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How to inspire the youth in three easy steps

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Last week, I gave a presentation to the teen journalists at my newspaper. As you can imagine, there's some pressure there, mainly pressure not to look like a total tool shed.

See, if you play it too casually, they will fall into an Ambien-level slumber on their cellular telephones.

But if you try too hard to be cool with high school students, it becomes painfully evident you're actually 18,567 years old, poised to pull off your synthetic skin mask at any time and swallow souls through your crusted-out eye sockets before retreating back to Oldville City, population You.


The goal was to help them differentiate between term paper and story, to learn to interview people other than their uncle who is a dentist, or their stepmom's cousin's acupuncturist, or the entire football team in five minutes. Find unusual people, people who eat pudding alone under trees, and ask them questions until you pass out. Tell a story with tension and momentum and meaning. Aim high for ideas, reach far for sources, and go deep during interviews.

Aim high. Reach far. Go deep.

ARG! Perfect. It's catchy and fun to say. Just ask celebrated film and stage actor Peter Sarrrrrsgaaaaard.

I taught them, perhaps to the detriment of the program membership, if you're not screaming "ARG!!!" by the end of reporting, you're not doing it right. Since pirates are hot right now, this expression caught on pretty well in the room.

Johnny. Call me.

We brainstormed story ideas using the ARG method and put some old stories to the ARG test. I informed them how I was screaming ARG on a story right before I came down to talk them, and told them all about it. See? I can relate to the youth after all! Buoyed with confidence, I then spelled "haterz" on the jumbo notepad just like that, with a "z," and fell right back into the nursing home.


Anyway, yesterday I received a note from one of the kiddos saying the lesson stuck with her, and she was planning to incorporate ARG into her "everyday life." I'm now, of course, riddled with fear she will suffer undue stress as a result. I worry she'll be all, "I want to speak to the greater southeast regional manager of this Forever 21 immediately, and I want to know exactly what woebegone grade of cobalt dip-dye was used to suffuse this trite excuse for last season's maxi-dress. And while we're at it, WHERE IS MY DIET SPRITE WITH THE PINK TWISTY STRAW? DOES NO ONE HAVE EARS? ARG!"

Better start saving for the legal bills now.


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  2. HAHAHAHA. Hilarious, as I run afoul of this issue on a constant basis in my job. Apparently, my kids like me because I'm "cool" and I understand "kid problems" (i.e. pimples, bullying, foster care, dating) and can relate. Though I feel I should start coming up with better life advice for those who seek it, especially the 11-year-olds who want to have their own babies.

    But, there is a moment where my "cool" factor peaks & then I become some other adult in their lives. Usually that moment comes when I use and old-fashioned word that shows my age. The following excerpt actually occurred outside court last Wednesdays:

    Me: "Is there anything else you need, other than to fill your 100 prescriptions of anti-psychotic meds?"
    Kid: "Yes. I'd like a pair of Doc Martens. Mid-rise."
    Me (overjoyed): "You want a pair of Docs?!"
    Kid (overjoyed): "You actually know what Docs are?!"
    Me: "Obvi, I have like 17 pairs at home."
    Kid: "Wow, that's so cool, I didn't know adults wear Docs." (starts to smile)
    Me: "I'm just stoked that Docs are coming back as Tim Gunn essentials! I feel HIP."
    Kid: **silent; mouth agape**
    Me: "Whatevz. I'm fly like a G6. Beeyotch."

  3. Haha. It hangs in such a delicate balance!