Video project offers wisdom from the mouths of teens

August 24th, 2010

High school students give poignant insight into how adults can best connect with them

What would happen if an adult entered a room of adolescents with no agenda but to ask good questions, let teens speak from their perspective, and listen with absolute regard? Andrew Robinson, an educational coach who translates adolescent brain research into relevant applications, wanted to find out. So he embarked on The 6Teens Project, facilitating discussions between small groups of Oregon high school students, then distilling the conversations into espresso shots of video he posted to his website and elsewhere.

“The results were stunning,” says Robinson. In response to the question, “Who has been the most positive influence in your life?” a Latina student shared about her father and how he overcame significant obstacles—most tragically the murder of his own father—to provide a good life for her while modeling kindness, tolerance and respect.

Students shared with startling candor their experiences of adults: how they can identify when adults are truly listening; their desire for a more relevant learning process that incorporates dialogue and discussion.

A recent study published by The Journal of Adolescent Health underscores just how powerful adults can be in the lives of teens. The study reveals that teens who feel connected to parents and their school community will make healthier decisions.

“Our goal is to gather clear, candid feedback from teens and make this available to adults who want to strengthen their connection with youth,” says Robinson. The project’s current topics include: The Best Friend Parent, A Portrait of Listening, and How to Share the Facts of Life.

Robinson describes each 6Teens video as a new portal by which adults can better perceive, understand, and care for teens during this critical, often confusing chapter in life. He hopes to steadily build the 6Teens collection by taking the project to other school districts and youth organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

“This is pure gold,” says Heather Johnson, an instructor at Sisters High School who hosted a series of 6Teens groups. “The process was truly remarkable. Teens have such a strong, innate desire to share their thoughts and experiences, especially with other teens. They so desire to understand and to be understood.”

As a teacher, Johnson says The 6Teens Project has helped her to set personal agendas aside and truly listen and embrace students’ hopes, knowledge, feelings, experiences, and dreams. As a parent, the project has given her confidence—and a passion to build as strong a communicative and reciprocal relationship with her children as possible. “I am grateful to Andrew for bringing this invaluable, life-long opportunity to Sisters High School and our community.”