Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Questions Worth Asking

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Questions Worth Asking

Article excerpt

Forum on

Education

&

Academics

In the dim morning light of late winter, the sun barely over the horizon, the day begins with a line of cars competing with the foot traffic and buses in the middle school parking lot. Inside the cafeteria window, the principal sits at a table watching the arrivals, his pen lightly tapping a notepad, his brow furrowed. As he watches, some parents share quick hugs with their children; others seem to be giving words of advice or reminders of after-school plans.

The teacher watches from the same window as the edge of last night's storm slips eastward, and faint rays of light begin to crown the tree branches on the hill. She walks toward the table and glances at the principal's notes.

"What are you writing?" she asks, sliding into the opposite bench.

He turns back from the window. "An article for the parent newsletter," he answers, moving the notepad toward her. "I had a thought in mind when I began, but I'm not sure it's coming across. Take a look."

She begins to read:

A middle student leads a very complex life, for early adolescence marks the beginning of a child's quest for independence and all that this implies. Not only is this the age of the onset of puberty but also a time of new social and intellectual demands. Every decision, every reaction is colored by a need to show at least a modicum of self-- reliance, which, in turn, often creates an unwelcome feeling of vulnerability. The events of this crucially formative phase can shape an individual's life course.

It is one of the most fascinating and complex transitions in our life span: a time of accelerated growth and change, second only to the first year of life; a time of expanding horizons, self-discovery, and emerging independence; a time of transformation from childhood to adulthood. Its beginning is associated with biological, physical, behavioral, and social transformations.

"They really are very important years, pivotal in so many ways - and what we do, and what the parents do, are critical parts of the experience. Is that what you're going for here?" she asks.

"Yes, but more than that - read on."

Barely out of childhood, young people ages ten to fourteen attempt to experience more freedom, autonomy, and choice than ever, but it is also a time in their lives when they still need special nurturing, protection, and guidance. Without the sustained involvement of parents and other caring adults in safeguarding their welfare, young adolescents are at risk, at the very least, of not achieving to their full potential.

"You're reminding parents here that the job is far from finished -- that these are not the years that allow parents to step back and admire the job?" She looks back at the parking lot, watching the attentive parents and their children.

"No - I don't think they would step back," he says thoughtfully. "The parents remain invested in their children's education. The community does as well. They pay a great deal of attention to academic achievement, to musical accomplishment, to athletic skills, to community spirit. I'm sure that many of those parents outside are asking their children whether they have the materials for the day, whether they are ready for a quiz, whether they are going to score points on the basketball court. …

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