Why We Need to Explore Teenage Talents

As I keep reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and work through the assessment, I find myself once again pondering the ideas of Emerging Adulthood and identity explorations in teens.  I went back and reread Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s chapter on “The Road Through College,” and I think this is where I have my biggest problem with the whole concept of emerging adulthood as a good thing.  Here’s how Arnett describes the American system of higher education.

“College in the United States is for finding out what you want to do.  Typically at four-year colleges, you have two years before you have to make a definite decision and declare a major.  During those two years you can try out a variety of different possibilities by taking classes in areas you think you might want to major in.  And even after you declare a major, you can always change your mind — and many emerging adults do.

“Their college meanderings are part of their identity explorations.  In taking various classes and trying various potential college majors, they are trying to answer the question ‘What kind of job would really fit me best, given my abilities and interests?'” (118).

See, I have a problem with that.   Continue reading

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The Pros and Cons of the Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone (Photo credit: Trevor Blake)

One of the common themes that comes up in the books I read is the idea of “the comfort zone.”  Brett and Alex Harris consistently encourage teens step outside of their comfort zones in order to grow and accomplish big things.  On the other hand, Marcus Buckingham says that it’s a myth to think that people need to step out of their comfort zones in order to grow.  Instead, he encourages people to push themselves within the bounds of their individual comfort zones.  So which is it?  Is the comfort zone a limiting device we use to hold ourselves back, or indication of our innate talents and abilities?

 As our culture does these days, when I decided to write this post, I looked up the phrase “comfort zone” on Wikipedia.  Here’s the opening sentence:

“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”   Continue reading

High School: The Edge of the Unknown

English: Harvard Yard. Photo taken by Dudeslee...

Harvard Yard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  There are 52 different colleges/universities within the beltway around Boston.

This summer I am teaching a College Discovery course for The Princeton Review.  In addition to the typical SAT prep information, I also get to teach college admissions and writing the application essay, which feeds directly into my interest and passion as a teacher.  I love it!

Not only is the content fun and interesting, I also have a great group of teens.  They’re intelligent without being “know-it-alls.”  They’re funny and easy-going, but still focused and attentive in class.  Many of them are international students, providing a depth of culture and perspectives that their American classmates have thoroughly embraced.  They work hard, do their homework, and aren’t afraid to joke around with me during class discussion.  In essence, I have my dream class for two weeks. I’m having a blast. Continue reading

Adulthood Defined

Holy 24 hours, Batman!  Since my post yesterday, I’ve received three different phone calls and multiple e-mails and facebook responses, in addition to the comments posted here.  I ask you all to bear with me, as this whole “blogging about a potentially controversial issue” thing is new to me, and definitely a learning process!  The responses to my last post have run a wide range from full support to complete disagreement, and everything in between.  It’s interesting see all the different perspectives that different people bring to this topic from their own life experiences.  I sincerely appreciate all the interest people have taken in what I have to say.

I think I should have been more careful about what I’m not saying, though.  I’m not saying that to be considered an adult, all the pieces of your life must fall completely into place by age (fill in the blank).  I took longer than four years to graduate college.  I’ve worked seven jobs in three states in the last four years, and my husband and I are far from being settled.  We both are experiencing career shifts that require spending time in grad school, and he’s much further along in that process than I am!  I have dear friends that are single and still live with their parents for very valid reasons, and I know that they are responsible adults.  Adulthood has become less of a list of outside requirements and has more to do the individual’s maturity and sense of responsibility. Continue reading

Avoiding Neverland

Peter Pan playing the Pipes

Have you ever read Peter Pan?  Not the Disney story, but the original novel by J. M. Barrie?  While I do consider it a work of literary genius, I would hesitate to hand it to young children.  I mean, let’s be honest.  Never Never Land is kind of creepy.  Indians kidnap children and the pirates try to kill everyone, while the fairies drink and have orgies (yep, you read that right).  Tinkerbell calls Wendy a word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with “witch”.  Peter Pan himself isn’t much better.  He is a fun character, but he isn’t intended to be a hero or a role model.  In fact, he can be kind of a jerk in his childish ways.  At the end of the book, all the children, including the Lost Boys, realize that they need to leave Never Never Land and grow up.  Peter Pan is the only one who remains behind, and the reader is actually left feeling a little bit sorry for him.  Neverland is not a place to stay, because people are supposed to grow up.  But for some reason, (probably thanks in part to Disney), Neverland and Peter Pan have become idealized symbols of eternal youth in our culture.

I’ve noticed a trend in my reading.  People are taking a lot longer to grow up than they used to.  Did you know that the concept of being a teenager didn’t exist until the late 1800’s?  Before that a person was either a child or an adult, but nothing in between.  Brett and Alex Harris have already covered the the rise of the teenager in their writings, so I encourage people to check out their article The Myth of Adolescence on The Rebelution website for more information.  Or better yet, read their book!  (See Resources page).  Seriously though, at least read the article.  Teens are a relatively new phenomenon, in the grand scheme of history.

Continue reading