Too. Many. Choices. I knew that would be our dilemma, but I didn’t know the frustration that would arise. When Dana, my friend and colleague, and I were scheduling our day, the problem of earmarked pages in similar time slots, told the tale of our NCTE Convention 2022 experience. As usual, we had some serendipitous moments, when the choice was made for us by simply being in the right place at the right time.
But overall, the final selections were brutal: FOMO exemplified.
That wasn’t the case on Saturday afternoon though. We weren’t vacillating on that one! N.02 “Amplifying Voice and Agency: Storytelling with Facing History and Ourselves and This Teenage Life Podcast,” Room 205-A ,called us both, less Scylla and Charybdis, more North-Pole magnetism. Dana had been intent on gathering resources about mental health and podcasting from the outset. I knew both of these resources because they had been invaluable to me when I spent 2020-21 teaching online…especially This Teenage Life.
I had found out about it when desperately searching for ways to build community among these students as well as some connection to me, an outsider from Oregon who was teaching in their close-knit New Jersey town. (That I had taught there for 26 years in situ and retired only three years before meant nothing to them; they didn’t know me.)
We had begun listening to the podcast featuring teens in casual conversations about topics that mattered to them in our Friday morning meetings. And listening to other teens talking to each other spurred my students into doing the same. Friday mornings were dedicated to this—talking to each other. It was awesome!
The episodes run the gamut. We began with a low stakes topic, a discussion about favorite snacks and then moved on as the teens on the podcast became familiar: “Pets,” “Comfort,” Lies Our Parents Told Us.” The options offered are vast and varied. What they share is honest connection—and teen voices, real voices.
I had to thank Molly Josephs, the founder of the podcast, for that. And there she was, sitting up front, her warm smile spreading sunshine as she looked at the gathering crowd then leaned in, placing her arm across the shoulder of the stunning teenager seated beside her.
Up I went to the front, laser-focused, wanting to say something before the session started. “Hi Molly. I’m Trish Emerson, and I just wanted to thank you for changing my teaching life when I was online with students.” She looked stunned, then rose and said, “Can I give you a hug? I hear from students all the time, but you’re the first teacher who’s reached out to tell me how the podcast worked for them.”
Hugs followed, then the presentations from both awesome presenters. It was beyond my expectations. I wanted to say goodbye, but as I expected, there was now a line…new fans. Dana urged me to wait them out. “Molly would want you to.” So I did.
We exchanged information, another hug, and a text. “I want you to come on the podcast, Trish…and consider becoming a discussion group leader, will you?”
This spring, though I haven’t asked Molly yet, I am inviting her and, fingers crossed, one of her teens, to join us for the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) Spring Conference online. I know how magical their work is, and I want them to share their magic.
The next time Molly and This Teenage Life take the stage, I know I won’t be the only fangirl in the crowd!