I think teenagers get a bad rap sometimes. We took a trip to the Mall yesterday. My son is fourteen and I heard him ask his nineteen-year old sister if she remembered reaching the age where everyone looks at you as if you’re about to steal something from them. She agreed unequivocally, stating that there are two stores that she won’t enter to this day because of the way she was treated when she shopped there as a young teen. She said the saleswomen were rude, refused to help her, and made her feel like less than she was.
Now I understand that retail outlets have good reason to pay attention to teenagers because shoplifting is a problem that results in profit loss. I also remember from my old “retail” days when I managed convenience stores followed by pharmacies, that employee and vendors’ theft add up to a much more significant loss. But I also remember being taught to treat customers with the utmost respect to the point where when I saw an older woman stick something in her coat, I offered her a basket to keep it in and then showed her to the register.
Why then, are teenagers approached with such suspicion? Because a percentage of teenagers (just like adults) are less than reputable, certainly doesn’t mean we need to treat all kids as if they are ill intended.
I wonder how this translates to how we treat teenagers as they enter our schools. Certainly, it goes back to expectations once again. When we treat students with respect and dignity, they meet our expectations. Likewise, if we treat them with suspicion and disregard, they may decide they’d rather not return to our school at all. It probably also explains why some parents avoid school, poor treatment in school as a child stays in a person’s mind for a very long time.
Let’s make sure we’re not doing anything that causes someone to avoid our school at all costs, like my daughter who won’t ever return to a store at the Mall. We can’t afford to lose anyone’s business.