World Schools, such as the International Bilingual School in Chiang Mai, know that adolescents are special. Teachers who have the skill, the personality, and the patience to motivate and inspire teenage students are special, too. Finding such gifted teachers is not easy, nor is it easy to retain such teachers. Heads of schools will affirm that retaining such teachers is always a challenge. Of course parents know that their role is a challenging one. There are a number of reasons why teaching teenagers and being parents of teenagers is challenging.
Here are three developments which all adolescents experience:
• Physical development.
Both their bones and muscles are growing. These changes begin in girls around the ages of 9-12 and in boys ages 11-14. These lead to being treated in a new way by those around them. They begin not to look like children but as sexual beings to be protected – or targeted. They face new expectations for how young men or women ‘should’ behave. They worry about their physical appearance and their body image. Weight gain is normal but not always acceptable in some cultures, especially those which glorify being thin. Becoming ‘fat’ can lead to unhealthy dieting behaviours, and some children might acquire eating disorders.
• Cognitive and social development.
Teenagers begin to acquire the ability to think abstractly. They can analyse situations logically in terms of cause and effect. They can think about the future and evaluate alternatives. At the same time, many adolescents begin to desire independence. They can take on increased responsibilities and consider future careers. Many look to their peers and social media for information and advice (as opposed to looking to their parents and other adults). Many develop a concern for social issues such as climate change and corruption in government and other institutions.
• Emotional and behavioural development.
As adolescents begin to exercise their new skills of reasoning, some of their behaviours may cause parents and school personnel to be uncom-fortable, to put it mildly! Some enjoy arguing – just for the sake of arguing; some jump to conclusions quite easily. Many appear to be VERY self-assured, and overly dramatic. One prominent educational psychologist referred to this adolescent stage as ‘identity confusion’: They are trying to find out who they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life’. Prior to this teenage phase, most primary school children exhibit keen interest in their school studies and are eager to please both their parents and their teachers.
World Schools are thinking schools. Their teachers and school leaders are learners and they engage in professional upgrading courses and workshops that focus on recent discoveries in paedagogy and understanding more clearly their clients – their precious students.
The professionals who work in World Schools are deeply aware of the importance of parents knowing a lot about the processes for learning and the developmental processes of their children. By having parents ‘on side’, schools can deliver a higher quality bilingual education, and thereby double their children’s future!
By Dr. Apiramon Ourairat, Chief Executive Officer – Satit International Bilingual School of Rangsit University Chiangmai