I’ve often complained (and by “complained,” I mean “bragged”) that one of the difficulties of my job teaching teenagers is that they are much too interesting as people, which means that it requires regular, fairly vigorous discipline to not just let them talk through their voice lessons. Partly this complaint serves as part of my ongoing rebuttal against the popular notion of young people as dispassionate smartphone zombies, but honestly the struggle is real. Occasionally, I will meet up with a student for coffee so that we can talk, guilt-free, to our heart’s content, and it was one such recent meeting that included discussion of developing a “thick skin,” which sensitive kids are often told they must do in order to succeed and be accepted by society.
This particular student is a gifted young writer, a fierce advocate for those with less privilege than she, and a caring, loyal friend to her peers. All of those things require compassion, empathy, and sensitivity to other people’s circumstances and pain. She’s also been told that she’s “too sensitive” and that she needs to develop a “thicker skin.” Personally, I think this is a crock. [Read more…]