Every teenage student experiences immense academic pressure. The pressure of having to succeed in school, of getting the grades, of passing that test. We as military teens not only carry those burdens, but our nomadic life further intensifies them. We face the challenges of switching schools, starting again with countless teachers, and finding our footing among our peers. Yet, many fail to realize that our teachers experience the same pressure. The pressure of leading kids to success, equipping them with the resources they need in an ever-changing world. Students and teachers alike carry the weight of those labels: Students. Teachers. But there is much more than that. Military teens are much more than just students. And our teachers are much more than just authority figures.
I had the amazing opportunity to interview two of the most impactful teachers in my life, Mr. Devon Gates and Ms. Stacey Moody. Since they were once and will always be my beloved teachers, in the article they are referred to as Mr. Gates and Ms. Moody. I asked them a few questions concerning teaching military-connected teens and I tried my best to keep each response parallel to the original while still remaining concise.
What is some background information about yourself and your teaching career?
Mr. Gates: I became an English Teacher as a very quick turn to a second career. Leaving my former profession, I went and obtained my Master’s Degree in English Education at California University of Pennsylvania. From there, I moved out to Tooele, Utah to teach 9th and 10th grade English starting in 2018. Along with teaching, I am also a varsity Football Coach.
Ms. Moody: I have been a proud and passionate educator for over 14 years. I received my Masters in Education from Pepperdine University as well as a Certification in Gifted and Talented Education. I spent the majority of my career in California and 3 years overseas in Japan serving our military families. The inspiration for my teaching journey came from my teachers who pushed me to be more than I thought I could be. I hope I am that same inspiration for my students.
How do you believe teaching a military teen/kid is different from teaching one who is a “civilian”?
Mr. Gates: I have found from teaching several military teens that the difference in teaching is the need, at times, to provide a little more stability or trust. While most military teens are some of the most well-behaved students in the class, I have found that sometimes it takes longer to gain their trust and “buy-in” than a normal “civilian” type student. I can only guess why that is, but I have found that by simply reaching out every day and being that constant “Hey, I want to know about you because I care” type of teacher to a military student helps their learning more than others.
Ms. Moody: Their strength and courage is something to commend. They are constantly challenged but find ways to be resilient. What stood out to me the most, was how military students could create bonds with their colleagues that civilian students could never understand. They grow and learn together like family, and that’s a special thing.
What do you believe makes military teens unique in their educational careers?
Mr. Gates: The most unique thing …. is how quickly they adapt to change both inside and outside the classroom. Those students are always the first to reach out to others they don’t know. When I plan a new activity, it is always the military teens that jump head first unlike a lot of their classmates. Those students also show a need to prioritize the education part of school more than others. They aren’t just here to pass and hang out with others, but they are actively trying to learn the material. This leads to those students usually seeming to have a more realistic goal for their learning than that of their “civilian” counterparts.
Ms. Moody: Military teens have the unique ability to adapt. They are forced to learn this very important skill early in life. This quality is valuable not only for their future careers, but for friends, family, and most anything else they want to set their minds to. Adaptability allows them to reflect and be the best version of themselves
What is some advice that you have for military brats that are students?
Mr. Gates: My advice is simply to keep being “you.” Embrace any changes and challenges that you face and continue to not shy away from new opportunities. Being a military teen has its pros and cons along with any way of life, but always remember that you are getting to experience some things that others may never get to do. Embrace that and become the amazing well-rounded individual that you are meant to be.
Ms. Moody: The most important advice I could give is to remind them to be present. The opportunity they have to constantly meet new people and experience new culture is something to embrace. It may seem difficult to have so much change, but you must enjoy each moment with the people and beauty around you. The power of your thoughts can and will make a difference in how you live in this amazing world.
Being a student has trials all on its own. But being a military teen as well as being a student? That takes power, determination, and grit. We military teens shouldn’t define ourselves based on a grade or if we're struggling at a new school. Because, as these amazing teachers revealed, military teens are so much more than just students. We have resilience, the ability to adapt, and the power to embrace. Military teens, and our teachers, bring something so much more extraordinary to the table.