For the past three years I've been teaching a section of frosh students. 9th graders are sometimes a world unto themselves, and it's a world apart from their other teenage colleagues. The frosh offer the occasional challenge but their primary charm is their unwavering enthusiasm and desire to please. In class, they wade right in to the course material, excited about what they will learn. Their minds are thoughtful and engaged and they ask questions that invariably impress me with their scope and scale. But while I like the far-ranging discussions of philosophy, history, and the human condition that we have in class, the most satisfying thing about spending time with them is watching these works in progress as they grow up – literally – over the course of the year.
At first, caught up in their enthusiasm, I don't see it happening. Then one day I look at a student who's been a slightly awkward girl all year long and for one quick moment I see, in place of the awkwardness, just a glimpse of the beauty that she will become. Or the boy who's had a creaky, croaky voice all year and then comes to school one day test driving his deep voice, which has now come to stay. Though they sometimes feel stuck in place, they are racing toward maturity.
I like teaching these chameleons. Everything about them is changing and they are sometimes a challenge, sometimes a joy, and always a reminder that the charm of adolescence is that the world is theirs to discover. And that I get to help with those discoveries is one of the things I find most rewarding about my job.