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Social Contexts and Adolescent Development

How did I become the person I am today? Is it because of the way my parents raised me? Does it have anything to do with the friends that I had growing up? Could it be that my teachers went above and beyond their content to teach me life lessons? The fact is that I had many influences in my life including my parents, friends and teachers that led me down the path to become the adult I am today.The numerous social contexts that I have encountered in my life each had their own part in contributing to my behaviors, personality, beliefs, goals and essentially every part of my being.

As an adolescent, and even as an adult, much of the information and guidance I have received about achieving adult status was acquired from my parents.I am very fortunate to have parents who have made such a positive impact on my life.

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As an adolescent, I did not always get along with my parents. They were very strict and I was often angry with them for not letting me have as much freedom as my friends. I can still hear my mom saying, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? ” Now, as an adult, I understand that they really were just trying to look out for me.

As far as preparing me for adulthood, my parents encouraged me to always do my best. My parents taught me that hard work is important and not only did they talk the talk, but they walked the walk. They led by example, and because of them I have an excellent work ethic which will be useful when I begin my teaching career (which I hope is very soon). Many adolescents do not look to their parents for information and guidance. They often feel like their parents do not understand them or their problems.

As a teacher, I can try to help foster strong relationships between parents and students by providing support for those families who need it. I can provide parents with information about raising adolescents as it can be a very tough time with their child going through so many changes. As far as the students are concerned, I can encourage them to go to their parents for advice and let them know that their parents are smarter than they think. I can even provide them with examples from my own life where my parents gave me excellent advice, even though I didn’t think that at the time.

Another influential source of information and guidance in my adolescent years was that of my middle and high school teachers. In fact, one of the reasons that I chose teaching as a career was because of the positive interactions that I had with many of my own teachers. My favorite teachers were the ones who taught me how to be a better person, not just a better student. They had high expectations, taught organizational skills, encouraged self initiative, and provided guidance and advice outside of the content.

I felt like they were always open to help in any situation. I want my students to understand that teachers can make a make a big difference in their life. I want them to know that they can always come to me when they have a problem and that I will always try my best to help them find a solution. I hope to teach them skills that they can use after they leave my classroom. I want what I teach them to stay with them forever, not just while I am their teacher. I also think it is important that they are encouraged to have relationships with other teachers, not just myself.

All teachers have experienced adolescence, and each one of us brings something different to the table. If I am not able to help a student with a problem, then I can point them to someone who can. In typical adolescent fashion, I was also very influenced by my peers. While it may not seem that adolescent peers would provide much information and guidance for reaching adult status that is just simply not true. Interactions with my peers taught me about handling conflict, considering others, and making decisions. These peer experiences prepared me for similar situations that I would encounter as an adult.

I think that peer interactions are so important to adolescents because at this stage in their development much of their behavior is influenced mostly by their peers. As a teacher, I want to teach my students how to use interactions with their peers in a positive manner. I want to foster strong relationships in the classroom, so that students can use the characteristics of these relationships to build new relationships. I want my students to know that they can learn a lot from their friends, both good and bad. The important thing for them is to know how to separate the good from the bad, and learn rom their mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others. A context that involved both peers and teachers and one in which I learned many skills and responsibilities required for achieving adult status was high school marching band. Being a part of band taught me many skills that were necessary for attaining adult status. One of the most obvious skills that comes from being in band is teamwork. I also learned confidence and pride. Dedication was also necessary because we put so much time into practicing and performing. One of the most difficult lessons was learning that we could not always come in first place.

This lesson is very helpful because as an adult, because I am not going to get every job I apply for. Learning to keep going when we feel defeated is very important. I want to encourage my students to participate in extracurricular activities, whether it be band, sports or other clubs. Students should have the opportunities to learn these skills that come from being a part of something. I them to know that when I look back at my adolescent years, the thing I miss the most are the activities such as band, school musicals and community service clubs.

Though I am not active in church as an adult, it was definitely one of the social contexts that had a great influence on who I am. There are so many lessons that one learns at church that can be applied to life. Going to church introduced me to being a part of something greater than myself and gave me the opportunity to express my beliefs. While I am not able to bring religion into the school setting, I can still remind my students that organizations that they are a part of can provide much information and guidance in becoming an adult. I can encourage them to stand strong in what they believe in, but to also respect the beliefs of others.

In this day and age, it would pretty much be impossible for the media to not have any influence on the development of adolescents. However, I would say that in my own personal experience media had a part, but only a small part, in informing and guiding me from adolescence into adulthood. One of the reasons that media was not a big influence in my life goes back to how strict my parents were. I was not allowed to watch a lot of television or listen to a lot of music. My time on the computer was very limited. All of my interactions with media were monitored pretty closely.

Unfortunately, most adolescents in today’s world have entirely too much media influence. Many students have their own smart phones which gives them access to pretty much anything they want access to. Television and movies that are geared toward adolescents are more risque than they were a decade ago. As a teacher I think it is important that I warn students of the negative impacts that media can have on their development. However, media can also impact students in a positive way if used correctly. I would like to teach my students how to use media to research important topics that can help them grow into knowledgeable young adults.

If media is a big influence in their life, I want to make sure that it is a positive influence. I think my experiences as an adolescent are still relevant to the lives of adolescents today. While my experiences as an adolescent took place more than a decade ago, adolescents in today’s world continue to encounter many of the same situations of the past. Peer pressure still exists and takes a toll on the decision making of adolescents when it comes to risky behaviors such as drinking, drugs and sex. The interaction and conflict that they have with their parents, is very similar to the interactions that I experienced with my own parents.

I felt the need for independence, just as they do. The emotions that I encountered as an adolescent are still experienced by adolescents today. I went through heartbreak, making new and losing old friends, the desire to be popular, and trying to impress others. Our world has changed tremendously over the past decade, but the issues of adolescence as well as adolescent development have continued to remain the same. Having experienced the years of adolescence myself, along with the education I have received about adolescent development, I believe that I can have a positive influence on the lives of my students.

Helping my students understand that they are in control of who they become is one of my top priorities. I can accomplish this by teaching them to be open to information and guidance from the many social contexts in their life, and emphasizing focus on the positive aspects of the various influences. I also believe that it is important for me to share how I was influenced by many different contexts in my own life. I would hope that this would help me connect with my students and lead them to attaining adult status using what they learn from the many contexts in their own life.

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