Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Identity in Context

In Chapter 02 of Michael Nakkula and Eric Toshalis' book, "Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators," Identity in Context, Nakkula and Toshalis discuss influential theories of adolescent identity development and explanations behind potential behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in adolescents. They present Erik Erikson's theory that was referred to as "psychosocial." It consists of eight stages that each consist of a "specific crisis that must be resolved in order to increase the likelihood of healthy development in subsequent stages," (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2010).
The chapter provides an example that is continued from the previous chapter with the student, Antwon, and introduces his friend, Julian. They were best friends for the longest time, until high school academics separated them from continuing their friendship the way it once was. Antwon asked Julian to draw on the bathroom wall with him, and the boys were caught in the act by Mitch, one of the school's psychologists. Mitch was not only fully aware of the stage of identity vs. role confusion, but it seemed he had an even greater understanding of why the situation may have occurred taking the idea of "being Filipino" into consideration. Instead of simply giving the boys equal punishment for the act, the chapter brings up the idea that both boys are experiencing different reasons behind doing it, and I feel like looking at it in this way is something I am truly growing to understand. Regardless of what is occurring, there is a reason why it happened; what is the reason? With this in mind, Mitch observes Julian, looks into his cumulative record, and has conversations with both his teachers and his parents. During their second meeting, Mitch asked Julian to think of the spaces and relationships that he encounters each day, followed by asking Julian to think about and list how these spaces and relationships make him feel. This is context mapping. I have created a context map for myself below. I would like to think making this context map gave me a more defined understanding of having different identities in different settings, but always comes back to the center of being me.

Nakkula and Toshalis also share the four different identities described in James Marcia's notion of commitment and Erikson's crisis combination of identity statuses. "Statuses describe the dominant issues, concerns, or developmental experiences during a particular era of one's life, and they may or may not be preceded or followed by other specific statuses," (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2010).
  • Foreclosed Identity: When an individual chooses (or is committed to) a life direction or way of being without considering other directions or fully understanding the direction chosen
  • Diffuse Identity: When an individual is neither committed nor experiencing a crisis of any particular identity
  • Identity Moratorium: This identity is when an individual actively explores different roles, beliefs, relationships, and behaviors, but does not make any kind of commitment.
  • Achieved Identity: This is when an individual is no longer experiencing an identity crisis and is committed to a particular, unique identity
"We have an opportunity to revisit the decisions we made as adolescents as we interact daily with those making them now-- to help co-construct the adolescents as they help co-construct us--does
more than just 'keep us young'; it keeps us aware
of the extent to which we are always in the process of becoming. If we attend to this fact with compassion and persistence, we will be doing our identity work in schools in ways that support the development of our students as well as ourselves."
-- Nakkula and Toshalis


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Construction of Adolescence

Michael Nakkula and Eric Toshalis share their theory on adolescent development in their 2010 book, "Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators." In Chapter 01, The Constructon of Adolescence, Nakkula and Toshalis discuss the story of Ms. Peterson and Antwon. Ms. Peterson is a tenth grade world literature high school teacher that is loved and respected by all students. Antwon is a student that feels otherwise. They do NOT get along; their personalities clash, and they both consider the other rude, disrespectful, and hostile. Antwon is truly concerned about his graduation exam and relationships with peers, and Ms. Peterson simply doesn't know how to interact with Antwon since she is intimidated and unfamiliar with Antwon's "louder tone and tougher, streetwise demeanor." From what I'm gathering, it is easy to say that if Antwon shares his thoughts with Ms. Peterson and Ms. Peterson doesn't wait for the problem to "go away," this could better the relationship instead of both of them avoiding the situation at hand, but of course this is easier said than done. They both take equal responsibility for this miscommunication and misunderstanding. They both influence and are co-authors of each other

"The material that comprises our life stories comes from all directions, contributed by people who care about you, are indifferent to, and feel antagonistic toward the person whose life they are helping to shape," 
--Nakkula and Toshalis

There were multiple concepts mentioned in this chapter, including:
tested knowledge                     meeting of the minds                       scaffolding
theoretical imagination           interpsychological development     reciprocal transformation
construction of adolescence    zone of proximal development        applied developmentalists

All of these concepts really spoke to me, especially theoretical imagination and reciprocal transformation. Nakkula and Toshalis discuss how looking at past and present experiences are essential to looking forward into the future. Taking multiple parts of your knowledge and creating new possibilities instead of making assumptions based on old experiences allows you to still take your history into consideration, but using it as a foundation for your new experience rather than recreating your old ones. Reciprocal transformation brings me back to TALL University, a group at Calcutt Middle School that my school worked with this past spring. or even being a camp counselor. You can be wear a shirt as a camp counselor that says "ROLE MODEL" or be the oldest students in a mixed group of middle school and college students, but we can learn just as much from our youth as they can learn from us, and I feel like having that mindset can change the entire atmosphere of any environment where both adults and youth are present.

"Whether working with us collaboratively on the
questions that hold critical meaning for them or working 
hard to reject our efforts to help shape the world, 
adolescents join with educators on a day-to-day basis 
to build the theoretically imaginative thinking skills 
necessary for an interesting and productive life. If we are
skilled enough to witness it, adolescents' theoretical 
imaginations offer some of the richest, most critical, and
deeply hopeful worldviews we might find."
--Nakkula and Toshalis

There are plenty of people I could consider the coauthors of my story. Between my family, old friends, new friends, advisor, professors, ex-boyfriends, current boyfriend, and even some of my campers from this past summer at Camp Broad Rock through the South County YMCA, I have plenty of voices that have co-written my story. Some of these voices are positive, and some not so positive, some older, and some much, much younger, but they are all relationships that I believe are (or were) in my life for a reason. As negative as my father can be, his intentions are never in the wrong place. His tough love and wise words of wisdom have helped shaped me into the strong woman I am becoming. In my adolescent years, he tried making things go the way he believed they should be instead of letting them be what they were. Looking back, he was right (most of the time), and I appreciate having him there for all of my mistakes and accomplishments. No matter how much I may agree or disagree with him, we always have an understanding of each other, and I have always taken his advice or opinions to heart before I make any life-changing decisions. My dad is a great man with a good head on his shoulders, and I am happy to call him one of the main co-authors of my story. I would not be where I am without him (literally though, he gave me the gift of life). As graduating college is just around the corner and I start to think more about my future, I know that the next chapter will not be written without my dad's sarcastic commentary or meaningful words of encouragement.
The rest is still unwritten.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pandas: The Journey Home

I thought it would be really fun to share with all of you this awesome documentary I recently watched on Netflix. "Pandas: The Journey Home" shares the story of how China is making a HUGE effort to keep pandas from becoming extinct!! The process is long and takes a large amount of work, but the Wolong Panda Center loves what they do and are coming a long way in keeping pandas in the wild!!

I don't want to give too much away since I highly recommend this quick, but fascinating documentary. However, there is one part that shines out for all youth development workers. Part of the process is bringing the pandas that are born at the center to schools all over China, to teach the youth to love and appreciate the pandas. They do this with the hope that the future of China will continue to help keeping pandas alive!! When I saw that this is part of the process in bringing pandas back into their natural habitat, it was a great feeling of hope and faith. The Center realized that the children of China are part of the solution, and that in itself proved to me that Youth Development is an important component for many parts of society. Youth CAN make a difference, in any place, whether it's in the United States, or China.

Pandas: The Journey Home (2014) Poster