This paper is going to focus on an outline of a different program for teenagers to participant in in order to make better use of the information that is known about development during these years of life. The outline will start with a brief description of the different parts of the new system and then will be followed up with explanations how this system supports the bio-psycho-social model and the other theories.
This model has several goals in mind to facilitate strong development of skills needed for a strong healthy life in the adult world. The primary goals are to teach the following: encourage responsibility, time and money management, self-awareness, self-confidence, and involvement with family and community. As the prior paper has shown, most of these goals are not supported with the current education system and in many ways the adaptations of the going technology is continuing to help with the failure to learn these skills and tools.
It is important to remember that this is an outline for a system and is not finite. If there is ever an actual interest in developing this program and funding is provided for full development and testing, then that bridge will be crossed. It is understandable to expect that the outline of the system is subject to extreme changes if there is a desire to design and test the replacement for high school.
Apprenticeship and Social System
The first step is to remove the teenagers from being in the high schools as much as they are now. As it was pointed out, placing teenagers in to environments where they are isolated together does not help with teaching strong interaction skills and it does not help to provide good role models of behavior, communication and interactions. One of the best ways to do this is to help the kids to be in environments in which there are opportunities to be exposed to role models of these skills.
Talking to many people of various age background about their memories of high school, most of the primary memories focus into one of two categories: job and socializing. When asked about classroom experiences and information learned during this time, the answers were limited or focused of one or two small items. With this in mind, the question was asked about where the energy of teenagers could be better used and learning be better focused.
The first answer was in apprenticeships. In the past, most teenagers would invest the years between being a child and being an adult in refining skills and learning to expand on those skills. Many kids at this point in time have an idea of what they would like to do in adulthood and as a result, this is a good time to test those fields of work. The author of this paper had a desire to be a kindergarten teacher until during her junior year of high school she had the opportunity to work part time in the classroom doing just that. The result was self-removal at the end of the semester and deciding against the career in elementary education.
Many industries are looking for people to fill part-time jobs and positions with individuals whom are willing and able to learn in the environments and high school student can test their desired field with these entry level jobs. With working only 24 hours a week (4/6 hour shifts), the students have a chance to try something new that could lead to a career in the future. Most of the placements will be for 6 months and can either be changed or extended depending on how the work and relationships are between the student and the teacher/ employer. This does ask a lot of many industries with regards to work practices and the education of student/employees but in the long run there will be a stronger work force for the future with a little extra work and patience now.
Another bonus of placing teens into the work force part time is the opportunities to make use of their innovation skills and creativity as well as encouraging the innovations that many teens have shown to have. With the chance to be in the environment, they can come up with new ideas and then work to see them brought forward. Research has shown that most humans will plateau in innovative thinking around the age of 40 though the skills that they are will be needed for many more years. Teaching those skills as well as being mentors, judges and listeners for new ideas are ways in which the finite memories can mix and work well with the younger and less experienced mind of the teenagers.
The next step is with socializing. Most teenagers will spend at least half of their time each day socializing with one another in one way or another. With the reduced hours required for school and extra school related activities, most teenagers will have a greater about of flexibility to spend time with each other in social environments. This gain an opportunity to encourage face to face interaction in a world in which there is ever growing use of the internet for the majority of interaction. Encouraging more face to face interaction helps a person to learn stronger communication skills like verbal communication and the use of body language in healthy and appropriate ways.
One complaint that is heard often is the lack of places for teens to socialize with one another in which there is both mild/ light supervision and freedom. The author has interacted with many people that wish to open a coffee shop/ café/ arcade for teens to spend time with each other in that awards them both freedom and light/ casual supervision. If more of these venues were available, the author is confident they will be used especially if the teens are paid for their work in their apprenticeships.
Debit Cards/ ID Cards
Most teenagers look forward to the day that they receive their drives license and this is not just because of the chances to drive, it is also about the identification card. To many, having an ID outside of school is an indication of membership to the larger society. With the mobility of people and how often teenage will travel together without supervision, it is important that they get a form of identification upon the completion of junior high school, if not sooner. With this ID card in hand, the system is also able to provide a means to pay students for their work with their apprenticeships and also have a means to pay for their social activities. Technology has already shown that it is possible to make the magnetic strips on the back of most ID card multi-usable and with combined ID and Debit Cards, teens will learn to keep track of their money and their ID. Also this works as additional security to make sure the teens are not buying anything that is illegal to them or that they are not stealing each other’s cards.
It should be noted that these cards should not be sent up so that the students can make purchases online with them. If online purchase need to be made, then the students should work that out with their parents and not use the funds that they earned from their apprenticeships. That money should be used for snacks, social activities and things the student purchase in person.
Community Service and Exercise
Two complaints heard often about teen activities is that they are not involved enough with the community and they do not get enough exercise. With this system, exercise is mandatory as well as the student’s choice. If they wish to go for a hike or play basketball with friends, then they can use their time for either. Vigorous activity for at least one hour a day is recommended for most teenage and currently they are only getting about 2 hours a week unless they are involved in sports at school. This is an area in which the current high schools can come in handy with the use of the facilities. Students would need to check in and check out to verify that they are getting at least 6 hours of exercise a week, and it should be encouraged to be higher. Exercise can be both interactive with peers as well as done alone for those whom like to spend that time thinking on their own.
Community Service should also be mandatory and can include doing things like reading to children at a day care or picking up garbage on the side of a highway. Most of the community service done now is used as a punishment and as a result, many community maintenance activities are neglected until there are enough prisoners to do the work. Community service should be seen as a social activity that can be both fun and rewarding and these skills can be learned during the teenage years with active participation. Encouraging community service can help students to learn to look beyond themselves and see the influence they can have in the larger world. Additionally, this is another area in which the creativity of the teenage mind can help to service the community as well as empower the future to stronger, better and more socially conscious thinking.
Interactive Education and Independent Study
In a 2008 documentary on teen use of the internet, a student admitted that he had never read a whole book and opted to use online ‘spark notes’ for reading assignments. He stated that he would love to actually read the whole of assigned works but he did not have time. With this system, there would be more time for reading and other independent study that is ideal for the rapidly growing mind, additionally this would give students the chance to practice skills that will be needed for growth and education in college and beyond.
Students will be expected to gather for no less than 4 hours a week to test, discuss and question materials they are assigned to cover independently. Much of the work will focus on basic reading, writing and arithmetic that they had been learning through each grade level up to the end of 9th grade. A great deal of the information that is taught in junior high school is repeated again in high school. This means that the information is already there and should be used rather than reeducated. Teachers can use the weekly meetings to cover specific information with more depth and variety and allow the teacher to have more fun and flexibility in the classroom. Additionally, each student will be assigned to a cohort with whom they will take all of their study time with and the cohorts can be rearranged every 6 months as needed. And there is no longer a need for summer/ winter breaks with this system, so there is no loss of education during breaks that are several months long. Many teachers specialize in one area of information and they will continue to teach in that area, but doing so in a far more interactive method of small classes of no more than 20 students.
Independent study is key in this model, and each student will be expected to work with others in their cohort as well as alone outside of the classroom. The expected time ratio for independent study is 2:1 or 2 hours of independent work for every hour in the classroom. This balances out to a total of 12 hours of learning in addition to the other activities. This study environment places responsibility on the student for self-management and other member of the cohort can encourage one another to remain active and involved in the work. Susan Cain argued in her work on introverts that creativity can come from collaboration but it also comes from quiet contemplation alone… this interactive and independent system allows for both.
Teachers/ Case Managers
By this point there is a question of what to do with all of the high school teachers whom will not be spending 8 hours a day teaching and the answer is simple. They will be cross trained to be case managers for the students. In order for a student to be placed in an apprenticeship, assigned community service, assigned a cohort and make arrangements for recreation/ exercise, they have to work with their case manager. Also, the case manager will make changes for the student as is needed such as going to a different job, needing a new community service project or if they are having difficulties with the studies. Case manager will act as a guidance counselor but unlike many guidance counselors now, they will have a case load of 30 students at the most. In most cases, it would be most helpful to have the case manager also act as one of the cohort’s instructors so that the case manager can see the students weekly without the need for phone calls or emails, unless there is a lack of attendance or the student seems distressed.
When a student is ready to graduate or move onto college or full time work, the case manager will help with future planning as well as preparing applications and other paperwork to go forward with those plans. In order to provide the best service possible without interruption of daily living, it is best if the student meet with their case manager for an hour or two, every six months.
Another benefit is if there is a shortage of teacher to cross train for case management, this would open up a breath of jobs for people with skills and a bachelor’s degree in any of the following areas: psychology, sociology, education, communication, liberal arts and depending on the individual, political science. For many with at least a four year degree, this could be a good job in which to be a role model and advice others of their possible future. If needed, a simple test and supervision could lead to a license in this area of work so to protect the students and provide work for a population in need of employment.
Free Time/ Family Time
This model seems to make a lot of use of a lot of time but when it is truly calculated, you will find that the students will have over 20 hours of free time. This is important for three reasons. 1) Teenagers need to be able to sleep, a lot. Several researchers have found that the ideal amount of sleep for a teenager is about 10 hours a night. Most teenagers in the current system are lunch to get 6 hours most nights and so the flexibility of this system is to ensure that teens are able to sleep as much as they need to. 2) The free time is family time. Teens still need time with parents, and other family members and so this time is for family dinners and outings with parents and siblings and even spending time with aunts, uncles and grandparents. 3) Alone time. Most teens need to be able to spend time alone. Whether it is to work on a project or playing video games and thinking about relationships and other problems, it is good to learn how to use alone time well and in healthy ways. Free time is so little used that when many have some, they have little idea of what to do with it. Encourage a parent/ child hobby that the child can work on alone, it is healthy and good for the cognitive functions.
Applications within the theories and models
In many ways it is easy to see the accomplishment of this system to fit with the goals of teaching responsibility, self-management, self-confidence, time and money management, as well as family/ community involvement. Additionally, this model works with the bio-psycho-social model and the many other theoretical approaches of adolescents.
Biologically, growing teenagers need plenty of sleep (this system budgets 10 hours a day for sleep), lots of exercise, healthy foods (most teens do not eat well or enough because of fatigue and time restrictions) and plenty of social interactions and alone time (to help reduce stress). Research has shown that teenager are bodily developing at the same rates as a child between the ages of 0 to 2 years old and so it is vital that good food, exercise, and plenty of sleep are had by the growing teenager.
Cognitively, the brain is developing connections and processing at incredible rates which allows for grand scale learning and adaptation but can also result in being over-whelmed and confused. This system allows for both conditions with working and independent study. Many of the teenagers will have good days in which they can be involved and active and then there is allowance for the frustrated days in which the teen can step back and allow another student their chance to shine while they pull back to a contemplative place. Most people have good days and bad days and with this system there is room for the bad day without causing problems for the teenager and there are days in which they can be active in the apprenticeship and possibly make a discovery that will be a benefit to the world.
Jean Piaget stated in his work that adolescence is the time for developing formal thinking skills and this includes learning about concept, abstractions and forward thinking. The abilities to reason through a problem using logical systems is supported in an environment in which there is freedom to make choices and also supervision to help with guidance. With this system, there is not only the parents and teachers to help guide the students but also employer/ mentors and the adults working in the social venues the student will frequently attend.
Socially is the most important area of development for teenagers, and this system supports that development far better than the current system does. The first area of support is found in variety. In most high schools, students will find their group of friends and socialize solely with that group in all other environments. With the community service, assigned cohorts, apprenticeships, and recreation time in addition to the social expectations, there is not only lots of time to spend with friend but also a necessity to interact with other on professional and academic levels. The working and community service environments will not have the same people as the education and social environments. The variety of interaction will help the student to develop a health set of schemes towards people of a variety of different background and additionally help to reduce and maybe one day, eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
Adolescence is about finding one’s place in the larger world (according to Erik Erikson) and with the variety of activities as well as the variety of people to interact with, there are many chances to try on different roles before concluding on which is the most comfortable for the teenagers skills and talents. With regular meeting with their case manager, there are plenty of opportunities to switch to different fields and different community service activities until a good fit is found, and this is done in a social supported system, thus reducing the risks of dangerous behaviors or habits.
The balance of family, work, friends and alone time is delicate, important to mental well-being and is best learned during adolescence. Most of the tools needed by adults for health lives are learned during adolescence including boundaries, regular exercise, and time management. This system encourages learning on all of the level the current system is failing to teach and encourage. Additionally, this system allows for people with a variety of tools and skills to participant instead of empowering a select few with the skills to make it through high school.
This was a brief over view of an idea to help improve the education for people between the ages of 15 or 16 and 18 years. This focuses on the ideas of learning while works as was once done with apprenticeship programs. Time is opened for a larger variety of activities such as time with family, friends and self through the use of a variety of venues for socializing and recreation time. Education is pared down to encourage independent study and critical thinking skills as well as freeing the teachers to engage with the student more and provide a variety of educational topics. Additionally, teachers will be cross trained to help with case management of the student’s schedules and help the students to navigate what will be expect of them once they graduate and go into the adult world.
Healthy activities like community service and regular exercise will be mandatory to facilitate teaching these skills so to be carried into adulthood. Other healthy living skills will include: getting enough sleep, money and time management, and strong social skills. Case managers, teachers, parents, mentors, and other involved adults will have the opportunity to coach student through the trials and tribulations of social interactions and will be able to encourage the development of healthy respectful relationships with all people.
In many ways, this model reflects the Bill Clinton’s statement “It takes a village to raise a child”. This has been found to be truer with each passing year and this system allows for the village to be available to the child as he or she grows into an adult. This system allows a lot of freedom to the adolescent and that freedom is necessary for growth… to make good choice, one must be allowed to make mistakes. But keep in mind that there are still people each step of the way looking out just in case a really nasty mistake needs to be stopped before it is made.