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RevolTeens: So Thankful for RevolTeens, by Teen Librarian Christine Lively

This school year has already felt like twenty school years in one. Every single thing that educators, parents, and students do is different and so much harder to accomplish. Students, staff, and parents are exhausted by the new rules and logistics of school, the up and down news cycle of cases rising and falling along with staffing shortages surging. It has been a LOT. It’s COVID and social-emotional learning and supply chain problems and staff shortages that are so much worse than the public knows or appreciates. For me, as a high school librarian in a school which is currently fighting to hold hundreds more students and staff than our building was designed for, the library space has been taken over with space for in school suspension, for a Japanese class to be held on one side for over a week, and other classes as needed. Getting our book orders delivered from vendors has been fraught – books aren’t available, they take forever to be delivered, or our orders are being questioned and examined to try to head off any challenges from angry parents or politicians.

So, what is there to be thankful for?

Of course, the answer is the RevolTeens.

At our school, I have been amazed at what the students we serve are doing to keep themselves going. Yes, there are teens who are acting out and working on getting back in the groove of school, but there are so many who are happy to be back at school and back in the library.

First, I am so thankful for students who are obsessed with BookTok. BookTok is the part of TikTok where people talk about books. They don’t just talk about books, they talk about books that they are obsessed with, that made them sob, that are the greatest books ever to exist. It’s the perfect fan space for teens. Passionate fans gushing about the books that changed their lives. These videos are being passed back and forth among teens and they are making a huge impact. We had many requests for Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. We cannot keep them on the shelves. It’s a phenomenon I have never experienced before. It is thrilling. More than once, a pair of students will come to the library together so that one can return a book and the other can immediately check it out. Teens are reading at a crazy fast pace, and they are enjoying their reading. After years of helping kids find books that they’d trudge through or abandon, seeing teens find their love of reading again is a thrill.

This year we’ve found ways for our teens to disconnect from academic pursuits and enjoy other fun activities. We put an ancient manual and a newer (but still ancient) electric typewriters out on the floor. They’ve been more popular than expected. Students cannot get over how hard it is to push the keys, or how difficult it is to figure out how to use the shift keys. Initially, love notes to friend or romantic loves were popular. Now, some students type song lyrics, poems – original or not, and of course, comments about butts or bootys. The typewriters get used all day long.

We have had chess boards in the library for years. Our library assistant has been playing chess for years. He has taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students to play chess. We have many chess sets in the library. There are anywhere between four and twelve chess games happening at any time during lunch or after school. Chess players at Wakefield High School are from every background, gender, and grade level. We have a handful of staff members who come to play too. Chess is a game that transcends barriers of language, personality, and even experience. I’ve been shocked at the level and volume of trash talk that happens over a chess board at school. Chess is a great break from homework, and a great way to spend time with people they don’t usually spend time with.

We’ve also found legos, coloring pages, and Uno cards to be extremely popular with our teens. 

Yes, taking care of themselves through reading what they want, socializing, writing, and playing games is revolutionary. The teens at our school are revolting against boredom and are finding ways to cope that are fun and engaging.

Then, there are the revolutionaries. A few weeks ago, there were incidents at the Yorktown High School Homecoming Football game where “Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote. “This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown.” UPDATED: Yorktown Principal Decries ‘Unacceptable Behavior’ at Homecoming Game

In response to this incident and what students feel has been an unacceptable response to reported sexual harassment and assault at the high schools in Arlington, a walkout of hundreds of students took place. Scotney Young, a social worker and sexual assault prevention specialist  explained “It was really powerful to see so many students using their voices and actions to speak out against sexual violence and to demand more action from school administrators,” Young tells ARLnow. “Sexual violence thrives when there is a culture and system that allows and accepts it, and these students were saying they want to change that.”

Young said she conducts educational programming focused on giving young people the tools they need to have “respectful, safe and supportive relationships and interactions free from violence.” NEW: Hundreds of APS high school students stage walkout over sexual harassment and assault

The revolting hasn’t stopped there. Student members of Generation Ratify at Wakefield then wrote messages in the courtyard to express their outrage and demand an end to sexual assault and harassment on our campus.

The spirit of revolt against harassment, assault, and unresponsive adults did not wane during the lockdown and virtual learning. Instead, RevolTeens at my school and at many other schools have returned to let their voices be heard, to band together and fight for respect and equal treatment.

There are so many ways that RevolTeens advocate for themselves and others. They build relationships through games and socializing, they express themselves in colors and words, they read and build empathy, and they shout, walkout, and raise awareness when they’re hurt or disrespected. They amaze me every day. I am so grateful that the spirit of RevolTeens has not been diminished, and I hope it never will be.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

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