From 8:00 AM to 3:04 PM, 5 days a week, I am a high school student, meaning that there are teachers, administrators and other faculty members all around who can tell me what to do. On top of being a student, I am also only a sophomore. And that means that not only are there authoritative adults in the building but there are also hundreds of upperclassmen, no more than a couple years my senior. Most of whom think they know oh so much more because of their varsity status or newly issued driver’s license. Truth is we’re not much different and “underclassmen” is just another title giving someone else license to feel superior and restrict our adolescent freedom.

I may be a student in the high school hierarchy most of the time but, for a couple hours on Monday afternoons I am a tutor at a local elementary school. I am personally responsible for showing up on time, without warning bells like in my high school hallways. And fifteen seems to be a much bigger number compared to the 9 and 10 year-olds that I tutor.  For me this is an opportunity primarily to help, relate to, and motivate young students in doing their schoolwork. But also, this is my opportunity to be looked up to. It is a title that I wear proudly and a job that is enriching for both the students and myself.

It is a refreshing role reversal that I look forward to each week. I’m surprised at the effect this has had on me. Rather than being just another thing to do, like a chore, it has contributed to my growing sense of independence. Most teens like myself strive for greater independence and freedom. Sometimes that means walking away from responsibility and doing our own thing, but the way that seems to bring us closer to longer lasting respect and freedom is by taking charge in accepting responsibility.