Have Students changed since we grew up and are they more difficult to to work with now?
Recently, I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter from the Waco Tribune to talk about working with students in schools. Are teenagers more difficult today than 20 years ago? Are they less respectful of authority? … and many similar questions. My answer to each question was “NO!”
Don’t get me wrong. Students of today are different. They do not and will not accept “because I said so.” Students want you to explain “why” and they are right in making that request of educators, activists, politicians, parents, and others. If you want people to make the tough and correct choice when faced with difficult decisions, you must give them the proper foundation of decision-making. Each teenager must understand, at their deepest core, why doing the “right thing” is so vitally important to being a good person. When you understand the “why” of your decisions, going against peer pressure is much easier.
In addition to knowing the “why,” you must teach the TRUTH and be willing to hear the TRUTH yourself! Be open and honest with students. If you go to give a presentation on sexual assault, be prepared for all attitudes and answers that may come your way. Open yourself up to all challenges with a friendly face. If you become defensive towards a student’s comments during your program, you will turn many of the students “off” and thus, diminish your entire reason for speaking — to open their minds to a better approach and understanding. No matter how offensive the student’s comment may be, you must remain calm and address the negative comments with a positive approach. Time and time again, students tell us that our program is so successful because of the manner is which we relate to the students. The students love that we are willing to hear “their side of the story.”
For example, many people teach students that “No Always Means No.” However, in each crowd of 30 students, you will have AT LEAST one female who will believe that you are wrong in telling students that “No Always Means No.” In this one female’s mind, she will be thinking “that is not true. I have said ‘no’ as part of a game I play with the guys I’m with.” How do you address this issue? If you simply say “NO always means NO”, you are going to lose credibility after you leave the room. Why? At least one female student (if not more) will talk about how they personally break that rule which makes you wrong because you said, “Always.” Once a student can prove you wrong, the other student’s will believe their peer and not you. After you lose your credibility, all the lessons you were teaching will be lost by the majority of the students.
Then how do you address to students the issue that “No Always means No?” Change the wording in your presentation to “Always respect the word ‘No’ as meaning ‘No!’ Then, you are showing the utmost respect for your partner.” By changing this wording, no one individual student’s argument can prove you wrong because you didn’t say what they were thinking (which you can’t absolutely know). Instead of trying to prove what they were thinking, you showed all the students the “right way” to respect another person.
With any decisions you make on your approach with students, you must explain your approach in a way that you feel comfortable and believe in If I gave you my speech, it wouldn’t work for you. Why? I fully understand my approach and believe in it 100%. My personal passion is the catalyst to my presentations. Your passion will be unique to you. If you try to copy another person’s program, students will know. Teenagers have a gift of being able to detect a “fake” and can tell when you are NOT passionate about what you are saying.
When a student does make a rude or insensitive comment, is it easy to remain objective and calm? No, but you are the professional and your goal should be to make a difference. Therefore, you must learn how to use this skill of “not attacking.” If you have spoke to students in the past and never heard arguments against your point of view, you are probably not provoking the students enough to hear what they are really thinking. Provoking must be done in a fashion that makes the students comfortable with you. You CANNOT lecture teenagers and make them feel comfortable. They hate lectures. Talk WITH them and listen to them. Then teach each of them what is the “right thing to do.”
Students of today are an awesome group of individuals who love to be challenged. Challenge them and open doors of change that they never expected to experience. By doing so, you will make an amazing difference!
– written by Mike Domitrz, Founder of The DATE SAFE Project and Host of the award-winning DVD HELP! My Teen Is Dating. Realistic Solutions to Tough Conversations (available on sale by clicking here). Each year, over 80 educational and military installations around the world bring Mike to share insightful how-to skills for discussing respect in dating, boundaries, bystander intervention and helping your loved ones come to you in difficult times. Plus, over 40,000 copies of Mike’s books May I Kiss You? and Voices of Courage have been distributed internationally.
To obtain permission to reprint any or all portions of this article, Email Mike here