Much of the pop culture world is all a-twitter about Adam Lambert’s sexually charged performance at last night’s American Music Awards. Every morning radio show seemed to be covering it during my commute, every blog seems to have a post on it, and “Adam Lambert” is a top trending topic on Twitter.
And among the teens at my high school… not a peep.
Looking back at Sarah Ludwig’s post from last year (Why Knowing What “Speidi” Means Makes You a Better Teen Librarian), I’ve been thinking a lot about teens and culture, pop and otherwise. My teens are by no means immune to the Twilight bug (half my freshman advisory went to a midnight show last week) and they have very particular tastes in music, but beyond that their conversations (at least in the library) have little to do with pop culture.
Instead, they talk a lot about Age of Empires (discovered on one of the shared drives on the school computers, and now played religiously by a good number of boys, particularly–ahem–during study hall), school events like the recent powderpuff football game, whose biology test was hardest, and who failed their driving test.
I do still think it’s important to keep up with pop culture. I tend to stick with what already interests me, though–I’ve shared several gamers’ frustration with the lack of a release date for Diablo III, and one of the English teachers and I have swapped music and share a love for 30 Rock.
But as much as I love hating on Edward’s hair or talking about Lady Gaga’s video for “Bad Romance,”‘ it’s much more important to me to keep up with the culture of the school. Do I know what students need for filling out a winter athletics form? Is the community service club meeting here? When’s the pep rally?
These are all questions that could be answered by other people in the building, but when I know the answers–and when I can even chat about that next level, like what our chances look like against Westwood or which teacher is going to end up in the panther costume–I’m showing my students that I’m a part of their school and their lives, not just the person who checks out books.
Are your teens immersed in pop culture, or are their conversations more about their schools and communities? And what do you do to make sure you’re a part of those conversations?
I completely agree with you. We all remember the lame adults who tried to act cool by forcing an interest in topics about which they thought we had an interest. The adults I remember were those who brought my attention to things that I might have otherwise missed due to their enthusiam about it. Additionally, knowledge of the school/library/community means much more in our jobs. One of the most difficult thing for teens is understanding that they can be themselves and still be accepted. We need to model that behavior by sharing topics that come up organically, not forcing ourselves to read Teen People to stay in touch.
I refer to this as “the twitter problem” … all the hand-wringing about DO TEENS USE TWITTER?!! always makes me want to heave a sigh and say, “I dunno, why don’t you ask some hanging around your library?”
Yeah, the other day some 14 year old girls thought it was hilarious I didn’t know how to spell “Tokio” in the band’s name. But they gave me something new to google AND buy for the collection (well, their new album, as their last album has gone into permanently lost status…) And they stopped laughing when I asked them to suggest more CDs. Then they wanted to talk and were excited I’d asked. So, I had a choice: pretend I knew JUST who Tokio Hotel was, be angry or embarrassed that I couldn’t manage to know every single pop culture thing 15 year olds know about, or actually engage in some collection development advisory and try to connect with these interested patrons. Not a hard choice, really. Teach me, tell me, show me, what’s it about, what’cha playing?” I always say.
As for Lambert, he’s twice provided me a chance to interact with teens about his homosexuality. Once when he first came out and I heard a group of girls (11-13) teasing another girl about liking him even though he was gay and yesterday when two teen girls (15-16) at the desk starting talking about this exact AMA question. Both times I got to have great conversations with the girls about such things as if they thought being gay had anything to do with his music, if knowing someone was gay would change the fact they made good music/were cool, and let them know that many people I care for are homosexual and totally cool, and how it can hurt people’s feelings to hear nasty or hateful things about people who are LGBTQ. So, really, you never what conversations you might end up having!
Melissa, my problem is that I’m perpetually convinced I’m a nerdy adult even when I’m genuinely excited about things teens like! I have to keep reminding myself to tone it down a little when I’m getting wound up about something I love–particularly if I’m gushing about a book before one of my students has read it, in case it turns out they hate it.
And Angie, I’m so glad to hear Lambert is leading to some great conversations! I think he’s also opened the door for some media literacy learning with our teens. Was the West coast feed of the performance edited to remove some of the “racier” content (as some in the blogosphere are alleging), and why? What message does it send when videos of the performance are taken down from YouTube?