The art of being a teen

March 18, 2011|Lisa Prejean

As my alarm buzzed at 4:30 a.m., I awoke with great expectancy.

It's the feeling I have every time our school takes a group of students to a fine arts competition. There's a current of hope in the air.

Will they remember the lines? Will they reach the notes? How will their artwork be received? Will the judges like what the students have written?

Each contest is a learning experience for the students and the teachers.

As I watch my students sing or play an instrument, I get a fuller image of who they are and who they are trying to become. Seeing their artwork on display allows me to view the world through their eyes. Reading what they write opens a window to their thoughts.

Earlier this week as we traveled to Lancaster, Pa., for a fine arts competition, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to see my students from several vantage points. I have the opportunity to see them perform and I have the privilege of reading what they write.

As we drove along, I graded essays. It was a good time to work because it takes almost three hours to get to Lancaster on a school bus. At least, that's how long it took us on Tuesday.

I didn't mind because I was acquiring knowledge the entire way.

In what other job can a person learn about Catholicism in Korea, Martin Luther's 95 theses, World War II's effect on baseball, Hitler's persecution of the Jews, the NFL/AFL merger, Nero's persecution of Christians, the suffrage movement, Jamestown's role in American history and the use of the atomic bomb in World War II ... all in the same morning?

Sometimes all that information gets jumbled in my mind. After reading such a variety of essays, I might dream that Martin Luther threw the first pitch to Capt. John Smith as the pope ran for the touchdown.

My students wonder why I get tongue-tied by the end of the day and some things just don't come out right.

They are filling my mind with all this information, so what do they expect? That I will be able to process it all and move on? Oh, my, that's asking a lot. I'd rather meditate on what I learn so it has time to mesh correctly with what I already know.

Grading multiple essays is rather like trying to keep up with a group of teenagers who are moving from one classroom to another for competition after competition.

A fine arts festival can make the participants feel scattered by the end of the day.

It's a good kind of scattered, though, one that helps students dream of the possibilities in their future .... As long as they're not dreaming that Nero is posting the NFL/AFL merger on the Wittenberg door, we'll be OK.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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