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tried to use pop culture references to connect with the young people too but I found my pop culture references were too out of date.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).
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.