Teenage Dream

Last Saturday I had the privilege of being invited to speak at the Deutshce Schule Der Boromaerinnen (Dsb) (German School in Bab El Louk). I had originally come in to talk to the graduating class during their English class about my book and the experience of getting published. We ended up rescheduling a lot and instead that class had finals that day and I got to meet some younger and extremely charming young ladies aged 14-17.

As they came in and filled the hall, I stood there leaning on the Yamaha grand piano and wondering if anything I could say would capture their attention for longer than 30 seconds. Yet there we were minutes later joking around, talking about books, movies, my novel, getting published, time management, hobbies, music, career choices, bucket lists and pipe dreams.

The conversation steered itself towards their concern on their ability or preparation to choose majors, universities, and potential careers. It is perfectly normal to not know what you want to do with your life at their age. Yet this wasn’t what concerned me, they were not lost, they were scared. Their collective level of anxiety was so high it was tangible. They had a fear of tomorrow, a fear of the unknown, a fear of having to be responsible, a fear of accountability, a fear of having to fend for themselves and make their own decisions. They had been in such a high pressure high discipline environment for so long, they feared what would happen once that frame of support and stress was no longer there.

We found ourselves debating the merits of a European education. Whether there is such a thing as too much discipline. Whether students in German, French or British schools were oppressed by the rigidity of the system, robbed of their individuality. Comparing it to the creativity and individuality embracing American educational system that is a lot more lax.

Yet there they were, young, motivated, their entire lives yet before them, and instead of embracing that fact they were panicking about the thought that what they believed were the best, easiest and safest years of their lives were soon to be behind them. It saddened me greatly. A regiment aimed at preparing them for the world rendered them instead too insecure to venture out into it. I hope that changes in the near future. May their teenage dreams burn stronger and brighter and may they find joy in taking risks, working hard, living life and realising those dreams.

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3 thoughts on “Teenage Dream

  1. I am not an educational psychologist, but had my two cents to add regarding the fear among teenagers highlighted in this post.
    I guess this sense of fear has its roots in the way the elite / priviledged / “good” schools are set up. The entire system is essentially an artificially created social system with little interaction with the real world. This is especially true in developing countries. A British school or a German school in countries such as India or Egypt will be modelled after ethos of a developed country instead of integrating the harsh truths of the host country. Not surprisingly, the student in such school is made to acquaint with an environment that is different from what he/she experiences in his/her daily life outside the school, all the time being conscious of the gap.
    If due to misfortune, the parents do not make an effort to fill the lacunae (made wider with exposure to western media,etc) by encouraging activities that instill confidence and life skills in the student’s after-school life (voluntary work / internships with social service organisations for example) , the student ends up with a paranoia of the world outside his school. A good idea for the schools would be to enable practical learning of students with greater interaction with the outside world.
    Yet another reason could be a lack of proper career guidance and counselling including options available after school (in real terms).
    Being educated in such a school myself, I have benefited from the positives and experienced the negatives first hand. Intellectual development and awareness is what is emphasised more unfortunately in this model. A more balanced approach combining social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional development is what is needed I think.

    • I wouldn’t quite go that far Dhawal, while I agree that international school kids lead sheltered existences, they/we are not that out of touch with reality, at least in Egypt. Yet I do like the suggestion regarding greater social integration.

  2. Yes you are right, I probably had gone a bit far 🙂

    The way to dispell fears is self-confidence in facing the world that comes through either through real world experience – voluntary social work activities,etc or/and participating in sports, camps, other extra curriculars.Parents have a role to play too.

    The other thing about most teenage school kids irrespective of which type of school they study in is peer pressure. And also the adolescent period of their lives. This is a period marked with anxiety and self-image formation. The fears are therefore understandable. And this is where the role of teachers and parents become critical as guides and even counsellors. I know few schools in India that employ professional counsellors and I think this is an excellent idea. The transition from known to unknown is generally uneasy or sometimes tough even for most adults. And these are adolescents that we are talking about. Sometimes a wise counsel from Agony Aunts would surely benefit them at an age where it is much needed 🙂

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