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ESE504 : The Class : Adolescence : Later adolescence
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 community.

School Rules 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 age?

The variety of development for the students in the junior and senior years is represented by the following three different perspectives

Three youths

Generation X
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 them?"

Portrait of Late Adolescence Female
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 sense.

"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 here?

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 scientist.

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!)


STUDENT Self governing giving of self and talents sharing personal strengths expanding visions and potential respecting self self motivated fulfills responsibilities 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


interesting demanding and challenging reality based process involved evaluated 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 good

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 content.

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 setting.

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]

Student 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 heteronomy ]

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: Norton.

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 Universities Press.

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