A couple of years ago I did some professional development work around brain-based teaching. One of the things I learned about adolescents is that their pre-frontal cortex, or the part of their brain responsible for long term planning and decision making, is still developing. Talk about an “ah ha” moment.
Today, on a field trip, I watched a student run straight through a foot-deep puddle. “I didn’t think it would be so deep,” he reflected while staring down at his drenched pants. “Don’t worry, ” I told him. “Your pre-frontal cortex is still developing.” Not really. I mostly just shook my head and gave him that wide-eyed teacher stare.
The lack of development in the pre-frontal cortex is why, when I assign a book project and give the students three weeks to do it, so many of them get this gleam in their eye. Great, they’re thinking, I don’t have to worry about this for three more weeks!
This relates to writing YA because I find that I read a lot of posts about what adults think teenagers would or wouldn’t do. It’s important to remember that most teenagers have a brain that is different from our adult brains. Things that make perfect sense to adults, do not necessarily compute in the world of a younger person. Adolescents often make decisions based on their emotions; more specifically the emotional state they’re in the moment a decision is required.
Sometimes the results are heroic, amazing, tragic, disastrous.
Sometimes your pants get wet.
Every so often I end up with kids in my class who geek out on reading as much as I do. We talk books and swap recommendations. It’s always interesting to me what YA books kids like and which ones I like.
I’ve posted before about my reticence to recommend books with a lot of sex, drugs or booze in them, even if they’re really good. But occasionally it happens the other way; where a student recommends a book with a lot of smuttery. This is always an interesting moment. Really? You wanted your teacher to read this? And discuss it with you?
I just read Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins, which I LOVED. This was a student recommendation from a few years back. The student has since moved away, so I’m not worried that he’ll show up and want to discuss the story of the demon who overtakes a high school student’s body with the main objective of experiencing sex and masturbation. (Full disclosure; the book is about a lot more than that, but those are the smutty parts.) I guess I’ll take it as a compliment that a 13 year old boy thought I would like this book. He was right. It’s smart, and well written and a bit naughty. And apparently it appeals to middle school students and their teachers.
Last week I was reading this book, during our sustained silent reading time, and I was not very silent. I was snickering, than snorting, that outright guffawing. Consequently there was a line at my desk to check out whatever it was that was making me chortle.
Works every time.
One of the latest “cool” things to do if you are in middle school (particularly if you’re a middle school boy) is to wear one of those livestrong knock-off bracelets that says, “I Love Boobies.”
I know the money goes to a great cause whether it’s worn by a breast cancer survivor or a smart-ass thirteen year old, but it irks me none the less. It brings out a side of me that’s not my favorite. We’ll call her “tired, inflexible, and mildly inappropriate teacher”. Tired inflexible teacher wants to walk up to each little middle school punk and say, “Really, you love boobies? Really? What do you love about them? Please tell me why you’re so inclined to wear that bracelet here in class? What is so great about boobies?”
Or better yet, “Boobies are great, aren’t they? But you really don’t know why yet. Take that damn thing off until you do!!!!!!”
Or even better, “Does your mother know you wear that bracelet? She must be so proud that you’re honoring the fact that you were breastfed? What a devoted young man you are!”