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Those of us who are fortunate enough to watch our fourteen-, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds develop into young men and women sit with bated breath as they begin making choices in life that will stick with them for some time. Let’s see where these kiddos are in their five areas of development.
These kids are finally capable of taking in information, assimilating and synthesizing it, and taking it even one step further to applying the information to potential situations or assignments. They enjoy exploring where they fit in, looking at where they are going in their future and trying new things. Girls have finished brain development, whereas boys aren’t even halfway finished, which is usually the reasoning behind the ‘leap before you look’ actions of boys at these ages. Both girls and boys are able to solve their own problems a bit easier, and both have developed specific likes and dislikes as far as school subjects. They are likely to challenge teachers and parents on a majority of things, wanting more information as to how and why things have to be done a specific way, and may possibly even figure out their own method of solving problems that adults have not considered. Kids at this age don’t always mean to come across as cocky or difficult; they want to figure out things on their own.
Social and Emotional Development:
Welcome to full-blown puberty and all of the amenities! Our fourteen-through sixteen-year-olds are moody, can be unpredictable and can demonstrate behavior that adults cannot understand, though it makes total sense to the child. Kids at these ages usually have their close group of friends and prefer to spend time with those friends instead of their families. Many teens feel ‘invincible’ at these ages and will do and try things that they would never have thought of doing and trying before. Girls can be very ‘catty’ and emotional in social situations, sticking close to one set of girlfriends, while boys are usually laid back in social situations, and will be civil to everyone who is outside of their main group. Both sexes are trying out new tastes in fashion, music, food, language and all things trendy, especially in the digital world.
Unfortunately kids at these ages are more apt to try alcohol, tobacco and drugs, especially as a group. They also may begin experimenting sexually. Peer pressure pulls kids in all directions at these ages. Emotions run very high with girls, while boys might be categorized as ‘clueless’.
Speech and Language Development:
By these ages, kids are building their vocabulary, experimenting with foul language and may fall into ‘socially predictable language’; trendy language within social circles that leave adults’ heads spinning.
Gross Motor Development:
Gross motor skills are completely developed for typical kids of these ages.
Fine Motor Development:
Most kids at these ages are involved in activities such as sports, music, engineering, or other activities that continue to build the quality of their fine motor skills.
Even though we begin seeing an end coming to developmental milestones in some areas, cognitive and social and emotional development will continue on into the twenties of typical kids. We must remember that even though our fourteen-through sixteen-year-olds are young adults, they are still ‘kids’ who are facing adult issues and challenges at these ages. These kids, though sometimes difficult, still need to be protected and cultivated by adults. We do not need to understand behaviors themselves so much as needing to understand where the behavior is stemming from.
We all know that kids at these ages will experiment with things we would rather they leave alone, but the fact still remains that they will try out new and different things because they are trying to figure out who they are becoming and who they want-or don’t want-to become. However, when experimentation turns into a problem because of low self-esteem, uncontrollable home front issues, or other issues at school such as bullying, adults need to be ready to step in and assist. As parents and teachers we need to not only be aware of what these kids are up against, but where they are developmentally and how they are wired to respond.
We need to be prepared to help these kids through what can be seen as tumultuous years, instead of just hoping everything turns out all right. Drug, alcohol, appropriate socialization, internet safety and sex education should begin in the home, but more and more often these issues are being left to teachers and counselors to handle. Be prepared to handle these issues properly, knowing how influential you are in your students’ lives.