Age- My first Author Blog
Several others at my publishing house have suggested that I start blogging about being a writer- particularly a writer who is also a high school teacher. Since I have taken my new job as a full-time high school drama teacher, one thing I've been noticing a lot of is the difference between physical and emotional ages.
As a drama teacher, I undoubtedly see more "drama" (the bad kind) than many academic teachers. I ask kids to constantly push their boundaries, and sometimes this results in me seeing sides to them I wouldn't necessarily choose to see. While any dedicated teacher will acknowledge that there is a certain level of counseling, as well as a certain level of parenting, involved with teaching- something about being in a windowless building for over ten hours a day, five days a week, with several of my more dedicated students, brings their "ages" into a very sharp focus.
I saw a play Friday that featured a 13-year-old character unwittingly seeing a photo of lynching victims and not knowing what they were. Even after looking them up on the internet, she had no clue what the pictures were in reference to. To me, this was an unbelievable act. Kids are smart. Even my less-than stellar students, who struggle with some basic knowledge,are able to find information on the internet in minutes, and analyze and understand almost anything thrown at them. What kids really lack, in many instances, is not knowledge, but emotional maturity.
I have one senior who is incredibly mature. She is able to complete any task I give her, and then on her own come up with literally dozens more to do. She is a natural leader and manages others well. I was shocked to learn that she is only 16 years old. On the other hand, I have 18-year-olds who have less maturity than the middle schoolers I use to teach. Three of my senior girls, each 18 years old, had successive meltdowns, one meltdown a week, earlier this year. These meltdowns were triggered by things such as claiming to have too much homework. Without emotional maturity, little issues get blown into crises of phenomenal size, and there is no avoiding the snowball of a crisis once it's begun. Girls tend to be more visibly mature or immature, whereas boys tend to act less mature than they are to attract girls' attention. Ironically, the more attention sought in high school, the less mature the behavior
I am not a psychologist or even a counselor. Yet as an author and observer, I feel it is important to think about the emotional age of a character. My protagonist is 13. She is smart, but as the novel progresses, her emotional maturity is constantly tested, and as a result she "ages" quickly. I wrote my novel before teaching full-time, and as I have been working I've been thinking more about Suzie (my protagonist). Are her actions believable? Although physically 13, what is her "emotional age"? These are questions I continue to ponder throughout the editing phase.