the crowd and I took to the stage. As I was about to introduce myself, a young girl burst through the library doors. With her hands waving in the air she declared in a loud voice, “ What the f@%K! I have to listen to this f#*#cking bullshit for the next hour? Kill me now…..I am going to sleep this session off.”On that note, she hurled her school bag and her body on the floor in front of where I was standing.
I was not sure what threw me more, the fact she could speak like this and have no educator reprimand her about her behaviour or the fact that I had a 15 year old girl sprawled out ‘asleep’ at my feet before I had even started the session. I knew at that moment that with everything I have learnt over my many years of dealing with teenage girls, the one thing that they all want is to be heard and to be loved.
The teens making the most noise are always the ones in the most pain.
I knelt down beside this girl, looked her in the eyes and said to her, “I like people with spunk. You and I are going to get on well but perhaps you may want to consider sitting on a chair for this session as the floor is not that comfortable.” She looked at me and slowly sat up, found a seat in the front row and I proceeded with the session.
Over the next 60 minutes, I spoke to the girls about how they see themselves, self esteem and body image. With all my sessions I never believe in talking at people, I believe in getting everyone involved so they feel heard and are engaged and part of the process. When you give teenagers options, they are far more inclined to partake in a session. At the end of our session, the teen who had made such a dramatic entrance and proceeded to push boundaries throughout the session was the last girl left in the library. She shared her story with me and asked me questions until finally she was ushered out of the library as she was already 25 minutes late for her next class. As she ran out the doors, she turned around and yelled out to me, “ Am I going to see you again Miss? Are you coming back to our school.’ I smiled knowing that I had made a very small difference that day.
I have recently started watching Orange Is the New Black. I do not watch a lot of TV but thanks to Netflix and constantly feeling left out when my friends talk about the show, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Yes, it is all about prison, lesbian’s and lots of drama but I am getting something different from this show. As the story line goes back to the prisoner’s lives when they were little girls, the common thread seems to be the fact that they were deeply hurt, abused and abandoned by adults at a very young age.
When you look into the eyes of aggressive adults or teenagers for that matter, it is very easy to forget that they were innocent children with so much love to give and somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong.
I think this is why I am so passionate about the work I do because I believe in giving young people all the resources and support they need as young an age as possible so that ultimately, they feel something we are all searching for which is to be loved. When you feel loved and supported in this world, great things can happen as you feel like you belong and have a place in our society. Underneath angry people generally is a great deal of pain and this is what needs to be released.
I have never believed that there are bad teenagers out there. I believe there are teenagers out there who have had a rough time or had parents that have been unable to best equip them with the knowledge on how to make good choices. It is our role as adults to be good role models in the lives of all young people we come into contact with, not just our own.
Love them fiercely! Let them know how valued and important they are.
Listen to them so they feel their story and their thoughts matter. All teens want is to be heard, not shut down. You do not have to agree with them but at least listen to them. Remember that teenagers have the ability to love deeply and so desperately want to feel both love and loved. When you stand back and look at the simplicity of their needs, they are all obtainable.
As The Beatles put it so beautifully, All You Need Is Love.
Can you relate to this story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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