Essay, Research Paper: Adolescent Behavior In School

Psychology

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Middle School is a large school and has students attending from six Putnam
County towns and two Dutchess County towns. On the average, the graduating class
has close to 500 students and the typical class has 32 students attending. The
school has two cafeterias in order to accommodate it's large student population,
one cafeteria to provide for fifth and sixth graders, and another for seventh
and eighth graders. Interesting enough, the different classes do not attend
lunch together, in other words, seventh and eighth graders do not attend lunch
together nor fifth and sixth graders. Again I assume this is strictly do to the
large population of this school. I entered the school at the start of the day, I
considered this to be to my advantage, therefor not standing out so much among
the huddles of people gathered outside the school building. It can be said that
the students appearances varied somewhat, but a whole it remained within a
certain unspoken code. The girls wore their hair long-shoulder length or longer,
and had it tied back in a pony-tail or very straight. Some were in skirts
(slightly above knee level)-all were either corduroy or floral material. Most of
the girls though were in jeans and hip length sweaters and wore tennis-sneakers
or the "clunky" type shoes which are all the fashion now. All the
girls I saw wore earrings, mostly the small dangling type and often they had two
holes pierced. Most of the girls wore make-up, mostly lipstick and eye-shadow,
although it was not excessive. The boys all seemed to be in clothes that were
least five sizes too big. It consisted primarily of one of these two clothing
options: extra-large sweater overlapping a thermal-type shirt, with jeans that
were just short of slipping to the ground or extra-large flannel overlapping a
thermal-type shirt, with jeans that were just short of slipping to the ground. A
close second to this dressing trend for boys was the sweater and jeans/sweater
and khakis style, although nowhere near as prominent. Nearly all of the boys
wore their hair short, most frequently with the back cut close to the nape of
the neck and the top "gelled." Some had earrings (both hoop and stud
types were observed) and many wore neclaces-either choker chain or
"hemp" styles. All of the boys seemed to be wearing sneakers of
endless varieties, and most in the one-hundred dollar range. Aside from these
primary gender fashions, there were those who differed. A few of the girls had
short hair, a few of the boys grew the top of their hair long. Some of the kids
were in clothing that seemed "out-dated" in comparison to their piers,
and even had the appearance of being passed down from an older sibling. For
example, not being in this seasons color or style. There were also those
students, primarily boys, that were in football or basketball jerseys or jackets
that sported the schools name or mascott. I did note a few girls wearing a
football jacket, incidentally with boys names on the front. It was easy to note
from these observations that generally, clothing was an outward indicator to
distinguish among the various social groups. The clothing the students wore was
an immediate indication to various social groups, being that it is a visual
observation. It can be said that this is a common factor even in the adult
world, but not once did I note a "poorly" dressed student socializing
with a student that was in an athletic jacket or a student that was
"fashion-forward." It was during the lunch period that I figured I
could make distinctions among social groups most accurately At first entering
the cafeteria, it was much as I remembered, even much like college. The
"volume" was high and immediately I noticed the groups forming, again
this is something which does extend into the later teens, and even into
adulthood, but here I was observing a much more rigid standard. There didn't
appear to be any casual socializing among different groups (except in one
situation which I will mention). The first group I noticed was the
"jock" group, I most likely noted them first because this was the
group that I was part of during my teenage years. All of the boys were sporting
either baseball, football, or basketball jersey and/or jacket. The girls were
all of the "cheerleader" type, many of them also wearing athletic
jackets. An interesting thing to note was that this group was tightly packed
together, even when every apparent inch of the table was filled, if another one
of "their-own" came over a chair was pulled up. It almost appeared
comical, especially since a near by table was almost vacant. I noted that this
group was the most vocal, and drew the most attention. As I remarked earlier,
there was one exception to "visual" social groups intermingling. It
was with the "jock" group and a group that was fashoin-forward. Often
I noted that the jock table and a near-by table (also tightly packed, but to a
lesser extent) of fashion-forward kids mingling. I judged by appearance, that
this group was probably considered the "good-looking" kids table (a
standard set primarily due to having the latest haircut or wardrobe). This table
along with the jock table collectively formed the "popular" crowd. If
a cafeteria aide had to yell a someone for throwing food, it was from one of
these tables. If there was a sudden out bursts of laughter it was from one of
these tables, and often from both together. Even one girl from the jock table
got up during lunch to walk around and obtain signatures to nominate herself as
a candidate for an up-comming student election. Far off in the back of the
cafeteria was another group. As a matter of fact, I even had to relocate my
position somewhat in order to observe them better. This group was an all boy
group. They were somewhat smaller in size than the jock group, and dressed in
clothing that was neither horrible or forward. I suppose you could say that
fashion didn't seem to be as vital to this group as it did to the
"popular" crowd. They were collectively talking about the "Star
Wars" trilogy, and laughed amongst themselves, and at a much lesser volume
than those mentioned earlier. At one point one of them opened up a text book and
motioned to his neighbor to do the same, and then compared answers. There was a
table of girls that also appeared to fit within this groups criteria. They were
not dressed in the fashion of the "now" and also were working on
school work. They were seated in the rear of the cafeteria as well. Interesting
enough, neither this group and it's apparent male counterparts socialized with
one another during the lunch period. When I later returned to the cafeteria
during another section of eighth grade lunch, I noted, much to my surprise, that
groups with similar styles occupied the very spots where these groups chose. The
rest of the cafeteria was inhabited by small groups of four or five, primarily
consisting of the "average" student, without any outstanding
characteristics. And of course, there were the kids that just sat alone.
Observing the students that sat alone, it was quite hard to figure out exactly
why this was. As a young adult, I know that I tend to choose friends that have
similar values, interests and goals. And, it can be said that the early
adolescents I observed were doing a similar action, but it appears that the
level of discrimination is dramatically exaggerated. A students interest goes
past just "interest" and straight to a direct reflection as to who
they are as a person. And the image of the group is more important than any
single part. The students I observed that were alone were for the most part the
ordinary kid. Some of the boys were small, some of the girls were awkward
looking, a few of the students were overweight and a few students looked like
maybe they had come from lower income households. I think the main reasons these
students were excluded is because of low self-esteem. During adolescence,
teenagers are overwhelmed with feelings and most of them being confusion. Many
are questioning their assets and flaws, and trying to sort out who they are as a
person and where they stand in the world as a whole. There are endless pressures
from parents, teachers, and piers. It is quite easy to see how a low self-esteem
can be developed. I think that the excluded students felt either that they don't
quite "fit" with anyone or that they are not good enough to keep
anyone's company. Early adolescents are particularly prone to conformity,
Because of this necessity to "fit in," many become subjected to
various peer pressures. Pressures can be obvious, such as drinking or smoking in
order to prove yourself as "cool," or they can take a more subtle
form. For example, while I was observing an eight grade lunch period, I noted
two girls pushing another girl from the back. At first glance it almost appeared
to be a fight, then I noticed that the two girls were laughing, and demanding
the third girl (the one being pushed) to "just go talk to him, what's the
big deal, don't be such a geek!!!" They were pushing her over to a boy
standing outside of the cafeteria door. This boy was also standing with friends
and looking equally uncomfortable. The girl who was being "pushed" was
blatently against the idea, her face was red, and I even headed her say several
times, "I really don't want to do this, I feel like a jerk." Then she
tried to bargain with her friends by saying, "I'll talk to him after Social
class, I swear." But still the girls continued to drag her over to this
boy. Then came the words I was waiting to hear, "You don't want to be the
only one at this dance without a date, only the dorky girls go to the spring
dance dateless!" Eventually this girl did end up going over to the boy
outside. Another example of peer pressure I observed was within a group of boys.
About five or six boys were "daring" one boy to throw an apple at a
wall, incidentally, a cafeteria aide was sitting on a stool near-by the alleged
wall. The boy who was to be doing the throwing swore that, "he would get
caught," but after a small desput he went along with the idea. About one
second after the apple hit the wall, the cafeteria aide pulled him by the arm
screaming that she'd "really had enough of this table's crap this
year!", and that he'd be lucky if he'd get to have lunch in the cafeteria
for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, just about all the cafeteria was cheering
for him, but he did not seem so happy. There are adolescents that act out with
such behavior without apparent pier pressure. Teenagers may act out rebelliously
for a number of reasons, but mainly it's an act of attention. A student I
noticed rebelling against authority was in the classroom. It was during an
English class, the teacher asked students to hand in the homework assignment,
then gave students an in-class reading assignment. A student I'll call Tom,
began to start conversation with the student next to him. The teacher asked him
to be quiet and start the reading. Tom then told the teacher that he forgot his
text book. The teacher looked at him in a way that made me think that this
wasn't the first time Tom forgot his book. The teacher then asked him if he
turned in his assignment, and Tom replied "no." Then the teacher asked
him if he speak to him outside. A couple of minuets later they returned, and the
teacher handed him a textbook. Tom then began to "rap" a song and keep
beat to the music by "playing" his desk. The teacher once more asked
to see Tom outside, only this time in a lot more serious tone. Tom then
muttered, "This is bull*censored*," and pushed his borrowed textbook
from the desk, pushed his desk and several others desks on his way out. I herd
the teacher and Tom arguing then Tom came in, grabbed his notebook and was sent
off to the principle. Adolescent egocentrisim is defined as the inability for
teenagers to differentiate between what is important to themselves and what is
important to others. Two boys sitting in front of me were preparing to take a
test. The one boy said "Damn, I died on that last test, if I fail this one
I swear my father is going to beat my ass." The other boy said, "God,
don't I know it, I bombed the last one" The first boy then said, "No
dude, you don't know." "What are you sayin', I did just as bad on that
test." The first boy then raised his voice and said, "No man, you just
don't get it- I can't fail." I chose one girl and one boy to observe
closely for thirty minutes. The girl I chose I noticed right away. She was
sitting in the cafeteria alone. She had long brown hair and was wearing jeans
and a t-shirt. She was an average looking girl and looked as if she may felt a
little awkward. For the first fifteen minuets of lunch she flipped endlessly
through her binder, and occasionally took out a piece of paper to read, or to
draw on. She never lifted her head up to look around the cafeteria, or to make
any eye contact with anyone for that matter. It was at this point that I noticed
that this girl didn't have a lunch with her and never even got up to go get a
lunch. I really felt bad for her, she didn't seem to be very happy or
comfortable so I don't think that she was alone by choice. I wanted to go over
and say "hi" to her by the end of the period, but I never did. About
five minutes before the end of lunch this girl got up from her seat and went to
wait by the cafeteria door, and as soon as the cafeteria aide would let her, she
left. Many of the other kids were slow to leave and often had to be told a few
times to get up from their tables. The boy I observed was recommended to me by
the principle himself. This being because the principle felt this student
reminded him of me when I was fourteen. I arrived to the classroom before any of
the students had and the principle re-introduced to an English teacher I once
had. He told me the students name and where he sat in the class. When the
students finally entered, the teacher told them that I was a student aide and
not to mind me. Within seconds of seeing this boy I realized why he was
recommended. He was "in" the obvious popular crowd, although he did
have a certain identity of his own. While his friends were talking aimlessly
among their own clicuqe, he talked to not only his clicque but outsiders as
well. Another key observation was that he made eye contact with everyone he
spoke with whereas his peers were much more easily distracted in conversation.
He carried himself in a maturelike fashion as well. He wasn't loud, or needing
to be the center of attention, although conversation was often directed his was.
But despite this mature demeanor, he still had the Notorious adolescent
vocabulary. When the teacher asked for silence, he responded, whereas a few of
his friends still wanted to continue conversation. One situation that was
particularly notable was when the students were assigned to depict parts of the
sentence structure on the board. Many of his friends joked around when they were
in front of the class and had to be told to focus on the task, whereas he went
straight to work when his turn was called. Another thing worth mentioning was
that when a not-so-popular student was called to the board, many of my subjects
friends were quick to make fun, and he didn't take part. I am not going to say
that he told them to "shut-up," or anything near as admirable, but
during a time when conformity is very important, this boy took a very passive
approach. Of the two subjects that I studied I noted that both had
characteristics of the normal adolescent, although in very different ways. The
girl displayed behavior that is associated with the imaginary audience. She was
very self-conscious, afraid to look around in fear that others might note that
she was alone and be the target of their ridicule. I also believe that she is
currently in the stage of role confusion, she seems to have doubts about
identity and is withdrawn from others almost completly. The boy on the other
hand, seemed to be very well adjusted, even more than the average student. I
believe that he is at a point of identity achievement, he defiantly appeared to
have a higher self-esteem, he had a balance of relationships with his peers and
was able to committ himself to tasks that were required of him. I think the
George Fischer school is providing a positive learning environment. The two
classrooms both used various techniques to encourage self-development. For
example, the teacher at one point had the students work in groups that were
formed by him. This not only eliminated students from being left out, but it
also encouraged students to get to know one another. Along with this, the value
of working with each other towards a common goal was also enforced. Another
advantage is that the students attend this school from fifth to eighth grade,
therefor eliminating a transition into a junior high school at a time when
adolescents are most awkward and insecure with themselves The school also
offered various different classes depending on students needs, for example a
student that may not have been in a stage of formal operations had different
class options then say that of a student in post formal operations. This
students were not required to remain within this tract, but instead could be
reassigned the next year. As a whole, I found this school's resources to be more
than adequate, both teachers and services that were provided for students were
nurturing for the adolescent. From my observations, I learned a great deal. I
forgot how difficult it was to be an adolescent and live by all of the un spoken
standards. I also got a chance to observe objectively those students that I
hadn't gotten a chance to really know during my time attending middle school. I
believe that all adolescents have a difficult life during those years whether
popular or not but, not all kids suffer as the movies may portray. There are
kids who don't fight with their families. I saw plenty of kids who didn't act
out in any anti-social, rebellious behavior. Many were just having fun, and
learning along the way. As far as my self, I learned to look a bit deeper into
what I am seeing. In the approximate ten hours that I had spent there, I
answered the questions that I was assigned. So maybe if I put the attnetion into
my life that I did this paper the other questions that I have might just get
answered easier.
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