Sunday, September 15, 2013

Welcome Back: The Kids Are All Right

So a lot of times adults like to decry the state of adolescence, complaining, "Kids these days . . . [a sad shaking of the head may accompany this]. They're rude, lazy, self-centered, and aimless." 

While it may be fun and easy to hate on teenagers -- and I cringe when I think of just how narcissistic I was as a teen -- I just can't see applying those adjectives to today's young adults. Over the past two years, as I've worked with students in RealSchool and on RealSchool-type projects in my classes, I've been blown away by just how devoted they are to developing themselves as people, to understanding and helping the larger world, and to finding meaning in the things that they struggle with in their faith. 

And it's not only Frisch students who've impressed me. The truth is, when I encounter teenagers today, I walk away with a sense that here are kids who have confidence and self-possession, but not arrogance, and who are much more thought out than I'd expect teenagers to be. At the same time, today's teens have humility enough to know that they're still learning, and, in fact, they're extremely open to new ideas, looking to expand their minds through books as well as challenging and meaningful experiences. These young adults also have a LOT of emotional intelligence and a great sense of humor, both of which I see them using to defuse potentially tense and dramatic social situations (They're still teenagers, I know the drama is there, but they seem to be managing it better than teenagers used to, not that I've conducted a formal study on this or anything.) 

The kids I meet today also have an intense desire to start changing the world now and can be found, at all hours, volunteering to help the homeless, the elderly, the hungry, the sick, the bullied, the marginalized. The truth is they just might save the world, and I'm really jealous, 'cuz I wish I were coming-of-age now -- and that's not only because it's clearly so much cooler to be able to text, video chat, Instagram, SnapChat and make Vines with your friends than it was to talk on a landline. Using a phone with a cord. (Cordless phones were only invented at the tail end of my adolescence.)

RealSchool has gotten off to a great start this year, its third in existence. Rafi W., at the meeting we had this past Thursday, pointed out that the club is successful because of all the great people in it, and I have to agree. The kids in RealSchool are incredible, and it's humbling to work with them. They push me to do more, think larger, be better.

We already had our first art exhibit, which we partnered with some Frisch senior classes to make. The idea of the exhibit was Possibilities and it focused on the fact that You can Change, and You can Change the World. I don't really think these kids need to be told that, but as I was praying on Yom Kippur, I looked into my Rabbi Sacks mahzor (of course I was using his mahzor; does anyone doubt that?) and saw these words, which reminded me not only of the power of prayer, something the Religious Identity team has focused on understanding, but also on what the RealSchool kids, and really all my students, have given to me:

" . . . [R]egular daily prayer works on us in ways not immediately apparent. As the sea smoothes the stone, as the repeated hammer-blows of the sculptor shape the marble, so prayer -- repeated, cyclical, tracking the rhythms of time itself -- gradually wears away the jagged edges of our character, turning it into a work of devotional art. . . . We come to think less of the 'I,' more of the 'We'; less of what we lack than of what we have; less of what we need from the world, more of what the world needs from us. Slowly we achieve the deep happiness that comes from learning to give praise and thanks. Prayer is less about getting what we want than about learning what to want." (The Koren Yom Kippur Mahzor, 846, 849).

I'd like to begin this year by giving thanks to the members of RealSchool for helping me learn what to want and for making RealSchool a place where we really aim to change ourselves and the world in only the most positive ways.

With much affection and gratitude,

Mrs. Tikvah Wiener

RealSchool's first exhibit this year gets made with RS students,
art teacher Mrs. Ahuva Mantell and Chumash teacher Mrs. Yael Goldfischer (not shown)
At our first meeting, the Social Action and Entrepreneurship team
sets goals. We're really excited about partnering with
Aryevut's Daniel Rothner this year.
Thanks to Mrs. Ahuva Mantell for getting us a grant to run
our fashion show, which this year will focus on biomes!
The Fashion, Health and Environment, and Arts teams as well as
the Finance, Social Entrepreneurship, and Marketing teams will
all be involved in planning the show.
The tech teams -- App Making, Graphic Design, Video Production,
and Web Design -- are brainstorming and have already formed
a Facebook group to let each other keep track of all their projects.