Updated: Sep 25, 2020
We are all struggling with remote learning, but for teens it is a new level of complexity. They yearn to express themselves and make friends. To help support students create connections my daughters school allows chatroom interaction during class. Communication is extremely challenging at their age. What they say can easily be taken out of context or misinterpreted.
Only two weeks into the remote learning program, my teen comes to me and said she just reported someone for being rude. She said a classmate called her stupid and screen capture the chat and reported the incident. I commended her for taking action and not allowing someone to treat her that way. I didn’t probe more as I was a little preoccupied with my 3 and 5 year old.
Later that morning, I received a call from her teacher. She informed that my daughter is not in trouble but wants her to feel safe in class. She added she wanted to share the chat feed with me so I can get a better understanding of what happened.
As I reviewed the feed I thought about the lesson I want to teach my daughter. I wanted to use this opportunity to help her reflect and grow from this experience. To summarize the conversation exchanged was between her and two students. She was responding to the teachers question regarding favorite bands. Her classmate replied with an appreciation for the band as well and said “they are my people”. She responded and ask if the student was gay. (A little context here, my daughter believes that being gay is a good thing and not something we should be ashamed of). Another classmates jumps in and calls her stupid. At this point my daughter is confused and feels attacked.
I sat down with my daughter and reviewed the conversation line by line. We discussed how it could make other students feel and how certain conversations are better in a one on one or group setting. I also talked to her about being aware of personal biases and to appreciate each other without automatically categorizing or assuming someone's beliefs or values.
I searched her face for a response and then she wrinkled her nose and furrowed her eyebrows. The same look she makes when she is in deep thought. Then she said “mom I am so glad I can talk to you”. At this point I just wanted to cry, but I got to keep my cool in the presence of a teen.
At the end of the day I gave her a chart to help guide her conversations so she can express herself. These strategies are even more important as we are working to navigate remote learning. You can find a link to the chart below by clicking on the image below.
The following day my daughter was scheduled for a meeting with her orchestra teacher and counselor. I asked my daughter if she wanted me to listen in, but she said no and ran upstairs to take the call. A few minutes later she came back beaming, and said she had a really good meeting and said they were really impressed with what she had to say. Before I could ask her more she showed me an apology she had written. She even apologized to the rude classmate stating she understood why she defended the other classmate! My daughter showcased how she was able to be accountable, reflect, and forgive at the tender age of 13 ! Okay now I wanted to ball my eyes out this time but opted for a hug and told her how proud I was of her.
Being mindful takes practice and we still have lots to learn but eager to share our good and bad days.