Monday, November 23, 2015


Babies cry and wake you up in the night. Toddlers get into everything, and are prone to tantrums. Preschoolers have difficulty delaying gratification. When you have a young child you struggle to keep up with their changing behavior. You read up on child development. You talk to your pediatrician, your friends. You learn about what is developmentally appropriate for your child's age and stage.

But once that adorable baby is a teen, where does that focus on development go? For many people: out the window. Despite the fact that multiple scientific studies show the adolescent brain to be in a continued state of (wildly fluctuating) development, many adults make and enforce rules for them that assume they are mini-adults and should "just know" how to behave.

Even schools which once may have had a more supporting and guiding role towards teens are now forced by ill-conceived ed. reforms to focus on test scores and "raising the numbers." Well, you can try forcing teens into this emotional straight jacket all you want but the driving force of human nature will pop out when you least expect it.

Take clothing, for instance. Learning how to dress oneself is a completely age-appropriate thing to do. We as adults should understand that teens many go through multiple stages of "trying out" different looks as away of expressing themselves. Just as we lived through the endless crying, sleep deprivation, and temper tantrums of he younger child, we must live through this, too. It's not about morality. It's about development.

Yes, parents and responsibility adults set guidelines for safety. But we need to make sure that we are interacting with teens with an eye to fostering their development as whole human beings. Pulling a student out of class for a dress code infraction tells the student that clothing which conforms is more important than his/her education. Pulling girls out consistently more than boys says that 1) girls need more controlling and policing and 2) their need for education is not as important as it is for boys.
In closing, I'd like to share a piece of advice from a wise friend.

This is the week of parent/teacher conferences! You're all invited to state to each teacher something similar to, "If you think that the attire that my student wears in the classroom may be disruptive to their ability to learn, please contact me directly. Any conversation should be between you and me, while my student remains in the classroom."


If you try this, and I intend to, I'd love to know how that works out.

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