High School Kids Are Not Grown Ups!

The sheer number of self-help books for adults amaze me.  Don't get me wrong, I love them!  But really, we're adults, right?  Grown-ups.  So, how come so many people are reading about how to organize their lives, be more productive, find their true calling, de-clutter their lives?

Then I go to work, at a high school, a really nice one with eager teachers, wanting the best for their students.  And, when I suggest that kids need to be taught time management, organization, and even reading and writing skills, I often hear, "But it's high school.  They should know that!"  As if our kids are grown ups. (Yep, the ones who need all the self-help books!)  I know we're not the only high school like this.  But I want us all to consider something:

High school kids are not grown ups!  Really, truly, they are not.  In one of Rick Wormeli's videos, he calls them "humans in the morphing."  I love that!  Their brains have so much growing to do, especially that frontal lobe, the judgement center, which might not be done until age 25.  Truly, our kids in their teen years are not done yet!  Thank goodness, huh?

So, knowing this, I have a few proposals for high school teachers:

1. Teach them to use a planner.  Seriously, give kids a planner or other organizational tool as freshmen and teach them to use it, monitor their growth, adjust your teaching, hold them accountable, and review all year long.  As humans in the morphing, they're are pre-occupied with a few other things and they tend to forget.  I believe if we really taught (over and over again) all 9th grade year until the kids really get how to manage a planner effectively, we could back off sophomore year.  Not completely, just back off a lot.  By junior and senior year, the kids could use them independently.  Well, most of them, anyway.  Humans in the morphing!

2.  When learning doesn't happen, reteach!    I know. I know.  College professors won't do that.  However, sometimes, we cannot just plow on with our content.  We must stop and assess what went wrong and reteach the whole thing in a different way.  It's not enough that we encourage kids to come in for extra help, sometimes the whole lesson needs a redo.  Yes, we might get slightly behind, and yes, we might not cover as much, but really, they'll know something really well, and that is valuable.

3. Include real choices throughout each day.  I hear people talk about the bad decisions teenagers make quite frequently.  Yes, they do.  Naturally when your judgement center is underdeveloped, you tend to make mistakes.  If we want people to learn anything, we start small, right?  You learn to drive in a parking lot.  You learn about money by having an allowance.  So, in high school, we need to provide lots of opportunities for our students to make choices in safe ways.  We can provide choice in assignments, books, class room seating (or not),  testing methods,  even in due dates. The list goes on and on.  I think back to reading Love and Logic, Magic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fay (which I've re-read many, many times).  They talk about the importance of young children making choices - it helps them feel in control.  Well, my teenage students seem to need the same sense of control as a screaming, kicking toddler in the middle of a temper tantrum sometimes.  They'll feel calmer and we help their frontal lobes grow.  Win-win!

I think these simple adjustments would help us to remember that our high school students are still learning.  We are, for many of them, their last hope of education.  Let's not waste any more time saying they should know something.  Let's just teach them what they need right now so that some day, when they really are grown-ups, they'll have all the tools they need.  Sorry self-help industry!


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