This is Bailey. Sixteen-year-old Bailey to be exact. Also known as “me.” And next to me is my handsome prom date for the Eustis-Farnam 2001 prom. He is now lovingly referred to as “handsome hubby.”
Yes, I’m that girl who married my high school sweetheart, and I’ll be the first to admit that real love can exist for teens. But having lived the life, I’ll also be the first to admit that relationships and dating should not be the focus of high school.
I came across an article on Today.com that highlighted a long-standing tradition at a high school in Illinois. In a very small school of less than 100 students, a tradition holding since 1926 remains today. As prom night approaches, all junior and senior boys in the school make their way to the library to randomly draw the names of their prom dates. The girls anxiously await the boys’ arrival in the gym where they are finally treated to a skit (put on by the boys) that will reveal their dates for the fun-filled evening. Every year the students are asked if they would like to continue the tradition. And every year, the vote is a unanimous and enthusiastic, “Yes!”
Today.com reported the following that truly caught my attention:
“Even students with regular boyfriends or girlfriends participate, and the prom turns into more of a group activity than a romantic date, with friends eating and taking pictures together throughout the night.
‘It’s less of a date and more like something fun to do with your classmates,’ junior class adviser Michelle Gallagher told NBC affiliate WREX.”
So answer me this. When did prom turn into a night designed for the glorification of teen romance? I even wrote another post in 2015 about the societal trend in which boys are being pressured to “propose prom” to girls in order to one-up each other. Gag me. I don’t agree with it…never will. As a former high school teacher turned college lecturer, I can tell you with complete confidence that these kids don’t want the pressures put on them. Most just want to be teenagers. They are going along with society. And honestly, society has some work to do when it comes to expecting kids to grow up much faster than needed or wanted.
Let kids be kids. And yes, teens are still kids.
Now remember, I was one who focused on relationships in high school. And you know what? I missed out on some awesome moments with friends because I focused so hard on having a boyfriend. I made my choice, and I’ll even say it was right for me since clearly it turned out the way it was supposed to. I know other teens will make their choices too. The bottom line is, nobody is “wrong” for focusing on what they believe to be most important at any given point in life.
But if society could de-emphasize teen romance and re-emphasize teen fun and friendships at prom time, would that be so wrong? Would it be bad for us to set an example for teens that a dance can be just that and only that? And what would happen as a result?
I taught special education for seven years in public school. Now, I have the honor of teaching at the university level and preparing future educators to be advocates for all students. And I’ll tell you one thing from the bottom of my heart – being an advocate for students goes far beyond the classroom. It’s about standing up for kids. It’s about standing up for their rights. It’s about telling them it’s okay to be kids, it’s okay to screw up, and it’s okay to be both awesome and awful at the same time. It’s about teaching them to focus on positivity and on what they can do as opposed to what they can’t. It’s about inclusion.
So back to that question – What would happen as a result of randomly drawing for prom dates?
Inclusion. Fun. Freedom. Less pressure. Dancing. Group fun. Acceptance. The words, “Kids will be kids.” Memories.
As a former high school student who married my high school sweetheart, a current pre-teen mother, and a teacher, I love this idea and fully support it. I know not everyone will agree, and that’s okay. But it’s something to think about. And as a teacher, if I can make you question, research, and re-think something you believed to be completely true before, I’ve done my job.
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