Almost on a weekly basis, students ask me how old I am (Spoilers: I’m twenty-four). I tell myself that it’s not appropriate to talk to students about personal matters like age, so I tell them I’m forty-three.
“Really, Miss?” They ask, disbelieving. “There’s no way you’re in your forties. You can’t be older than thirty-five!”
The truth is that I don’t want to tell them I’m only twenty-four. My students are mainly sophomores, ranging from fourteen to sixteen. I’m really just nervous for someone to voice what I really think: You’re only twenty-four? That’s not that must older than us. You have hardly any life experience. What right or authority do you have to be our teacher?
It’s a weird thing, being in your twenties. When I had twenty-something teachers in high school, I didn’t think anything of it. They were clearly older and wiser than I was. They seemed like they were from a completely different generation. But now that I’m on the other side, being twenty-something just seems so juvenile.
I look at my older, twenty-something sister, who is teaching COLLEGE CLASSES, and I think to myself, I remember when, not too long ago, you would pin me down and tickle my armpits. And now you’re responsible for shaping the minds of adults….
I look at my husband and brother-in-law, who are both musicians and in a band together. They have band practice one a week, and sometimes my sister and I go to listen to them. I’m always shocked because their music actually sounds like real songs that could get stuck in my head. I have this sense of disbelief that they actually produce something of quality instead of something that makes me smile condescendingly and say, “Oh, that’s so cute, you guys sitting there, playing your instruments.”
When I look at twenty-somethings, I still see teenagers. I don’t take us seriously. I don’t take myself seriously, which becomes problematic when I find myself in charge of educating over a hundred students. I don’t feel like an authority figure because I feel too close in range to these people. And don’t even get me started talking about teaching seniors, who are actually adults! I’m trapped in this mindset of being seventeen years old, so of course I feel ridiculous being the “boss,” as Professor Vande Kopple called it.
So what is the remedy? We are fast approaching the point where we will be the generation in charge of the entire planet. Is there a way for me to switch my mindset to see us as more mature than I see us right now? Or does this feeling never go away? If I asked my parents, they would probably say that being fifty-four does not feel nearly as old as magazines and movies would have us believe. They would probably say they feel younger than the world sees them.
It might just be a matter of “fake-it-till-you-make-it.” If I act like I think of myself as some wise, mature adult with something to offer the world, then eventually the habit will be so ingrained that I’ll actually believe it. Right?
A born-and-and-raised Grand Rapidian, Sarah (’12) is now a seventh grade language arts teacher in the Seattle area. She has been living there since the summer of 2015 with her music teacher husband, Mike. She loves reading, watching Netflix, playing games, watercolor, and walking at the off-leash dog park (even though she does not have a dog).