PEPSI for Late Adolescents
Portrait of the Late Adolescent
Developmentally appropriate education for this level is
based on honoring idiosyncratic strengths and weaknesses; in developing
ways to share strengths of the self while working successfully within
||Give - You can make a difference
||Honor who you are and what you can do
Right is doing oneís duty, showing respect for authority,
and maintaining the given social order for its own sake. - Kohlberg
Many of the insights provided in the Portrait of the Early
Adolescent reading also apply to the Late Adolescent stage. During the
teen years, students develop apace, but at divergent times. The onset
of puberty as a physical development may begin as early as second grade,
or as late as post high school. The average onset of puberty is earlier
for girls than boys, though many girls are "late bloomers."
The range of onset of physical development is merely one
form of development. Other forms of development, emotional, philosophical,
social and intellectual, may be even less predictable and wider in range
than physical development. In fact, some people never complete social
or emotional development. Who has not met a person with few adult social
skills, a deep inhehrent lack of trust, initiative or industry? Who has
not found a person who appears to be a moral pygmy, despite being retirement
The variety of development for the students in the junior
and senior years is represented by the following three different perspectives
by a graduating Senior in High School
No one seems to be able to label this generation. It is a generation
so filled with inconsistencies any label would prove itself incorrect.
We are going straight to hell and some of us are dragging our
feet, being pulled kicking and screaming. But the majority are
enchanted by the idea -- maybe we want to say to our parents,
"You're right, we're losers," or maybe we are hoping
they will hear us say "Look what you've done. Now live in
your own guilt."
We have all had the world at our fingertips. There is nothing
left for us to want. We can sit down and the world is brought
to us. We have never had to work for anything. We have had everything
so there is nothing left to want -- Nothing! And so little has
any meaning left. We don't have to work at being socially appropriate
or liked. We have the asylum of television. It likes you no matter
what. And nearly everyone likes it better than other people anyway.
Besides, why do you want to get close to other people? You'll
just be hurt. Everyone keeps telling us that all of us are going
to keep on losing the people that matter most to us to Aids. So
who is left to live for? The TV won't miss us and no humans will
be left to miss us. "We might as well go down with smiles
on our faces." "Might as well come and go unattached
as most people seem to be moving around us." And why not?
"Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Sometimes
sex without concern for the partner seems like a good solution.
Sex seems to be the only thing left that doesn't lose intensity.
It is as intense for Generation X, maybe more. So as it was for
the "me" generation or the baby boomers, or anyone else,
it can give us solace.
We have causes. We have wants, hopes, dreams. But because we have
never had to get anything for ourselves, we have no idea, no clue
on how to empower ourselves. We don't know how to let the world
around us know. So we work to effect changes within our own peer
group. The adult world around us doesn't see how we are conquering
discrimination among ourselves -- how we are slowly becoming accepting
of those who have different sexual identities than what is considered
the norm. Adults do not see this as they look at us. They don't
understand the silent revolution and evolution.
The question remains, "Will we live to see the revolution,
the undercover changes brought about? " Or are we going to
flounder in our own boredom and end up changing our lives by ending
Portrait of Late Adolescence
Interview of a Junior young woman in High School
Maria is a senior. She communicates a great deal about her
feelings. Less of the talk contains physical references now.
She is ambivalent about her body shape, but is able to see good
things mixed with the things she wishes she could change. During
a shopping excursion the other day she chattered on . . .
P I want some high heels like those.
Theyíre pretty high though. Walking in high heels makes my back
hurt the next day. I hate how big I am on top. I canít wear
any of the styles now. Boy, it sure gets lots of attention !
We were talking about it at school the other day. Do you know
how many boys look at your chest instead of at your face when
they talk to girls? I think someday female eyes will end up
there so we can make eye contact. Wow! Look at this suit. I
hate having to wear old lady clothes just because my body decided
to be shaped like this. Maybe I can get plastic surgery. Oh
well, you want me to try this on? The skirt looks pretty short,
but at least I have nice thighs!
E We had to write a story about our first
crush for Mr. Silver. Do you remember that cute little boy in
kindergarten? He was my first real crush. Well, actually, I
had to write about Jimmy from the sixth grade because I could
barely remember that kindergarten kidís name. Remember Jimmy?
Of course, that was nothing like the crush I had my freshman
year. If that hunk hadnít been in my algebra class I probably
would have passed. Well, at least he didnít pass either, but
of course he was a football hero so he got a D even though he
never did anything. Know what? He still canít read, but of course
nobody cares because we win games. Donít you think thatís stupid?
I mean, whatís he going to do when he gets out of high school?
You know anyone who pays big money for someone to drive around
in a studdly car? Heís never going to make the pros in football.
Anyway, Iím glad I didnít do anything stupid with him.
Remember Dawna? Well, sheís in my class and she is really pregnant.
I didnít know it was so awful to be pregnant. I mean who would
think of it hurting? But she canít even sleep at night and she
says that her boy friend disappeared like she turned out a switch.
Guys can be such jerks! At least Jasonís not like that. Sometimes
I could just melt when he looks at me. We have great plans for
Saturday. He might go to the ďUĒ too, except he thinks maybe
the Air Force is a better idea. Did you see that great car?
I want a little two seater like that.
Two people at our school have aids. It is so sad! They have
nothing to look forward to. Absolutely nothing! Iím not getting
married until I get out of college. I mean, whatís the point?
Can you tell me what you think the true definition of love is?
We have to write about that in college prep this coming Monday.
Do you believe it? People have been writing about that for a
million years and canít define it. Now this guy wants us to
do it. I think about it a whole lot. But really, look at this
world. Does anybody really love anybody? Well, of course I do,
but I mean this world is not a very loving place. I love my
puppy! Nobody knows about love like we do! Sheís so cute! She
sleeps right on my pillow.
P Do you think the holocaust was real?
I mean, after watching that movie last night, you know, Schindlerís
List, I kept thinking about that little girl in the coat. How
could anyone treat even animals like that, let alone a perfect
little child? How could God just stand around and do nothing?
Well, except I guess Heíd be evil if He made us be good, but
how could He watch that? I could hardly watch that. Well, I
guess those pictures of Rwanda werenít any better. How could
we let that happen? I donít understand stuff like that. I wanted
to save that little girl, you know? I wanted to somehow make
her life o.k. I wanted to... Oh, itís so depressing! Do you
think I will be able to change things if I become a teacher?
Maybe I can ďbe thereĒ for a kid whoís life is hell.
S We have some pretty deep discussions
about life in our English class. Iím surprised how often we
talk about the same kinds of stuff here at home. Mr. Silver
has some pretty great ways of talking about the questions. We
all have the same question and then each of us is supposed to
find support from other sources to back up our ideas. Most of
my other teachers think you should just see it their way. This
is one class where my ideas get listened to. Itís surprising
how many people have insights about these questions. I really
like that class. Iíll tell you what kinds of things get brought
up about love in our Monday class. The astonishing thing is
that Mr. Silver wonít even say that thereís only one answer
by the end.
I If I could just get through geometry,
I think I could be a veterinarian. Well, except I hate the sight
of blood, too. I finally figured out how to get keyboarding.
I have to stop paying attention to my fingers and sort of space
out. Iím finally getting faster. But you should have heard the
teacher. He told me that I might as well sign up for some other
class because I was getting worse by the day! He isnít so smart.
Yesterday he spent ten minutes trying to figure out why a program
wouldnít work for this one kid, and finally another student
came over. Guess what! There wasnít any floppy disk in the drive,
so of course the program wouldnít respond. Iím not the only
spazz. Besides, I am getting better.
Portrait of Late Adolescence Male
Essay by a Senior young man
I am a senior who just graduated from high school.
My name is Randy and these are my views of high school and the
teachers who work there.
Why do teachers think that they are gods? I can not believe it.
They treat students like dogs and slaves. They have NO regard
for the students who go to the school. They are always looking
for things that students do wrong. They never look for good things.
The teachers always have to be right about everything. They make
up rules as they go along. They don't act like students have any
"Why are you in the hall? No you can't go to the rest room!
You just had a drink an hour ago. You are dressed too weird. How
come you are late?" I feel like saying, "Who died and
left you boss of the earth, I just want to go to the bathroom!"
Why are teachers so controlling?
I have this major gripe about school. It is so boring!! Yes, I
said BORING! I have four classes a day and each is 90 minutes
long. Ninety minutes is a lifetime when the subject matter is
boring. Yes, I said boring --- and irrelevant. I asked my Dad
how much of this stuff he's used in his lifetime and he snorted.
I'll have even less use in my lifetime. Haven't they ever heard
of accessing info through internet? I can access the stuff in
those stupid texts and a whole lot more they've never heard of,
if and when I need it. I have a CD Rom encyclopedia that would
make Alex Trebeck [host of Jeopardy TV show] nervous.
I got caught ditching Algebra, the slowest class in the world,
with the teacher from Hell. My mom and dad have Masters degrees
and neither one of them remembers how to do Algebra. They forgot
because they've never needed to solve for X since getting out
of school. Why did I ditch? Yep, amazingly, because it's boring.
So I get caught ditching. The principal says, "It's wrong
to miss school, so your punishment will be a three day suspension."
Did I miss something about logic? Who is the rocket scientist
A player on the football team is picking on my freshman sister.
This really bugs me. I see the player in the hallway and say "The
football team stinks!" This player runs and tells the coach.
(Is this high school or kindergarten?) The coach tracks me down
and gets in my face. "What did you say to my player,"
he says. I repeat, "The football team stinks!" "You
can't say the football team stinks!" the coach says. I say,
"Sure I can, I can voice my opinion. The coach shouts, "Come
to practice and say that to the whole team!" I retorted "OK,
I will bring all of my friends and we'll tell you."
Super coach says, "Ha, you don't have any friends!"
I think to myself, "thanks coach for building my ego. You
are my hero." Guess who ends up in the office with the rocket
Hey, I'm walking down the hallway right after school and I see
the teacher who is in charge of the yearbooks. I remember that
I paid for a yearbook - $25 big ones! Anyway, I see the teacher
in charge of the books. She is ten feet from the classroom door.
I am very nice and ask her if I could please have my yearbook.
Theyíve been passing them out for four days, but I canís get out
of class to get mine. She says "No, the only time students
may get yearbooks is between 11:00 and noon each day."
I tell her that I have a class during that time. She says "Well,
you've got a problem. I tell her I paid for a book and I want
it. She says "Sorry." I want to tell her right there
and then that she is being immature and that she has no right
to treat students this way." But then who would be immature?
Besides, I've gained enough inside information through the office.
At least I'm a Senior - a mighty senior! Mighty what? That is
my question. Yes, chalk me up as one more satisfied customer.
My motto has become, "Schools - where students come first!"
Well, at least that's true in kindergarten.
These portraits give a sense of realism to the wide range of personalities
and perspectives of later teens.
The successful teacher takes up the roles of mentor, protagonist,
coach, and World Citizen. It is helpful to add a sense of vision for youth,
to model maturity, dedication, and be a pace-setter in viewing learning
as powerful and exciting. It helps to be a humorist, genial, affirming,
adaptable, resilient, just and honorable. Research shows that students
are moved by teachers who have a thorough and easy grounding in the subjects,
who are obviously deeply committed to teaching and reflect a genuine love
and excitement about the area of study.
The superb teacher successfully engages young adult students
in the challenge to move from the search for self and self understanding,
the need for peer approval and self certitude to the full flow of human
involvement in the recognition of social as well as personal responsibility.
In a sense it can be described thus:
The savvy teacher helps students move
|Who am I? or Iíve got to be me!
||This I can give. . .
|I need to be popular or I belong to the _____ group!
I can contribute to our community by . . .
|This is the only answer! or There is one truth - mine!
||Letís look for options and novel ways to respond.
. . (Thereís more than one way to skin a cat!)
of self and talents
sharing personal strengths
expanding visions and potential
tolerates differences and ambivalence
desires understanding of others
seeks purpose of life,
maintains standards and rules out of respect
feels a sense of duty and responsibility for promoting social welfare
and challenging reality
through mastery with student input tooled
to individual ability
developed to dovetail with world of work
integrated projects and units
utilizes gifts and talents to deepen skills, and help others
energizing and motivating approaches to content
Socratic and dialectic approaches interspersed with fact finding
synthesis, creativity and analysis are modeled, honored and expected
dedicated to synthesis of student development and well being with social
As Juniors and Seniors move through the developmental levels,
a myriad of complex factors compound, giving a wide variation to growth.
Though many 16 and 17 year old students are prepared to move forward in
their quest for a part to play in society, many are not. Though many are
now able to see consequences of actions and potential risks in choices,
others still fight for the right to choose rather than questioning the
impact of choices on self or others. Adolescence is stretched out into
adulthood in current western cultures. Conventional wisdom during the
1990ís suggested that many people were completing adolescence around the
age of 29. Thus, becoming a junior or senior does not insure student preparedness
for assuming the mantle of adulthood, but it does signal a common time
for the developmental urges which move the student toward dedication and
believing that individuals can make a difference in the world.
Many are motivated by the belief that they will be able
to make important contributions. It may signal a move toward dedication
of self and the belief. ď If one person can make a difference in the world,
I can.Ē Many are ready to be individuals in their own right. Nearly all
juniors and seniors have the full array of cognitive tools and the capacity
to learn. Many have not acquired academic tools, in part because there
is no match between those tools and their learning strengths and gifts,
in part because they have failed to discipline themselves, partly because
they see no practical need for them. Most of these students are spring
loaded with a need to be a special person and most desire recognition
and help with that journey.
Many times there is a mis-match between the life tasks these
adolescents see for themselves and the school agenda. There may be an
additional mis-match in the general focus of the secondary teacher and
the needs of the students. In general, secondary teachers are trained
and certified as practitioners in specific fields of knowledge. The emphasis
on content and competency in those content areas is considered paramount
during their teacher training. Secondary teachers are trained to impart
There are two paradoxical forces occurring which make this
focus on content and lack of focus on student, inadvisable. The first
is the student detachment from adults as referents who impact self esteem,
and the simultaneous look to peers for approval and validation. The second
is the adolescent striving for validation of self as a unique and special
person. Both of these compelling forces divert student energy and attention
from viewing or valuing school curriculum as important or a valuable and
vital recipient of quality time and energy. With a few students, successful
accomplishment of learning in a particular field with a specific teacher
provides validation. For example, if Mary is a talented writer, self motivated
and filled with a sense of hope about a future as a novelist, there may
be a bond between Mary and the Honors English teacher, especially if the
teacher explicitly values Maryís writing and exclaims over it. Though
Mary may not do well in math and may shun her science classes or do average
work in other courses, (and that does not necessarily translate to poor
grades, just less effort and dedication) she does have a compelling reason
for coming to school and contributing to the well being of the school
Generally, the top ten per cent of students make those attachments
and value school because they are able to see the link between academic
advancement and the future they desire. They appreciate being valued by
teachers, and are self motivated to work and develop skills which are
college preparatory. In these cases, the teaching learning relationship
and success at learning are adequate to assure compliance with rules and
contribution to a learning community.
In addition, there are usually 5-10% of the students who
are highly motivated to work to get scholarships, to make high marks and
are well matched with the way high school is presented. These students
appreciate the rigor of academics and value the feeling of self fulfillment
which comes from pitting self against a challenge, from trying and succeeding.
These students see an ďAĒ as a goal, hope to give the valedictory speech,
and work relentlessly, regardless of the personal cost. Perhaps 10-15%
of the students enthusiastically attend school because of the athletic,
music and drama and extra-curricular opportunities. Clubs, organizations
and areas for exploring individual gifts and talents, for being known
as the first string quarterback, sitting first chair in band or orchestra,
being a cheer leader, taking pictures for the school paper, provide enough
notoriety and positive attachment that attending school, turning in assignments
and following school policy are palatable.
Another 25-30% of the high school student population attends
and participates because of the social milieu. ďWant to hang out? Well
school is where everybody is, man.Ē There is a certain amount of subject
surfing which occurs because the student is in class. This group of students
generally bend the rules to meet personal needs, but attend most classes,
turn in the majority of assignments and make a stab at tests, even if
they did not actively study. These young people are susceptible to good
teaching and can be motivated to learn, but do not seem fully engaged
in academics. Almost through exposure and osmosis, some content is acquired.
School leaders and popular students may have fit into other categories,
or may be involved with the school because their social needs are met
and they are accorded value through their interactions within the school
setting. The students we have grouped together probably make up 70% of
secondary education. The students attend fairly regularly, are getting
something out of coming to the school, get into very little trouble, only
occasionally become part of the disciplinary process with the school.
These figures also translate into the high school success rate of graduating
75% of the students.
It is an important distinction to make here, that though
there is little disruption from these students, there is limited evidence
that we are fully and effectively meeting their true needs. There is much
to suggest that in looking at quality of education, inspiration for future
learning, development of reasoning and preparation of individuals to contribute
gifts, talents and abilities to society, we are neither fulfilling that
trust nor reaching beyond to see the greater challenge.
Discipline is. . .
Being realistic about what is occurring in secondary education
is not the same as school or teacher bashing. It is important to be clear
about what is occurring in schools and to gather and process the student
perceptions of what is happening because discipline is much more than
assuring ourselves that students are relatively safe or that they know
how to behave and have been told what will occur if they do not follow
rules. Discipline, as it applies to education, is:
Student as life long learner, reflector, problem-solver, creator [Discipline
of mind and thoughts]
as pursuer of self knowledge, self awareness, self control, self acceptance,
self actualization [Discipline of body and self through understanding]
Student as knowledgeable and valued participant in relationship and community;
able to perceive and value the perspectives and needs of others and to
meld self interest with societal growth and development [Discipline of
Student as creator and perpetuator of humane and advancing civilization
[Discipline of energy, gifts and talents]
Student as contributor through a life of dedication to principles of decency
and sharing of personal strengths in the world of work [Discipline as
work ethic and self honor]
It is important for teachers to assess the goodness of fit
between what was experienced in high school, what we were taught to provide
as teachers, and whether or not we are providing what students and society
need. It is also important for teachers to reflect on how to best utilize
their own gifts, talents and energy to make a personal contribution to
students and society. Teachers, after all, are the models and mentors
to whom students will look if these forms of discipline are to be transmitted
and valued. Disparity of ability Another important consideration comes
from the expanse of ability involved in working to meet the needs of adolescents.
This time in human development probably represents the apex
of disparity in capacity, interest and ability along all areas of the
PEPSI or areas of development. This is a vital time for individualizing
the educational plan for each student and working in mentorships and partnerships
to explore, expand and develop student capability. Students are currently
attending to these needs by ďpairingĒ or coupling. For those students
who wish to become homemakers and who have limited ability to develop
meaningful societal skills, this may be appropriate. For society and other
students, this may be a counterproductive diversion of energy.
Erikson, E. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York:
Gardner, H. (1991). The unschooled mind: How children think and how schools
should teach. New York: Basic Books.
Lazear, D. G. (1992). Teaching for Multiple Intelligences. Bloomington,
Indiana: Phi Delta Kappa.
Piaget, J. (1952). The origin of intelligence in children. New York: International
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