Teen Speak

In the last post, I mentioned that I shared teaching duties at a Christian Youth Camp with my friend, Michael.  I handled the topics of “Freedom” and “Self-Esteem”.  I tried my best to engage the young people by asking questions, getting their opinions and making it interactive as much as possible.  I thought that I held their attention and did quite well.

At least, that was what I thought until I witnessed Michael in action.  Boy, he connected with them on a whole different level and believe me, I was taking notes.  One thing that he did was to single out some of the more popular kids, and then use their names in stories to illustrate his point.  That was brilliant!  Talking about some generic teenager having boy-girl problems seem so academic but to say that “Steve” was having an argument with “Jane” gets their attention and makes the story come to life with their points of references.

Like Michael, I tried to use pop culture references to connect with the young people too but I found my pop culture references were too out of date.   I think I used one of Christina Aguilera‘s song to illustrate a point but I think she’s already too ancient for this hip crowd.  Michael on the other hand told a football joke to illustrate the point of how following natural instincts isn’t always the right thing to do which was brilliant as 90% of the teen boys play football. (click here for football joke).

Twilight as a Teaching Aid

I used a clip from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and Mike made reference to the Twilight Series.  Guess which got a better response from the teens?

Well, I learned a lot from Mike and I will try harder the next time to connect with my teen audience.  Now, I teach adults and late teens very well and have done so both at church and at University.  I also get on very well with young children although the reason eludes me as I feel out of sorts with them.

But I have difficulty relating with teens and as I thought about it, I realised it may be because I was never the typical teen either.

Remembering my own teenage years, I played basketball when most of my friends played football or badminton.  While they grooved to the sounds of Abba, Electric Light Orchestra and Chicago, I was swinging to the jazz greats of Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Lois Armstrong.    While most kids decorated their rooms with posters of their music or Hollywood idols, my room was bare.  I was also the nerd that played chess and volunteered to take care of the class noticeboard.

I wanted to take part in the scouts but my mom never forgot how scouts in South East Asia were sent to the frontlines to help the regular soldiers during World War Two and forbade me from joining and so out of my circle of friends, I was the only one who was not in the scouts or the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.

I sang in the choir which was not the cool thing to do in my school. All the popular kids joined the marching band.    We all cheered the athletics team but no  one bothered that much with the Debating Team and of course, I belonged to the latter.  I was also one of a handful to try fencing which was incredibly rare in Malaysia then and even now.

I was somehow out of sync with most of my friends all through my teens.  Maybe having never been a normal teen, I still find it difficult to relate to teenagers today.


8 thoughts on “Teen Speak”

  1. I’m not sure “normal” exists anywhere, perhaps there are just conformists and non-conformists, and everything between the two ? (I wasn’t normal either…)

  2. You really are clueless! Feeling like an outsider is the very definition of being a teen. Use your stories of feeling like an outsider and just watch them nod their heads.

  3. Well… I can relate to your examples! lol 🙂 I bet you were a very good speaker LGS. Also, “retro” is always in, right?

  4. One of things my boss did to understand the current teenage era was to watch the popular teenage shows. She was a physical anthropologist, although she was just as much a social anthropologist in my head. 🙂 She always tried hard to figure out where people were coming from. It was one of her great qualities.

    And! I bet you kept their attention just fine too. 🙂 You hold all our attention here, so I’m sure you did just fine with all those teenagers. 🙂

  5. I could not do this, I’d be lost at the try. I have no idea what music is played in teen-rooms, what clothes are cool etcetc – I even have trouble to identify what is important for them. I was not too bad at teaching young people in their late teens early twens at the university, but they are (at least partly) grown ups.

    BTW it is a real problem at the German universities now, with all the modified BA and MA courses – the beginners are younger, the whole studium is more of a school curriculum and they expect the lecturer to be a teacher. The older idea was that adults – those who teach and those who learn – together work through and into a specialized field, not school continued. The personal at universities is not meant to be school teachers – we simply have not the education for this: It was f.e. never part of my studies – if I would have wanted to become a school teacher I would have had to do a lot of other seminars etc. and a stately examination, 20 years ago!

  6. Owen,
    Quite right. I have no problem with being “abnormal”, in fact I was always quite proud of that. But sometimes its like trying to speak Klingon to people who have never heard of Star Trek.

    The thing is. I never really minded being an outsider. But I just can’t relate or communicate. For example, I tell a joke about the ultimate question from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it falls flat cause no one has ever heard of the book. However, I will not deny that I am clueless. I very often am. 🙂

  7. Laura,
    Thank you. Encouraging words as always. Retro may be in but is ancient?

    Wow. I can watch cartoons for hours but it’s torture for me to watch teenage shows. Perhaps that shows my real intellectual age.

    I have encountered that too in Malaysia where today students come for lectures and expect to take back printed copies of the lecture notes. Some even ask friends to pick them up thinking they only need to read and study the notes. There is no opening of the mind to ask questions or understand why or to ponder possibilities – just memorising facts for exams. I stick to teaching the way I know – which is to stimulate questions rather than giving facts but it is a challenge to make the questions relevant with examples that they relate to.

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