Personal development for teenagers
I have been researching the topic of personal development for teenagers and came across the following article at https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/6-rules-being-transparent-teens-authentic-relationships-lead-engagement
I have added notes to the article in red where I think the advice might be relevant to our summer courses, but the whole article will be of interest to anyone working with teenagers. No doubt you will think of other ways of implementing the ideas and advice in your own current situations:
6 Rules for Being Transparent with Teens: Authentic Relationships Lead to Engagement
One of the best ways to be authentic with teens is to practice transparency when we engage with them. Transparency is demonstrated when our motives and methods are obvious, clear, and out in the open.
With teens, we can take it a step further by making a conscious effort to explain the process, our roles, and the reasons we do what we do.
1. Explaining Our Processes
Teenagers love to question authority, and that’s a natural, developmentally appropriate, and positive thing! It’s a critical thinking skill that we want to cultivate and help young people learn to use effectively. When teens are either uncooperative or question our approach or decisions, our willingness to be open and explain the process and our rationale goes a long way to keeping teens engaged. We are even more effective when we anticipate concerns and explain things proactively.
When teachers explain the rationale behind an assignment and the time that went into planning it rather than responding to pushback with demanding redirection, students are likely to be more open to it.
English Language teachers and workshop leaders should make the content and purpose of every lesson clear from the start. Apply this to each separate stage within the lesson. It will do no harm to let pupils know how much planning time you have put in to each lesson too.
When a coach lays out the agenda for practice and athletes can envision their participation in advance and ask questions, they are more committed in their effort.
Sports leaders and coaches: take the opportunity to explain to pupils what they will be doing and why. If this is difficult in a large group situation, for example in the sports hall, wait until you are in smaller formations, for example once you get out on the sports field. This might mean you need to communicate the purpose of the training /activity to other staff who help with the activity: no bad thing! Bear in mind that you will need to temper your English according to the ability of your foreign pupils to understand it. For example don’t use complicated words, use physical examples, speak slower than you would do normally, avoid colloquial language and check understanding. This is something of a skill in itself and you should think about asking English Language teachers to help as they already have experience and strategies in communicating with foreign children.
And when counselors explain the reason behind the need for a phone call to a parent and offer the teen a part in deciding how best to go about it, the teen is more likely to manage their emotional reaction.
Good point. We sometimes have to contact parents, for example if a child has a problem or their behaviour gives cause for concern. Involving the child in what we will say will help to give them some ownership over the process - and give them time to think about what they will say to the parent too.
For the same reasons teens should always be involved in any discipline-related referrals, for example from sports staff, academic managers to house parents; or from house parents to office.
By explaining what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we likely boost cooperation, and increase teens’ willingness to participate.
2. Clarifying Our Roles
Between family members, teachers, counselors, coaches, and other helping adults, teenagers often have multiple adults in their lives. Teachers may also be coaches. Counselors may also be school administrators. Coaches may also be family friends. So it’s no surprise that they report frequent confusion about our roles and send mixed messages regarding expected behaviors.
Roles at summer camp are often more nebulous than in normal day-to-day teaching. For example English Language teachers may also be involved in pastoral care in the boarding houses or helping with sports or excursions. It will be helpful for staff to make clear to pupils what their roles, responsibilities and expectations are in each separate situation.
If you anticipate situations in which roles may be blurred, be proactive in providing teens with a clear idea of what to expect from you in each situation and what you expect from them in such settings.
3. Fixing Mistakes
Teens need to know that mistakes are an inevitable, and in fact necessary part of life and personal development. This is a fundamental principle but, sadly, not always well modeled by adults.
For example, students often complain that a teacher graded them unfairly, and sometimes it’s true. Owning mistakes, in addition to what is taught in the curriculum, is an important lesson to drive home with youth. Be open to students’ feedback, willing to consider their point of view, and respond with self-correction when arguments compel reconsideration.
If you make a mistake or even contribute in part to a miscommunication, validate the teen’s perspective and own your part in the error. This is an opportunity to demonstrate how to navigate our mistakes as well as our successes. A simple mistake or even reasonable suggestion from a teen, handled openly and skilfully, can actually lead to increased respect and a better working relationship.
4. Admitting When You Don’t Know Something
If a teen asks you a question that stumps you, or something you’ve said in class turns out to be incorrect, it’s a perfect opportunity to model that there is no shame in not knowing something.
Take the example of a student who disagreed with his teacher about an author’s intentions in a book for English class. The teacher insisted the student was wrong. When the student wrote to the author, he received a written response supporting his view. He brought this to his teacher and STILL the teacher insisted she was right! Why?? Adults can sometimes feel tempted to engage in a power struggle or need to be right over simply admitting they were wrong. A simple, “I stand corrected and thank you for taking the time to look into the matter,” goes a long way.
Teens are experts at detecting phonies, and if they become aware that you’re making up an answer, your credibility goes out the window. Admitting that you don’t know something or that you were wrong shows you’re human, builds credibility (paradoxically!), and makes you relatable.
5. Solving Problems Collaboratively
Teens’ developing executive functioning skills can lead to poor judgment and ineffective decision making in the face of challenges. This is why it’s so important for adults to model the problem-solving process out loud whenever possible and appropriate.
The opportunity to observe an adult’s effective problem solving process when expressed transparently gives teens the opportunity to integrate aspects of your process into their own lives. This means articulating when we experience a dilemma, get stuck on an answer, or are torn on how to proceed. It also give you yet another opportunity to be authentic. The time it may take to communicate your process and make it visible, may not always be possible, though when we do, it communicates authenticity and leads to closer, more genuine relationships.
Think for example about a sport or social activity that doesn’t quite go to plan. It’s perfectly fine to pause the activity, get everyone together, explain what has gone wrong, perhaps ask for suggestions as to how to make it work better, etc.
Likewise in the boarding house, when a problem arises - for example if there’s a big mess with returned laundry - get pupils together, explain the problem and its impact, ask pupils what they think is the best way to resolve the problem, etc.
6. Providing Honest Feedback
How many times do we tell our students that they must advocate for themselves? Self-advocacy involves giving honest feedback, and this is something we can model by ensuring that the feedback we offer is with diplomacy and a balance of both positive and negative input.
For example, telling an adolescent they are “stubborn” may shut down communication. But telling them they have “strong determination” that in this case is getting in their way can be more useful. We can also explain that this same determination can propel them to success. In doing so, we demonstrate that it is possible to give feedback about a particular behaviour without judging the whole person.
So I think this really just implies trying to keep feedback positive. At the same time if something is wrong, pupils need to know this, so a balance is required. If a pupil is noisy in the boarding house, for example, you can refer in all honesty to their exuberance and energy; but also to the effect this is having on other people. We don’t want them to lose that exuberance and energy, just redirect it more appropriately. And of course, focus on the action, not the person.
Using these 6 skills to promote authenticity in our work with adolescents will strengthen the relationship and lead to greater engagement and commitment toward achieving goals. It is also a powerful expression of respect.
With thanks to Edutopia at https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/6-rules-being-transparent-teens-authentic-relationships-lead-engagement
Read more about ECS English Language and Activity summer camps in the UK for children and teenagers here