One great thing about spending time with 17-18 year-olds: You realize that your own cluelessness and lack of judgement at that age was normal. You stop beating yourself up over getting a D in typing back in 1992 because, like, you didn’t believe in typing.

As a teacher, I know that adolescence is characterized by a lack of frontal lobe brain development, so I’m becoming more patient with these poor creatures who have to make life-altering decisions without all their cognitive ducks in a row. Know what the frontal lobe is all about? Long-range planning, risk assessment, motivation, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy. Know when the frontal lobe matures? Around age 25 — after you’ve had a full 7 years to fuck up your adult life with intemperate relationships; intermittent community-college attendance; unmoored professional flailing; and maybe some naked photos on the Internet. And the kids don’t know enough to be afraid. Late adolescence is like a toddlerhood redux: I can do it! I can do it all by myself! This is MY light socket and MY paper clip! Stop trying to run my life!

It feels odd to look at someone twice my size; someone legally able to marry and vote, and say: “What are you supposed to be doing right now?” “Why is your assignment late?” “I need you to stop talking, or there will be consequences.” I’ll ask myself, Damn, shouldn’t this be self-evident? and What’s wrong with you guys?

The answers are No, and Nothing. The 17-18 year-old brain simply doesn’t hold information very long, so they honest-to-God have forgotten the dozen times you mentioned the assignment due date; they really don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing right now. That information has fallen through the frontal lobe sieve, so the teacher must retrieve it and drop it back in again. Exacerbating this cognitive reality are the kids’ cell phones; their texts and tweets; their novelty ring tones and relentless status updates. It’s the perfect storm of high-pressure distraction and low-pressure slack, meeting in tropical confluence and razing the seaside village of Late Adolescence.

Anyway. The mature, goal-oriented high schooler is a rare bird, and knowing this makes me feel better about having been a twit. It’s healing.

But I still don’t know how to type.

4 thoughts on “qwertyuiop

  1. This is kind of an interesting idea of 17-18 year olds, but I often wonder why schools spend so much time trying to educate the kids who are not serious about an education. I know I got sick of being in classes with them, wanted to learn, and was so relieved to finally qualify for the advanced classes where at last ALL the kids were serious and studious.

    Yes, most teenagers are complete idiots, I’ve always hated them, hated them when I had to be with them, hate them now. I say ship them off to farms to do hard labor for a year, picking apples… ban the cell phones… I bet a lot of them would get their feeble brains in order once they’ve done hard labor for awhile. Get rid of teenage boys… let girls study and excel.

  2. I really like most of my students — girls and boys — and get a kick out of the inner workings of the 17-18 year-old brain. I HATE the cell phone issue, though — it’s a terrible, daily distraction. And a year of national service (tho’ not hard labor) would be a great thing for all of us, not to mention our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. It’d also be the only time a lot of the kids actually got outside for any extended period of time.

  3. Get outside for any period of time? Wow, no nature walks? No outside activities? Can cell phones be banned in the classroom? How does that work? They are really bad with adults, so I don’t imagine there are many good “cell phone” etiquette role models out there.

  4. Hi. I’m new to radfem blogs but as a teenage girl I can say the cell phone issue doesn’t show signs of improvement. 🙂 Great blog by the way.

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