I admit we probably were tacky.

No, I don’t think as a high school student, I was particularly sticky or in any way like an adhesive. I have come to realize that in general teenagers are the exact opposite of polished and sophisticated. That is what my homeroom teacher meant when she said we were tacky. We lacked finesse and polish.

I had the privilege of having Ms. Potter as my eighth grade English teacher. She moved to the high school with us and was my homeroom teacher, I hung out in her room before school and she helped me write essays when I was afraid to ask my own English teacher for help.   Some time in our five years of interaction she got married and became Mrs. Baker but was still the same, no nonsense teacher. But she was fond of referring to all of us as being tacky. I knew it wasn’t good, but I never quite got it until recently.

I have finally quit expecting my tenth, eleventh, and especially my twelfth graders to be polished and sophisticated. They are kids. They are works in progress. They may drive, have jobs, get straight A’s in calculus and tower over me in height, but they are tacky. They often say whatever comes into their heads, having no empathy for me or their other teachers. Because they are kids. But I still need to constantly remind myself, they are kids. Cut them some slack. Give them a break. Very few are purposely mean or hurtful but on occasion any one of them may come across as tacky.

What do I mean? Just last week a retired teacher and his wife stopped by my room to say hello while at the school. “Miss, is that your sister? You look just like her! Really! You do!” She had to be at least 25 years older than me. But through the teen age eyes, we all are just in that old adult category. No use getting mad.

“Miss, did you grade my test?” The one you waited three weeks to make up, spent all of lunch trying to do, handing it to me less than an hour ago as I started teaching? Oh wait, you just asked a question. No reason to rant. A simple, “No,” is much better than the indignant rant playing in my brain. You don’t know my minute by minute plan any more than I know yours. It was just a simple question. Same thing with the email sent after ten o’clock at night, the make-up work buried in the stack and every teacher’s all time favorite, “Did we do anything while I was out?”

So take a deep breath, be the example you want them to become, and give a short and polite answer with a smile, each and every time you are asked the same tacky question. No matter how much they look like adults, they still are kids.

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