Not only am I teaching high schoolers, but I spend most of my free time hanging out with a 16 year old, and sometimes her friends. Realizing that some of these kids are almost ten years younger than me... well there's a reality check for you! You mean, it wasn't just yesterday that I was in high school? Could it actually be so long ago that I was that age? And if so, why do I feel like these baby-faced teens are closer to being my peers than the other teachers I work with?
Maybe it's a result of having to communicate in a language in which my speaking abilities resemble those of a young child; or perhaps because something as simple as getting a library card (or even finding the library) seems almost as daunting as performing neurosurgery, but I'm starting to wonder if these 16 year olds (and 14 and 15 year olds) might, in fact, be smarter and more capable than I am.
A few days ago I had a class of students who were about 15. They were all practically fluent in English and Spanish (and learning German too... the little jerks!). I spent the entire class hour listening to them enlighten me on the excellent cultural offerings of Madrid. Who are these people? When I was fifteen I probably would have had a hard time giving you proper directions to the mall, not to mention all the best art museums and historical landmarks! I am beginning to wonder who should be teaching who.... I mean, um, whom... My Spanish surely needs more help than their English. And they are all so well-read I questioning the validity of my degree in English literature...
And then there's the fact that my friend Mari, the 16 year old daughter of the family I am living with, is my only real friend in Madrid and is often my designated escort if I'm going somewhere her parents think I won't be able to find on my own. And I am so glad she is with me, too! At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone suggested that I don't cross the streets anymore without holding someone's hand.
Okay, okay. It's true that most of the really fluent kids were raised in bilingual families, and I haven't had the chance to meet a lot of people my age yet except a few other teachers who live closer to the center of the city. But I do confess, I can't help but feel like, for the age gap between us, I'm not a heck of a lot more mature that these pimply high school kids (and lets be honest, I probably have more pimples than they do).
Then again, I'm the one getting paid to be at school. (Take that you precocious little brats!) So maybe that's what it means to be an adult-- you don't have to be that much smarter or more capable; you don't even have to do anything a 15 year old couldn't adequately handle-- you just have to find someone who will give you money for doing it.