I wonder what you expect my next sentence to be? If we were to follow the pattern of people's responses to me when I say I have two teenagers, or that I've been running a journalism class in a local high school, then chances are you may expect the next sentence to be along the lines of "hard work".
Or "Impossible to deal with".
Or "Moody, selfish, rude".
Or perhaps you expected this column to talk about how teenagers don't know how easy they have it, or how social media runs their lives, or they have no respect ...
Actually, my next sentence is; Teenagers - aren't they amazing?
Just take a flick through the pages of recent editions of the Stratford Press if you don't believe me.
There's Bradley Hare-Bint, a 15-year-old who is quite literally reaching for the stars as he heads to the USA to attend an elite academic space programme. Not only is he clearly very clever to have got into this course, but he is also determined to pay his own way to get there, offering to do odd jobs for local businesses and residents as a way to earn the money he needs.
Or how about the front page of our April 27 paper - featuring our local air cadets who provided the guard of honour at the Stratford Cross of Sacrifice for the Anzac Day dawn service, having already spent one day of their school holidays placing crosses at over 200 war graves in Stratford in readiness for Anzac Day.
Or there is 18-year-old Michael Craig - a trainee builder who's just earned himself a place in the national final of the New Zealand Certified Builders Challenge competition. Not to mention Felix Butler, Adib Ridzuan and Charlotte Tippett, all 14, who are making pet beds as a fundraiser for a local animal charity.
I could go on - 15-year-old Lara Abraham who raised over $1000 for the Taranaki Cancer Society, sacrificing her eyebrows in the process. Not to forget Korban Johnson, 17, who raised $4555, also for the Taranaki Cancer Society.
From academic achievements to charitable efforts, skills in trades to volunteering time, our teenagers are doing great things every day.
Yet when you mention teenagers or young people or rangatahi, the response from older adults seems to be generally negative. The narrative is one of surliness, bad behaviour, laziness, social media addiction, poor choices and selfishness. When it comes to those last few descriptors, I wonder, is that narrative more a case of seeing our own faults, than those of our teens?
Because actually, it's the generations before today's teenagers who are guilty of many of these things. We are the ones who have been lazy when it comes to acting on the big issues such as climate change, pollution, homelessness, poverty and inequity.
It is our poor choices and selfishness - a desire for convenience over ethical choices when it comes to plastics, aerosols, and fast fashion for example, that are causing many of the problems in today's world that will be left to our teenagers and their younger siblings to fix or deal with.
Thankfully, the hands we are leaving this world in are clearly better than the ones passing it to them. Our teenagers are already doing more than their share when it comes to taking action on the things that matter, speaking up on everything from LGBTQI+ rights and social justice to climate change and the refugee crisis.
This week is Youth Week - a nationwide festival of events organised by teenagers to celebrate the talents, passion and achievements of our rangatahi.
This year's focus is on celebrating young voices in our communities and making sure they are heard - not just this week, but always. Stratford is fortunate enough to have an active youth council, and has done for 19 years. Youth councillors, aged between 12 and 24, represent their peers, advocating for youth, and generally being a force to be reckoned with when it comes to pushing for the best community outcomes for young people.
This youth week, I encourage everyone to make sure we are listening to the youth around them. Let's dismiss the stereotypes, not the rangatahi, and change our attitude when it comes to teenagers. Because while people might be quick to accuse teenagers of having a bad attitude, actually we are the ones with the attitude that needs adjusting.