By Leslie Knight
When: January 18, 7-8:30 p.m.
Where: CCHS Learning Commons
I remember my high school experience vividly. I could tell you who were my teachers, what classes I liked best, the projects and papers I was most proud of, who were my friends and what we talked about, the extracurriculars I did, and how I generally felt as a high school student. So when I became a high school teacher I assumed I understood the experiences of all of my students. In graduate school, I had studied teens and how they learn. During my practicum I learned about classroom management. I had fully formed (so I thought) ideas about student discipline and know all about teens’ motivations, including why they might be late to class.
Last night Dr. Michael Thompson, during his talk “The Pressured Child” here at CCHS, shared a story from when he shadowed a high school student for a day. At one point during the day he needed to stop to use the restroom and the student he was shadowing waited for him, despite knowing s/he would be late to class. Dr. Thompson shared how comforting it was to have someone waiting for him with whom he could walk into class late.
How often had I, as a classroom teacher, admonished a student for “waiting for a friend”, making them late to my class? How easily I “judged” a student for committing a normal, everyday, human courtesy — keeping a friend company.
In a world of social media “echo chambers” and rushed and busy lives that leave little time for real conversations, how often do we take the time to understand a situation from the perspective of the other person? How often, as adults, do we really take the time to listen to our teens and try to see the world through their eyes? How often do we assume we understand everything they’re facing because, after all, we were once high school students ourselves? If we don’t carve out the time to listen and to share our own vantage points, while not in the middle of a crisis, neither us nor our children will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the other.
That’s the purpose of a Dialogue Night — create that space and time to talk, to listen, to share, and to gain perspective on someone else’s life. We know our students are stressed. According to data collected in the spring of 2016:
48% of students reported that a stress-related health or emotional problem caused them to miss more than one day of school in the past month.
52% reported that a stress-related health or emotional problem caused them to miss a social, extracurricular or recreational activity more than once in the past month.
~37% of students surveyed experienced exhaustion, headaches, and difficulty sleeping in the past month.
We need to better understand what the lives of our teens are really like. We need to understand what is causing them this stress so that we can help. Maybe there are coping strategies we can teach. Maybe there are changes we can make in our community. And maybe all they need to know is that we understand, we’re willing to listen, and we care.
Please join us on Thursday, January 18 from 7-8:30 in the CCHS Learning Commons for our first ever Parent Dialogue Night. Together we will watch a series of brief skits performed by CCHS actors that illustrate typical situations in the lives of our teens. Then we will debrief in small groups. So that this is a dialogue between adults and students, please consider bringing your teen as well. The event is geared towards students in grades 8-12 and parents of students in grades 6-12, You can register for the event on Eventbrite here.
This event has been inspired by our work with Challenge Success, a non-profit organization that works with schools looking to reduce student stress. For more information check out the new CCHS Challenge Success website here. There you will find photos from our first Feel Good Friday event, resources on teen stress, and our own Challenge Success blog that we’ll update with more news on our work in this area.