Thirty 8th graders, one 9th grader, and I participated in Ogden City’s Arbor Day tree planting celebration on Friday. The students spent the morning planting trees. Without exception they worked hard. They dug holes, tamped soil, planted trees, and packed compost. Whenever a
city worker asked for a person to do something, four or five people volunteered. They were nearly racing each other for opportunities to work. Everyone pitched in. EVERYONE!! My shirt size doubled Friday, not because I had eaten excessively but because my heart was swelling with pride.
We were good for the city and the city was good to us. When lunch time came, they served unlimited pizza, pop, bread sticks, and cookies. Every OPA participant also received a hat and a bright orange t-shirt. “This is the greatest service project ever,” said one of our students as he piled the fourth piece of pizza on his plate.
One gang of six boys planted four huge trees (most groups planted two) and then hauled trash. During the official Arbor Day Ceremonial Presentation of the Ogden as a Tree City Award (39 years running), this sterling group of young men stood at the back (there were not enough chairs). Almost military in appearance, they stood straight and tall, hands clasped behind their backs. Hung around their necks, like medals, were the bright orange t -shirt given them by the city.
As he praised our school, the program’s emcee mentioned the group of boys who, in spite of their apparent defiance, were fabulous workers. Apparent defiance? As I puzzled over his words, the public relations officer standing next me to me
whispered, “I understand those boys. I have a 14 year old son who wouldn’t want to put on an orange t-shirt either.”
A light of understanding dawned and a flame of indignation rose. The adults present, at least two of them, assumed that I had told my boys to wear the t-shirts and that the boys had insolently put shirts around their necks in an act of marginal compliance.
No. No. And NO. NOT TRUE!! In the first place, I said nothing to the boys about the t-shirts. Nothing. There was nothing for them to defy. Secondly, the t-shirts were made for middle school children and my boys are big. For most of them, the shirts were simply too small; they could not have put them on if they tried. Draping their shirts around their necks
was not an act of defiance or marginal compliance; it was, in fact, an act exactly opposite in nature. They donned the shirts in the only manner physically possible because they wanted to belong; they recognized they were part of something great and
wanted to be identified with it.
My boys are not defiant and don’t you (any of you!!) go about assuming they are!
Which brings me to a soap box…….. Teens are great. GREAT!!
A few months ago I was running west on 4800 S (Roy) at the same time that a large group of students
(over a hundred) was walking west on 4800 S, making their way to Rocky Mountain Junior High. The string of
students stretched intermittently for over a mile. As I ran up behind the first cluster of students, one boy, apparently alerted by my huffing and puffing, told his buddies to step aside. Not only did the group of boys clear the sidewalk for me, they wished me a good day and valiantly refrained from making any rude comments about my shape, size, or lack of speed. [As middle-aged, painfully-slow, not-slim woman in black running tights I gave them many options for cutting comments.] “Wow,” thought I to myself, “What a great group of young people.”
Then I approached a second cluster and the experience repeated itself as it did with a third group of students and a fourth. Every time I ran up behind a set of students, they politely stepped aside to let me pass and frequently yelled to the group ahead, telling them of my approach and advising them to move off the sidewalk. My heart would have swelled in
pride over this group of teens as well if it had not been so busy pumping blood to my legs and lungs.
Two Saturdays ago I sponsored clean up service project on the Ogden River. Twenty-four OPA students showed up and spent three hours picking up trash in a drizzling rain. We filled over twenty large black trash bags, retrieved four shopping carts, and had only one student fall into the river.
Inevitably, when I walk into OPA in the morning, a student—sometimes one that I know and sometimes one that I don’t—makes an effort to open the front door for me. As I walk the halls to my class, if I am carrying bags or carting boxes, students always ask if they can help. Always.
Teens are great, including mine.
Grace was stayed home from school because she felt sick. Too sick to work and too bored to be quiet, she begged to be allowed to watch a show on the computer. Too anti-inane programs to allow downloaded TV shows and too ornery to be
compassionate, I steadfastly refused her requests. [Being at home on a school day should not be a pleasant experience.] She asked to use the computer to index genealogical names instead. Hum…..outmaneuvered by my teen again. She did 500 names and has a goal to do 1,000.
Tanah texted me from school, “Mom, my throat is on fire.” I responded, “Don’t breathe on anyone. The last thing I need is for you to torch someone.” I thought I was funny…..
So…………soap box time again. Don’t assume teens are defiant…..or destructive…..or malicious……or ….. hard. There are teens that are defiant, destructive, malicious, and hard but there are more adults who are defiant, destructive, malicious, and hard. If you are going to make assumptions about teens, assume they are great and hold on to that assumption until it is proven incorrect.
P.S. I responded to an article in the Standard Examiner written by D. Louise Brown (titled “The silent marjority (minority) needs to make some noise”---it is a great article and worth looking up) and Ms. Brown wrote back. She said “Teresa; Wow, for starts you can write a blog or something. You express yourself so very well.” Great idea! I think I’ll do that…… (SMILE!!)