Category Archives: age

You’re HOW old???

Me: Height doesn’t have anything to do with age. Most of you are taller than me, but I’m twice as old as all of you.
Boy 1: What? How old are you?
Me: I’m 36.
Six kids: What? No way!
Boy 2: I thought you were 29!
Me: No. I’m 36.
Boy 2: Really??? Someone told me you were 29.
Me: No. I’m really 36.
Girl: What year were you born?
Me: 1981.
Girl: Shit. Yeah, well, I guess that really is 36 years ago. The oldest I would have guessed you at is 32.
Me: Thanks, but no, I’m really 36.
Boy 1: Snap! You’re only 24 years away from being 50! That’s so old!
Me: I’m actually only 14 years away from being 50.
Boy 1: What? That’s even worse!
Boy 3: My dad just turned 36 a few days ago.
Me: Cool. Well, I guess me and your dad have something in common.
Boy 1: Oh my god! Fourteen years away from FIFTY! Don’t you hate being so old?
Me: Nope, I don’t really mind it. I’ve gotten used to it, really. Just one year at a time.
Boy 2: Yeah, that’s not too bad, being 36. It means you’re smart. You know, wise.
Girl [laughing, clearly making fun of the boys]: Yeah, Ms. H. You’re wise because you’re so old.



Yesterday, I had a conversation in one of my classes where I asked them if it’s worth it to work more than 40 hours a week in order to be financially secure. The class was made up of six teenage boys, all under-performing high school students in an academic support class, all who identify as non-white.

I’ve asked students this question before. At my old school. At my old school where my students were mostly from two-parent households where one or more parent have a college degree. My students there were all high achievers, socially conscious, and carried a basket full of ambitions. When I asked them this question, they almost unanimously said no. Those students wanted to have families. They wanted to travel. They wanted leisure time. And they counted on their future job opportunities to be salaried positions that would grant them the time and flexibility to be able to enjoy their evenings and weekends. Forty hours, they said, is enough, and very few jobs are worth the extra stress and time away from personal interests.

But yesterday, my students mostly said yes. They said that sometimes you have to work more than 40 hours a week if you’re going to support your family and still have enough money to do extra things like go on trips or buy a new TV. Then they decided that it was more about money – specifically how much they were making per hour. They settled on $9.50. “If I am making $9.50 an hour,” said one of the boys, “then I will definitely work more than 40 hours a week. I would work 100 hours a week!” Some of the other boys tried to tell him that 100 hours a week was too much, but he insisted. “Do you know how awesome it would be? That’s like $900 a week! I would be making bank!” There were no arguments with that. Nine hundred dollars a week would, they decided, be bank.

At first, I smiled inwardly. This kid is newly 16 years old and I don’t think he’s had a job yet. I remember as a younger person when I got my first job that paid me more than minimum wage and how rich I felt then. Of course, if my job now started paying me $9.50 an hour, I’d walk out and be furious and frustrated with my stupid little paycheck, but there was a time when that giant paycheck of $400 felt like it could easily solve so many problems. This kid is naive and simple and doesn’t understand adult finances.

Then I realized that it’s not just that. I was the one being simple. This kid doesn’t have the same chance to get a job that pays enough in a 40-hour work week that my students from that other school had. He can barely read. His math skills are years behind grade level. His work ethic is virtually non-existent. Yes, he incorrectly thinks that $9.50 is going to make him rich enough to buy the fancy car, clothes and house that he sees in his future, but he probably correctly thinks that that’s the amount of money he’s going to make some day. The amount of money he’s probably going to make for a long time.

This is where I spin off to philosophical points about opportunities and giving children what they need and taking care of poor people and educating the masses and inequities in the system, but I’m not going to do that here. Not now. But as you finish reading this, please consider all those topics. Because they’re huge topics that aren’t getting any better on their own.

Hot Mama

Girl: I love babies. I can’t wait to be a mom.
Me: Wait. Wait ten more years. It’s a big deal and nothing to rush in to.
Girl: Ten years?!? No way. I wanna be the hot mom, not the wrinkly old hag.
Me: I was 27 when I had my first baby.
Girl: But you’re pretty. I will age. And not gracefully.
Me: I don’t think that’s a solid reason to have babies when you’re still a baby. Trust me; it’s hard to be the child of a child.
Girl: Oh I know. My mom was 16 when she had me. But I’ll be 18 in a couple of weeks. That’s a lot better!

Excuse me, mister officer…

We just this week hired a new security officer. He’s tall, attractive, used to play in the NBA…You see where this is going. Yes, all the girls in the school are flirting with him. Shamelessly. As in, “Honey, do you need help wiping up that drool?” It doesn’t matter that he’s far too old for them (he’s 39), that he’s married, that he’s here in a professional position, or that he’s generally uninterested in ruining his career and his marriage by dating teenagers. Here’s how bad it’s been: Monday, I literally saw three girls running into and over each other in the hall because they were all too busy staring at him while walking. Tuesday, two separate teachers told me that girls have started bringing them paper passes to sign rather than taking the classroom binder so that they can hide the pass and get stopped by said hottie security officer. Today, the rumor is that all the girls have heard that he has an 18-year-old son, so, clearly, that’s their next target.

We’ve all started placing bets on how much longer his hotness will last.

Back to life, back to reality…

Happy Monday morning to me! I had a student arrested first block, one put on discipline warning for excessive tardies, two sent to the office for sleeping in class, and three discipline referrals for refusing to work. And that was all before lunch!

But to show you my job isn’t all boring and serious, here’s a fantastic conversation I just had with some kids:

Me: Hey, can you make sure you keep that water bottle off the computer table? Put it on the floor next to you or on the desk behind you?
Boy 1: What if I just make sure the lid is on?
Me: See, it’s this whole liquids-and-electronics thing. They don’t really go together very well. So it would be awesome if you could just keep said liquids away from the computers altogether. The floor or the desk would be excellent places to store your drink.
Boy 2: But liquids and electronics are only bad together if they touch.
Me: And that is all too easy when the liquid and electronics are around teenagers.
Boy 2: I’m not a teenager.
Me: Yeah? How old are you?
Boy 2: Eighteen.
Me: You’re eighteen? So you’re a teenager?
Boy 2: No, I’m an adult.
Me: Maybe legally you can do some adult things, but if you’re eighteen, you’re still a teenager.
Boy 2: That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not how it works.
Me: That’s not how what works? Language?
Boy 2: No. Age.
Me: That is absolutely how it works. When the word “teen” is part of your age, you are, by definition, a teenager.
Boy 2: It’s all a state of mind, anyway.
Me: Good point. And since your mind isn’t fully developed until you’re 25 anyway, then you have a good seven years left of being a teenager.

Becoming an Adult

To start our next novel, I gave my students a questionnaire about becoming an adult. You know the type – there’s a list of statements and you rate each one on a scale of one to five, with one being strongly disagree and five as strongly agree. As I looked over my students’ responses, some of them really surprised me. For instance, this one:

There are certain things you have to do, have or accomplish before you can be considered an adult.

I fully thought they would say no, that you just become an adult. But they didn’t. A few did, but most of my students rated this a 4 or 5. However, none of them wrote about this statement, so I don’t know why they answered that way (they got to choose three statements to write about). This makes me wonder: What do you need to have to become an adult? What do you need to have done? Do they think you need a driver’s license? A high school diploma? To have moved out of your parents’ house? For the most part, I agree with them. I think you get maturity and awareness through experiences. However, I don’t think it’s as easy as a checklist. Hmmm. Moving on.

Here’s another one:

Adults have an easier time making plans for their lives.

I thought they would say yes, but no one did. The highest anyone gave this was a 3. But, again, no one wrote about this one, so I don’t know what they were thinking. I figured they’d say yes because adults have more freedom, more money, more opportunity for mobility…but maybe they realize how limiting your life can be (or just feel) when you’re an adult. Maybe they realize that sometimes making plans and carrying those plans out takes money and sometimes money falls short more easily than you’d like.

Sometimes, things happen to you that make you feel like your eyes have finally opened.

I have reasons for thinking the way I did about this one: they complain. A lot. About everything. Especially when it’s new or difficult. In my experience, teenagers on the whole are not a group of people excited to suck the marrow out of life. They want to sit around and do the same old thing that they do every day and then complain about how tragic life is. So when I asked them this question, I fully expected them to be like, Naw. I get it. I got a buddy who did that. Is a’ight. And then I would be like (in this farcical conversation), No, it’s not all right. Sometimes you just don’t know until you know. But I didn’t have to. In class, they told me, “Well, that one’s obvious.” OK. And a kid wrote about that one: “I feel like people can’t understand what somethings are like unless they go through it like first time standing up surfing.” Another kid wrote, “Living on your own is much harder than I thought it would be, the cost of living is expensive. Esspesially when your 16, it is hard to find a job or anything.” And someone else said, “There are things you absolutely cannot know unless you go through them yourself. People don’t understand what it is like to have your parents doing drugs and getting caught and being taken away by CPS. You have to go through that in order to understand it.” I think they’re all right. Absolutely correct.

Last one:

School doesn’t teach you about things that are really important in life.

They didn’t surprise me on this one – they almost uniformly agreed with this one. A few kids marked this as a 3, but for the most part it was 4s and 5s. Except for two kids. Two kids disagreed with this statement. As a teacher, clearly, I disagree with this statement. I think that kids (and teachers and parents and administrators and legislators) get too bogged down with the facts that kids leave school with and don’t look enough at the skills. I don’t remember what the krebs cycle is (or if I spelled it right or if it’s supposed to be capitalized) or what year Shakespeare was born or how many men died at Shiloh, but I know how to look all that information up, how to write about it and present it in a professional manner, how to organize my work and turn it in on time, how to put my name at the top and check the directions to see what color ink my work needs to be completed in. I think when we start focusing on the skills rather than the facts, we can make school more of a place of learning and less of a hoop to jump through. These two kids who disagreed with this statement, I think are starting to see that. One of them I only just met at the beginning of the quarter last week. She’s told me a couple of times that school is important to her, that she went through a time when she thought all she wanted to do was sit around and smoke pot, but then she realized that wasn’t going to get her a job or a diploma or a family. So she changed. And she likes this lifestyle a whole lot better. The other kid I had last quarter as well. He talks all the time about partying and drinking and how awful he is in school and he dresses like a stereotypical stoner, but I have seen the other side. I have seen his work. This kid is smart and when I tell him he can do better, he does. He has a good heart and he is kind. He listens and he processes what you’ve said before he responds and he’s OK admitting that you’re right or quietly standing his ground and just not engaging. I think he gets the point of school and I think he is probably sober more than he’d care to admit and I think he’s going to be a great adult some day.

Shakira is old

Boy: Shakira’s pretty young. I thought she was, like, 30 or something, but she doesn’t look like she could be nearly that old.
Me: Just because someone is 30 doesn’t mean they’re old.
Boy: Oh. Well, no, that’s not what I meant.
Me: Uh huh. I just looked it up. Shakira’s 37.
The whole class: What?!? She is?!?

Age is only a number

Boy: My mom is so old.

Girl: How old is your mom?

Boy: She’s, like, double my age.

Me: So your mom’s 28?

Boy: No, she’s even older than that! She’s, like, I don’t know, 32.

Me: Yeah? That’s pretty old. I don’t know very many people that old. I mean, that’s, like, really old.

Boy: I know. She’s been middle-aged for a long time now.

Me: I can’t even imagine being 32. She must feel just awful. Sick all the time…achy…poor vision…losing her teeth…

Other Boy: [said with a knowing gleam in his eye] How old are you?

Me: Thirty-one.