Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Shock, horror

As a teacher I spend lots of time with teenagers. Recently I have realised how much more shocked and disturbed I am by the things they talk about and what they believe is okay. I had a chat with a few kids about bullying and they all thought it was wrong but believed they could do nothing about it. Other students I overhear talk about fights at the weekend, showing each other footage on their cellphones. I find all of this really upsetting.

Now I definitely don't believe that teenagers are bad or really any worse than previous generations and I am not naiive about what life is like for young people. But I still feel shocked and horrified at what these kids think life is all about.

I would like them to believe people are precious and life is sacred and that they should treat other people as they would like to be treated. I hate to think how adults have let these kids down by not showing them what it is like to be treated with respect and to be expected to show respect for others. I am so sad that these kids are already giving up on the values and hopes that young children are taught. I find it so disturbing that I stand at the front of a classroom talking about caring for one another and not using violence, when that is not what they are taught at home.

It is easy when shocked to distance myself, to want to run away to a 'nicer' place. Or the other option is to go numb, to apathetically accept the situation, much as many of the kids I teach have. But I refuse to do either. I want to keep my shock. I don't want to accept the status quo. I want to question the way young people and adults choose to treat each other and demand that we do better. But also I want to show empathy to those who do not know what is right, or choose not to because it is easier or 'just the way it is'. I am always only one step, one lost hope or dream away from choosing to do wrong to someone else.

We are all capable of the best and the worst. But the best is my hope and I will keep being appalled when we do not live as we should, instead settling for much less than what is meant for us.

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