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I Like Teenagers
H. Elizabeth (Betty) Knoll
Rolfe High School speech and drama teacher from 1968-1983.

(Editorís note: In a phone conversation requesting her to submit an essay for the website project, Betty said circumstances at this era in her life are not conducive to writing new material. However, she submitted the following article she wrote years ago for the RHS newspaper Rambling On. She also submitted her friend Phil Heyís The True Ballad of the Great Race to Gilmore City that includes the characters Big Ralph from Rolfe and Peggy from Poky. We will publish that poem once we have obtained permission from the author. Betty also talked about how she used to spend long weekend hours reading student journals. She said, "Everybody is afraid to write, but I learned that if you let students write what they want to write and donít tell any of their secrets, they learn to express themselves with more confidence." It would be wonderful if some of her students would submit selections from their journals or new material for this project.)

I like teenagers . . .
     I like the fresh way they look at life . . . .
     and their free and easy style.

I like teenagers . . .
     I like their confidence, their courage, their optimism.
     I like the way they walk . . . limber and free and friendly.

Young people . . . with tomorrow in their eyes.

This excerpt from Don Valentineís American Essays gives many positive things about teenagers. I like what he says. After reading this essay to my eleventh and twelfth grade English classes, I give the assignment "I Like Teachers." At first, there was the usual groan because it isnít "cool" to like teachers. Requesting that they write only what they like about teachers gave them something to think about. As teachers and parents we often tend to be negative with our comments, so thinking positive is a habit we all need to cultivate. It was revealing and rewarding to read what the students wrote.

They tend to like teachers who:

  • "try to relate to kids and kids problems"
  • "will teach us something"
  • "will look at kids from a kidsí viewpoint and give them a break"
  • "are always happy and cheerful"
  • "have new and creative ideas to make class interesting and fun"
  • "help you along and show the way"
  • "have a sense of humor"
  • "will listen to your problems and be understanding and helpful"
  • "can brighten our day"
  • "come to school cheerful and eager for a new day"
  • "can share experiences and offer encouragement"
  • "have control in their class"
  • "have concern for me and my future"
  • "have pride for the people and things in school"
  • "are young people who have grown older and wiser"
  • "help me set my values and goals in life."

Basically, I would say from reading their papers that students really like teachers who treat them as human beings and who respect them for what they are and what they can do. One thing that was very apparent in their revelations was that they "like teacher who like teenagers." That makes sense!

Mr. Valentine concludes his essay with "It would be a sorry, stagnant, boring, standstill world without teenagers." I agree!

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