Adolescence is defined as the transitional period from childhood to adulthood. The major concern of adolescents during this period is to find a sense of self-identity. They wonder who they are and who they will be. It is a time of awakening of feelings and emotions, a time of fearing, doubting, wondering, and questioning. It is the most difficult time in life for adolescents, and for their parents as well. Adolescents have problems communicating with adults “since the major developmental task of adolescents is to become an adult apart from parents.”
Adolescents are jealous of their privacy; keeping secrets is very important to them. It is a time when peers and friends are very important, too.
I think that this poem, taken from the introduction to
describes nicely this time in their lives:
A sense of wonder
Boys and girls everywhere wonder about the things they see around them. And they wonder about themselves, too.
They wonder how their bodies work.
They wonder about their secret selvestheir thoughts and wishes and the way they feel about things.
They wonder if they are like everyone else.
They wonder how they are different.
They look for answers. And sometimes they find answers in books like this one.
And so, this book was made for mebecause I am someone special, and because I wonder about things.
The problem that I ask myself as a teacher is: How do I provide substance for adolescents, wonders? How do I provide all of the information they are looking for?
I agree with Gwendolyn Richardson, a Fellow from the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. She states in her unit, “In Search of Self,” “Literature is an excellent source to help students in this stage of development. It offers innumerable opportunities for the student. To meet himself, encounter situations similar to his own experience and discover his own emotions.” She continues, “By reading, the adolescent can find solace in the fact that he is not alone in his thoughts and feelings and that someone understands his problems.”
But what happens to adolescents who cannot read at age level, and who cannot enjoy even simple pieces of literature in order to find answers to their wonders? What happens to students who cannot cope with high frustration level or with remaining seated during long class periods, and who end up walking in the halls and are finally suspended? The student who cannot concentrate on a task for more than fifteen minutes and prefers to release his/her anxiety by talking constantly of family problems may also have difficulty. The following examples come from my class: “My father went to hide in New York because four men want to kill him.” “My brother was caught yesterday stealing a car. He is going to be on probation because he is under age.” (It happens that the brother who stole the car is also one of my students.) “We were taken to a shelter because our furnace exploded and my younger brother is burned and is now in the hospital.” “My sister disappeared and my parents cannot find her. The policemen are looking in other cities around New Haven.” “I don’t want to do nothing. I’m so tired. I went to bed at 2 o’clock last night, watching TV in the basement with my older brother.” And so on.
I am concerned about all of these things and others that arise in my classroom, a population of 12-15 year old Spanish speakers in grades 5-8 who hold very poor attitudes towards school in general, and who have very high rates of absenteeism. Most of them come from very large families who live in houses with poor sanitary conditions and who have very little knowledge about disease prevention, first aid or good nutritional habits.
Facing this reality prompted me to write a curriculum that focuses on adolescents’ social problem solving and health issues. There are several goals that I would like to achieve ln creating this unit:
To help students to improve school attendance and academic standing by having a better relationship with parents, friends, teachers and with the school environment in general.
To teach students how to stay ln good health by helping them to learn about good habits of hygiene and nutrition.
To teach students the basic principles of how to avoid contagious diseases.
I will also include in this unit the importance of keeping first aid kits in the students’ homes and help them learn how to use them. It is of major interest to me that the students teach their parents many of the things they learn from this unit, including how to take a person’s temperature, how to read the thermometer, and how to select and prepare healthy meals.
I have entitled my unit “A Sense of Wonder” because of my interest of awakening in my students an inner motivation to wonder about life, about themselves, and about many other things related to the human condition and stages of life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. In this unit I will present material in a simple and clear manner, allowing the students opportunities to read, discuss, observe and manipulate things oriented to achieve the goals of this curriculum.
With the idea that students can address their own needs and help their families in cases of emergency, they will prepare their own kits by filling them with useful information that should be kept at home such as: what to do about acne, tips to avoid insomnia, what to do if they have dandruff, etc. I will also include things that concern the entire family including: a nutrient table to enable the parents and students to prepare better and more balanced meals, and sample recipes.
I would also try to include a list of simple goals that would help students to improve their behavior and their study habits.
This unit is designed to be taught in four weeks. During the first week I intend to arouse in my students an interest for themselves, their families, their teachers and their friends. I hope that they will begin to see themselves and others as human beings and as physical bodies with physical needs. We will discuss how all humans experience the same feelings, including, among others, happiness, love, anxiety, fear, and frustration. We will also look at different strategies that help us to cope with these emotions.
The curriculum for the second week would center around learning how to keep in good health. In discussing good nutrition we will talk about the nutrients that are in the food we eat. We will learn how to select a well balanced diet, avoiding excessive fat, junk foods, and other poor eating habits.
The third week of my curriculum would focus on hygiene, sleeping habits, and how to avoid contagious diseases. During this week we will also learn about the importance of keeping a first aid kit in the house in case of emergencies. Students will be trained in how to use a thermometer, how to read a temperature, and how to keep a record. I will expand my unit into the area of mathematics at this point by having the students prepare grids for record keeping, and teaching them to plot and read graphs.