Teaching Teens to Navigate Life’s Detours

Lessons often come dressed up as detours and roadblocks

~ Oprah Winfrey

This quote was tweeted by @Epic_Women recently and it is one that I think I might use on the first day of school.  It is only mid-August, I still have three weeks of “me time” and I am thinking about work.  Teaching never really leaves me.

I think of ALL the different ways my students sabotage themselves.  They hand their power over so easily to the friends that influence, to the parent that neglects, to the siblings that bully, to their inner child that never got a chance to feel loved, respected and supported.  They cannot see that they are accountable to themselves and that they can be responsible for their actions – that the power is in their hands to learn from the shitty things that happen in life.

So I envision myself on the first day of school with my lovely quote written on the board behind me and I will ask them to write or discuss what they think the quote means and to think of examples of how it may be displayed in their own lives – some students will write two sentences or speak two words, others will fill pages or speak for twenty minutes, and others will draw the answer – using stick figures.

Regardless, my aim is to get them to think – to think about not wasting the next year on excuses, on blaming everyone around them, on seeing that they can take charge of their life.

Will I change them?


Can’t say that I think this short exercise will cause a cataclysmic breakthrough that proves to them that behind every difficult moment with me or another teacher or student  lies a “sunlight-breaking-through-the-clouds” epiphany that will reveal to them their true path.

But, I hope that maybe, when they are digesting the anxiety-ridden, sometimes humiliating, at times acceptable, always so difficult moments of each day, one of them might remember….

“What was that thing Ms. said about lessons the other day?”

And, perhaps, in the recesses of their mind, behind the latest gossip on twitter or bbm statuses of their 700 friends, they will see that they can move beyond the roadblock.  That the detour is just that.  A detour.  And, that just because they are fourteen-eighteen (sometimes nineteen),  it doesn’t mean they can’t learn these lessons.  It’s probably the best age to learn such a lesson.

It’s my hope anyway.

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