It was meant to be a fun warmup question, but I could tell a few students in that it was actually super stressful. So many glances being shared around the room, and person after person demurring and saying, “I don’t remember.” I butted in after the fifth admission of lapsed memory.
“Is this question stressing you guys out?”
I’d used the same warmup question the previous hour, with the 6th and 7th graders, without any great difficulty. The skies hadn’t parted or anything, but they hadn’t crawled beneath the tables in fear like this.
And what was the question?
“What was the last song you listened to before walking in the room this morning?”
I pressed my investigation of the high schoolers’ fear further: “Does this stress you out because you’re self-conscious about the music you like and what your peers will think of it?”
They’re a pretty self-aware bunch.
You get far away enough from adolescence and you completely forget about this kind of stressor. You forget that teenagers are walking around everyday certain that their peers are judging them negatively and terrified that something they love will out them as a phony or as uncool (how uncool!). The luxury of talking ceaselessly about the music you’re into at 42 is lost on me.
One of the urgent tasks of youth ministry, then, is the maintenance of a community of teenagers and adults that makes explicit that lack of judgment. We do that as leaders by modeling both kindness and vulnerability. So I shared my answer to the warmup:
Of course they all groaned, “I hate that song!”
Isn’t it great?
5 thoughts on “Oh Yeah, Teenagers Are Self-Conscious About Music”
❤ the Rev. Sara Dingman
Synod Executive, The Synod of Lincoln Trails Presbyterian Church (USA)
t. 317-923-3681 (office) e. firstname.lastname@example.org a. 1100 W. 42nd Street, Suite 210, Indianapolis IN 46208
Especially loved your blog yesterday and today!
Thanks, Rocky. At that age, I’d have been listening to 25-year-old rock or ballads — or movie soundtracks — when I wasn’t listening to something for orchestra homework. So yes, I have been (am) vulnerable about music, too. I’m gradually learning to treat music, movies and books others are talking about as a way to get reviews. “Oh, you like that? What’s best about it? Why should I try it?” Sometimes it even leads someone to tell me, “Oh, YOU wouldn’t like it!” and that saves me money and time.
As one of their parents, I’m laughing. Make it anonymous next time. They write it on a slip of paper as they walk in the room, and then you read each one out to the group. They can jump on the bandwagon and bash their own song, or be pleased when it turns out everyone else likes it too.
If they could have an invisibility cloak at this age, they would all go for it.
Be careful, you may find yourself invited to join us 🙂