Sunday Reflections: Still Life By Teen, Kind of (Inspired by STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A. S. King)
I’ve been thinking a lot about teens. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we talk about and treat teens. And I’ve been thinking a lot about art in the life of teens. That’s what A. S. King does, she makes you think. If you haven’t seen it already, hop on over to our interview and cover reveal to read the amazing things King said about how we as a culture treat teens.
And yet any day in the news you can read about teenagers doing amazing and creative things. They’re standing up to bullies, creating solutions to big problems, and more. They’re asking to be heard, valued and respected.
And what do we do? We cut funding for education; we create policies where they are forced to pay to play, which creates scenarios where they lose their only outlets and hope; we make higher education unattainable; we poison their water; we force their parents to work multiple jobs at unlivable wages so they are never at home and they never get to have a family dinner around a table and share their hopes and dreams.
Yes, not all families. But far too many of them.
We make rules and put up signs that tell teens they’re not wanted here.
And we constantly underestimate them.
As I write this I am visiting my family in California. Yesterday, we took the girls to the beach. Thing 2 thought this was the most amazing thing ever and spent literally hours jumping in the waves. At some point, The Teen grew bored and went and sat down.
Her father and I could have chalked her behavior up to typical teenage sulking or sluggishness, but we did not.
Her father and I could have demanded that she come back and join the family in the water, but we did not.
We could have lectured her about once in a life time opportunities or attitudes or any of the things that teens get far too many lectures about from the adults in their lives.
And although we have done those things, we did not do them in this moment. We gave her some space and allowed her to go be and do what she needed to do in that moment. And that made all the difference.
At some point, she found a shell that had a hole in it.
She was soon on her phone taking pictures. But not just any pictures, she was taking pictures through the hole in the seashell, creating borders and effects that I had never thought of. She was experimenting. She was learning. She was creating. (Important reminder to the New Yorker, phones are tools. Don’t make assumptions about what teens are doing when they are staring at their phones.)
Later, she showed me her pictures. I believe that she has taken one of my favorite pictures of The Mr, Thing 2 and I that I have ever seen.
It was the perfect culmination of this week where I have been thinking about art and teens and STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A. S. King. It was the perfect reminder that art still matters, that teens want space and a voice, and that we need to stop underestimating teens.
And I got the best picture out of the day.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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