Every school has them as far as I can tell. They are the super popular, sharply dressed social butterflies who stroll down the school halls like they own them. And, in a way, they kind of do. I go back and forth on my feelings about the cool kids. Sometimes they can use their power for good. Sometimes they're a real pain. It's just a mixed bag when it comes to adolescents endowed with an unmediated ability to influence the lives of their surrounding adolescents. What I can say, though, is that I have my own, internal list of cool kids.
These are the kids that I get to know over time, during the quiet moments of the school day. They are smart, funny, mature, and just really cool. We can talk about books, movies, life, school, politics etc. They understand things. In a deeply ridiculous classroom moment of chaos or disorder, I can often meet their gaze across a room and share a "this is absurd" eye roll. They are cool.
The crazy thing about these very cool kids from my internal list is that, more often than not, they fly well below the radar. You probably won't find them center-stage. I often see them reading alone at lunch or sitting quietly in the back of the classroom. They aren't usually candidates for homecoming king or queen. In fact, unless you seek them out or allow yourself to be available in a quiet moment, you probably won't even really get a chance to connect with them. I don't know why this is. I have some ideas, but I don't know.
What I do know is that the kind of cool that they have is made of something strong and rare. High school is bizarre, but they have somehow found a way to carve out honest, creative, and unapologetic identities for themselves. They just rock who they are and they mean business. They pursue their interests and they don't try to change anything about themselves in order to fit societal or peer expectations. They take school seriously, engaging in real learning, asking challenging questions, and pushing themselves intellectually. They are kind, bold, and courageous. They are also easy to overlook sometimes in the disorienting squall that is the high school social system. In an environment where their brand of coolness isn't necessarily a high-value commodity, they are often lost in the shuffle, silently looking around for some reassurance of their coolness from someone outside the system. I'm learning that I have to keep my eyes open for the quiet opportunities to pull up a chair, ask a question, and spend some time getting to know the cool kids.