But being 22 is simultaneously the biggest strength and weakness I have in my classroom.
I’m technically 22 years old (well I’ll be 23 next week hint hint). However, I look like I’m 18, think like I’m 35, and tell jokes like a 16-year old boy. My attention span is only slightly longer than theirs, and when they curse in class I usually don’t even notice. Any mention of balls turns into a solid 5-minute diversion where I just try to come up with the best testicle joke possible. I make them watch TED talks and I make them discuss topics like race, privilege, and same-sex marriage like adults. I’m super excited to discuss Bruce Jenner next week. I blend in in the halls, and I’m mistaken for a student on field trips. One of my new favorite things to say is, “I’m an adult! I’m the grown-up in this situation! You can’t say that to me!”
It’s such a perk because it makes me relatable to them. I was in high school five years ago. My brother is still in high school. I know what it’s like to take the ACT because it feels like that was me just a few weeks ago. I’m incredibly familiar with the college application process. I know what the job market looks like right now. My students and I might come from drastically different backgrounds, but at the core, we’re the same generation. I am physically incapable of going 90 minutes without checking my phone – so I understand why they feel the need to whip out their phone in the middle of class. I can talk to them about that weird hook-up culture that has (so sadly) worked its way into high schools. They all want to follow me on Instagram, and it’s taking a lot of self-control to make them wait until they graduate. I relate the content to their lives, because otherwise I get bored teaching it. I throw in a #tbt photo every week because that’s how I make teaching fun for me, and that’s how class becomes interesting to them.
But at the same time, sometimes this means they don’t take me seriously. It makes it harder to earn respect from students, parents, and other teachers, just because I look, and often act, so young. I totally get it. I’d probably freak out too if I found out that my 17-year old was being taught by a 22-year old. I have to fight this weird uphill battle to be taken seriously. Yes, I want to play in class. I would so much rather tell penis jokes than teach you about the quadratic formula. But I have push you. I have to make you put your phone away. I have to make you learn because that’s why I’m here.
I don’t want to be the cool, young, hip teacher. I want to be the really cool, but also super inspirational teacher. I don’t want them to want to be my friend. I want them to want to be me (lol sorry that’s super self-centered but I think you get what I mean).