I wonder if it was like this when I was a teenager. Been so long that I don't remember. But anyway.
During passing periods, I stand outside my room, welcoming students, monitoring traffic, listening in on conversations. And today it seemed that every conversation I heard was a typical he-said, she-said drama. Kids walking down the hall, pissed off and venting that someone had said something, that someone better mind her own business, that someone said something to someone about something. It was enough to make me want to scream. And it was enough to make me wonder if any kid walking past me had anything at all to think about other than what someone might have said.
It was one of those days. Got worse fifth period when one of my favorite students walked in totally venting about the same thing. "And they were just whispering," I heard her saying. "Why can't they just say it out loud, why do they have to whisper?"
This girl is super bright, usually super motivated, the kind of kid who yells down the hall, "How's my favorite teacher?" and I duck, embarrassed by this awesome kid. But today she sank a level.
"Why do you care?" I asked as I passed her before the bell.
Class started. I was ready. Most kids were ready. But this girl was still whispering to her friends about the kids in the hall that were whispering about her.
"This poem," I said, referring to what I had just read, "is about something important. About something that matters. Not about some stupid little thing someone might have said in the hallway." Yeah, I was looking at Whisper Girl, and she knew it, and she was pissed off about it.
"Why do you have to call me out like that?" she asked.
"Why do you have to care about some idiots in the hall?" I asked.
"Because they annoy the hell out of me," she said. "Just like you!"
The usually-chatty classroom fell silent, waiting to see how I'd respond.
"There's probably a million things I can say right now," I said. "But I'm just going to avoid this confrontation." And I got the class going on something.
A couple of minutes later, I asked Whisper Girl to come over to my desk. I chatted with her for a bit about the assignment she was working on. Then I asked about what had happened in the hallway that had upset her so much. Of course it was just a case of some girls talking about her.
"Why can't they just say it out loud?" she said. "Then we can deal with it." By that she meant, they could fight. About what? Who knows.
I tried appealing to her intelligent side. "You know," I said. "You're bright. You have a future. You're going to college. Why do you want to sink to that level? The level of kids that have nothing better to think about so they just talk about others?"
"I don't know," she said. "I've been trying to ignore it. Really I have. But they just get to you, you know?"
"So you're letting them win?"
We chatted like this for a few minutes. Resolved nothing. Although eventually I had to admit that it does matter what people say. That it's important to be liked. Or, more importantly, to not be hated.
But there was no resolution. And there's no point to this post. Just like there's no point to the crap kids talk about in the hallways, the crap that holds their interest, that gets them so worked up that they're willing to fight it out just to make it go away.