Cultivating Caring

You know what's hard about my job?  Making teenagers care.

Don't get me wrong; they care about plenty of things.  Like, American Idol. Oh, and that ONE point on that ONE homework assignment three weeks ago.  That matters a lot.

To be fair, many of them care a great deal about the important things: friends, family, faith and french fries (kidding.  I just needed another noun that started with f.)  But I want more.  It frustrates me, because sometimes I see this whole other side of my students -- they want to learn, they want to help, they

Last year I met with the principal of our school about planning an Environmental Action Week.  I was impressed that caring about the environment had attracted the attention of the Vatican, and I thought that might help my cause.

They were all for it, but one by one, my brilliant ideas were value-engineered out: first we discovered that Earth Day (the centerpiece of the week) fell three days after we returned from a long Easter break.  Oh, and at the end of that week there's this little tiny event called "PROM."  You know, no big deal.  That, plus all the days off we already have and the rapid approach of AP exams, meant we could only have one school-wide assembly with a speaker.  I suggested a local organic farmer, but that was shot down almost immediately.  (Okay, okay.  I get it.  Farmers aren't exactly interesting to this demographic.)  Finally we decided on an alumna who now works for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  We'd like to combine it with a presentation called Our Synthetic Sea (the link is just one portion) that calls attention to the evils of disposable plastic (even if you're responsible, people, a lot of it ends up in the ocean.)  But fitting a speaker, a screening and a discussion into an hour just doesn't seem feasible.

There's so much I want to say to these girls.  And I don't want to force them to accept it (although I would be tempted to settle for that!)  I want to inspire them -- I want them to start caring, too.

The Story of Stuff, for instance, will change the way you look at stuff in under an hour.  Meaning, where does all this stuff (take a look around you for a second) come from?  Where does it go when you're finished with it?  You probably don't want to know the answers, but you should know them.  Everyone should.  And there's so much more where that came from.  How can you change, you know, the world?

One step at a time, I guess.  Maybe we can start with just the Ecology Club.  One caring teenager is still a success.