Sunday, March 9, 2008


In effect, adolescents are going through a huge transition period in their lives when they change from the proverbial caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly. If you are a new teacher of adolescents or even an experienced teacher of adolescents the information contained in the blog below will help you to understand the theory behind this incredible metamorphosis while at the same time giving you practical information about how to work with adolescents in the classroom. The blog will cover many pertinent topics regarding the education of adolescents including the following: coping strategies for new teachers, useful tips for new teachers, advice on transitioning into adulthood, psychosocial issues of adolescents, cognitive issues of adolescents and physical development of adolescents. In addition, there will be professional resources provided within the blog that give additional insight into the life and education of an adolescent. The authors of the blog hope that you find it inspiring, motivating, and helpful.


The authors of this blog want to thank all of the devoted teachers and students who took the time to be informally interviewed for this project. These important people helped to give the authors insight into how to help new teachers of adolescent students. These teachers and students have shared much valuable wisdom for the teaching profession.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Who Stays In Teaching and Why?

By the end of five years, almost half of new teachers have left the profession. A 1986 study concluded that teachers who leave the profession show a lower mean income than those who stay, disputing the myth that all teacher unhappiness is related to low income.

This graph shows the retention rate of a typical cohort of teachers at the end of each of their first five years of teaching.

Source: TEA and Texas Teacher Recruitment and Retention Study

The following url links to an article on that features an interview with research assistant, Morgaen Donaldson who works with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. It discusses what educational research says about teacher retention in terms of recruitment and personnel administration.

Finding & Improving Your Teaching Persona

Finding & Improving the New Teacher Persona: Methods for Not Driving Yourself Crazy At The Beginning of Your Teaching Career

“The only advice that I got when I started teaching was to erase the board using vertical strokes—erasing the board from side to side makes your butt wiggle.”

The Teacher As Actor

Teaching is a kind of performance, and the person you are in front of a classroom is in some ways different from the person you are the rest of the time. Developing your "teaching persona"--the person you become once you step into the classroom--takes time and experience.

Finding YOUR Teaching Persona

Over time, you will discover whether you, as a teacher, are loud or quiet, funny or serious, a sitter or a stander, a board user or a handout maven. In the meantime, experiment with different approaches until you figure out what feels comfortable and what elicits the best reaction from your students. Don't hesitate to try something that may not "feel like you," because your teaching persona may turn out to be an unexpected side of you. But, do not be afraid to reject suggestions on teaching that you feel your innate personality will prevent you from pulling off. You will look uncomfortable and be less effective, not to mention lose the attention of your students.

Teaching With Authority
For beginning teachers, there is often a progression from acting like you are in charge of the classroom to feeling like you are in charge of the classroom. This is normal. Unless you give them reason not to, students will generally accept your authority no matter how you feel about your qualifications as a teacher.

You will start to feel like you are in charge of your classroom as you gain experience. Until then, you may find that you rely more on "the rules" (school guidelines, due dates, syllabi) and on established teacher-student roles to create a feeling of authority. For example, many new teachers start by imitating favorite teachers of their own. As you get more experience and confidence, you will be able to act more natural in your role as an educator. You then will be able to be more yourself while developing your unique toolbox as an experienced teacher.

Teaching as A Learning Tool

At some point in your teaching career, you will fall on your face. It will probably happen more than once, particularly in the first years of your career. It may be painful, but you will survive. And you should find it reassuring to know that every teacher has had this happen.

You can come to class feeling completely prepared to teach brilliantly and leave wishing you had never gotten out of bed. See if you can figure out what went wrong. Keep notes--you might teach the same class every year and you will want to know what you could have done better as soon as you finish the semester. Learn from this experience but do not torture yourself about it. Focus on making the next academic year or the next semester better.

Maintaining Perspective

Your car broke down. A relationship ended. Your young child was teething and crying until dawn. You were up until 3 a.m. grading. You have had five cups of coffee, and you cannot wake up. You will have bad days. It is your responsibility to do your best not to let outside factors bring down your teaching. When you teach badly, figure out how you can take care of yourself so that you are in better shape when it is time to teach again. Obsessing about what went wrong will not get you on the road to feeling (and teaching) better.

What Your Students Are Thinking...After Class

By the time Friday afternoon comes around, you may be fretting over whether or not your lessons were as lively as the tenured teacher next door. Rest assured that your adolescent high school students are not worrying about your class (or any of their other classes) as much as you are. For most teen agers, the reflective process ends the moment the period bell rings (if not before!). Some students may think about what happened in class right after they leave, but if the class did not go well from your perspective, it is not likely that the student's recall will be focused on your mistakes or nervousness; they will probably be more concerned with whether they are getting an accurate meaning of the material you presented or not.

"One night at the supermarket, I wheeled my cart into the check out line right behind one of my students. She looked completely shocked. She clearly believed that I did not exist outside of the classroom."

What You Should Be Thinking...After Class

An important part of teaching is learning from experience. When a class goes well, think about what went right so that you can repeat it. When a class goes badly, think about what went wrong, execute any procedural school guidelines to address behaviour or discipline problems right away, but do not kick yourself about it; just fix it. See it as a learning experience, not as a statement about your ultimate abilities as a teacher. Most mistakes can be fixed in time and remember that a bad day in class here or there does not make a bad teacher over time. Don't immediately consider fleeing the teaching profession. Give yourself time to reflect and reprioritze; always remember that even the most seasoned of teachers are ALWAYS learning their craft to teach again (better!) on another day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Advice from Experienced Middle School Teachers for New Teachers

Strive to be respected, not popular. Be patient and compasionate; maintain your sense of humor. (Middle School English Teacher)

Be patient and be ready to learn a lot from your students and about yourself. (Middle School Special Education Teacher)

Even though they might seem adult in size, they are not mentally ready to be assessed in adult ways. Keep in mind that their brains are still growing. On the other hand, if you treat them with adult-like respect, they often reciprocate with an adult-like response. (Middle School Social Studies Teacher)

Remember that teenagers can be mean and sensitive at the same time. They can be cruel to one another and to you, but cannot take the same in return. Give them "timeout" space to get it together when they are angry or upset. They do not respond well to sarcasm--they don't always get it, so avoid using it in the classroom. Never be alone with a student. Keep the parents on your side; they can make your life miserable. In other words--bite your tongue. (Middle School Gifted Teacher)

I don't think you can assume the following.

don't assume they have prior knowledge of your topic
don't assume they are outgoing and comfortable with participating
don't assume the smile on their face means everything is okay
don't assume a frown means they are unhappy
don't assume a kid with expensive clothes has money
don't assume a kid in rags is poor
don't assume a kid in corn rows is going to be a behavior problem
don't assume a kid in a wheelchair is not capable
don't assume a kid has eaten breakfast or dinner the night before

Do assume:
Do assume that kids have bad days and need a break
Do assume that kids will only meet your expectations if they are high
Do assume that all kids can learn
Do assume that all kids want to make people laugh
Do assume they can behave if you are consistent and clear with rules
Do assume they can express themselves properly
Do assume that all kids want love
Do assume that all kids want attention
Do assume that all kids want to succeed
Do assume that if the material is over their head, they will struggle
Do assume that all adolescents want to fit in
(7th Grade Special Education Teacher)

Advice from 7th Grade Students for New Teachers

From the mouths of babes.....Below are some bits of advice from seventh grade students to new teachers of adolescents.

Be patient and try to understand their minds. Make projects fun and class fun so they don’t get bored. Have fun!

Don’t let them be the boss of you. Don’t give them a lot of homework if you want them to like you.

Don’t be afraid to tell them that they’re misbehaving.

Don’t fall for excuses. Tell jokes, but don’t be awkward. Don’t take off points for spelling. Be fun!

When we are loud make sure to be strict to quiet us down.

Be patient because adolescents can get off task and you need to be patient.

Don’t let the kids take over! Be strict, but nice. Be patient!

Use a lot of different ways to teach. Example: don’t always make kids take notes, sometimes play a game to help kids learn.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Don’t give them too much slack.

Everything is hard before it is easy. Let them chew gum, lots.

Control the kids, don’t let them talk too much.

Don’t give a test without telling the students a week ahead.

If you want kids to like you do a lot of fun stuff with the kids that you think they would like. You were a kid once think of something.

Be flexible but not flimsy. Don’t be super strict, like detention after the first day-late assignment from a relatively good student, but don’t allow them to turn things in a week late for full credit. Don’t take off a ton of points for spelling. Encourage them to read. Don’t overload them with homework – other teachers are giving them homework too. Especially from a textbook.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some extra thoughts to consider as a new teacher

One Hundred Years from now (excerpt from "Within My Power" by Forest Witcraft)

One Hundred Years from now It will not matter what kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
how much money was in my bank account nor what my clothes looked like.
But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.

Hebrew Proverb"A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit".

This is a great Video, watch what it means to be a teacher!
"Books are a form of outdated technology created in the dark ages for a society devoid of computers, electronic media or digital data. In today’s society, getting information from a book is like calculating math on your fingers and toes. To grade this report, please post your comments on my blog..."—Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen

3 practical ways to aid adolescents into adulthood

3 practical ways to aid adolescents into adulthood

Listen before giving advice: letting students make and correct their own mistakes is critical for student growth. Try remembering when you were a teenager and how you learned best. Often times you learned more when you were allowed to make a mistake and correct it on your own then being told not to do something and not allowed to even try one way and realize it was a mistake. A practical way you can do this in your classroom is by giving student’s more freedom and not setting up completely structure guidelines for projects.

An example would be to have students examine and teach a battle from the Revolutionary War to the rest of the class. Students could do this using power-point. They could have the students reenact this battle, they could write and read a poem they wrote about the battle but allowing them the freedom to see what works for them will allow them to learn more about themselves and their own learning styles and encourage them to further develop these styles in the future.

Another example is to have student’s pick their own topics related to a theme for a paper rather than giving everyone a specific topic.

When you listen to the student’s needs before hanging out advice and listen to the student’s ideas you can get to know your students better and allow them the freedom to express themselves and in turn learn more about themselves.

Model Adult actions and behaviors: One of the greatest ways you can influence your students and help aid them in growth is to act like an adult and model for your students how adults respond differently to situations verse how adolescence respond. You can do this in the way you say things or the way you do things and you can also challenge students to begin thinking like an adult in a safe environment such as the classroom. One way you can encourage them to think like an adult and reflect on how that is different from the way they think as an adolescent is to create a task where students would need to reflect on a situation how they would respond and how their parents or teachers may respond differently. They could then write a short paragraph on why they think their responses are different. This can begin to start the discussion on how students are in a transition phase of their life.

Have students reflect on their own life and their patchwork self: As teachers we can encourage students to grow and aid in their growth by asking students to reflect on their lives and why they take on certain roles. By encouraging students to think about themselves and interpersonalize their lives we can assist them in developing a greater knowledge about who they are as an individual. It is not until students understand at least to some degree who they are, that they can start to grow more into a role of who they would like to become.

Advice from teachers:

"Student's want to learn, we just have to make learning fun and interesting. With all of the stimulants student's receive outside of the classroom, they do not want to come in for a boring lecture. We must make history not only exciting but living and active." - Chicago Public School Social Studies Teacher 15 years.

"If I had one word of advice it would be to not let your job overtake you, good teachers have a life outside of the classroom." - 6th grade Math teacher

"Being a teacher is great! Remember though that you may not always see the flowers bloom you helped plant. But God calls us to only help plant the seeds, it is His job to water them and watch them grow." - Religion Teacher

The Use of Multiple Intelligences in Your Classroom

“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place.” – Howard Gardner

Dear New Teacher,

The teenage years can often be terrifying for students, but it also can be just as scary for parents and teachers who spend everyday with these teens as they ride on an emotional rollercoaster. Being a new teacher and experiencing teenage angst and anxiety in your classroom has the potential to greatly influence your classroom environment. One way to turn these scary times into positive motivators within your class is to create an environment where different personalities, different body types and different intelligences are not only respected but encouraged. As new teachers we must create lesson plans and activities that are sensitive to our students and their wide rage of learning styles. There are many ways that you can create a classroom environment where students learning increases because they feel accepted and capable of contributing to the learning process within the class as a whole.

As new teachers it can be difficult to create lesson plans that encourage the use of multiple intelligences, however, the extra effort to develop creative lessons will be well rewarded with a positive response as different students who in a typical classroom would not do as well suddenly excel when creating an assignment using paint instead of words. Students express their knowledge in different ways. We as teachers need to acknowledge and allow for the freedom to use their strengths and also develop other intelligences. For example a student who does not have a high literacy rate may not do well in a history classroom essay exam, but he/she may excel when asked to create a diaphragm of a scene from the Civil War.

Howard Gardner is well known for his study on the theories of multiple intelligences. It is important to know what the multiple intelligences are so that we as teachers may develop lesson plans that incorporate all of them into our curriculum. By doing so we can increase the success rate of students and encourage students to broaden their abilities and critically think in different ways.
- Your Friend and Colleague

List and description of the 8 most common multiple intelligences:

Linguistic Intelligence: (good with language and writing) involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are amount those that are seen to having high linguistic intelligence.

Logical-mathematical intelligence: (categorizes, puzzles, how things fit together, good with organizing information) consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. It entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically.

Musical Intelligence: involves skills in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patters. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones and rhythms.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence: entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to coordinate bodily movements.

Spatial Intelligence: (seeing how things work 3D, good with understanding of space, artistic intelligence) involves the potential to recognize and use the patters of wide space and more confined areas.

Interpersonal intelligence: is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counselors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal Intelligence: (reflective) entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feeling, fears and motivations.

Naturalist Intelligence: (The ability to make sense of the world around you) enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment. It combines a description of the core ability with a characterization that many cultures value.

Examining these multiple intelligences and looking at ways to fit them into your lesson plans can help you as an educator question your work and encourage you to look beyond the narrow confines of dominant discourses such as curriculum and testing to develop lessons that will encourage student learning and broaden their scope of the subject you are teaching. At the end of this article you will find suggestions on ways to bring these multiple intelligences into the classroom in practical ways.

A valuable resource to look at that lists other ways to use multiple intelligences in the classroom can be found at the Project SUMMIT website. Http://

This information on Multiple Intelligences was taken from:

  • Gardner, H. (1999) Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the
    21st century. New York: Basic Books.

Practical Ways to use the different Multiple Intelligences in your classroom!

Linguistic: Have your students write an essay, poem or speech about an important figure for the time you are studying (history) Have your student write a paragraph about why they would use a certain formula in a situation (math) Have your students write a poem about the process of growth from a seed to a tree (science)

Logical-Mathematical: Have your students create a time-line of events related to their cause and effect. (History) Have your students solve a problem on the board (math) Have your students categorize objects (science)

Musical: students can write a song or create an instrument/sounds that relate to a current time frame they are studying. (History) Students can interpret why certain sounds have a higher frequency (science)

: Students can create an interpretive dance or act out a scene from an event in history. (History) Students can solve math equations around the room at different stations or create movements based on angles measurements and numbers. (Math)

: Students can create a diaphragm of a scene from the civil war. (History) Students can become an architect for a day and create a building using equations. (Math) Students can organize a garden based on what each plant needs and design a greenhouse (science)

Interpersonal: This would involve group work

: Have your students write a journal about how they would react if they were in a situation from the past compared to how they would react to that same situation today. (History) Students can journal about their strengths and weaknesses in solving math problems and reflect on how they may go about improving their weaknesses. (Math) Students can write a reflective journal about what they are learning in their science classroom and how those lessons can be applied to their everyday life. (Science)

Naturalist: Have your students examine their current community and compare it to a community 100 years ago. (History) Have your students find math problems in everyday life related to the environment such as how much gas it costs to drive to and from their home to school everyday. (Math) Have your students plant a tree and study the effect of using paper and other products that require trees to be cut down. (Science)

- Information interpreted and compiled by Samantha Harris

Aiding Adolescents into Adulthood: Examining the Patchwork Self

"Girls need a sense of belonging and it just makes sense to take the biggest distraction for girls out of the classroom so that they can focus better. I have also found these student's to participate more in an all girls classroom because they feel like they belong and do not have anyone over shadowing or intimidating them as boys often do." - freshman science teacher comment on single sex verse coed schools.

Common Questions of new educators:

What is a patchwork self! How can I as a teacher acknowledge and help students create a more individual identity?
Is this important to do, I’m only a teacher?

If you are asking yourself any of these questions it is important to read this article! The adolescent years are some of the most important years in a person’s life because they are the years that often times define and develop a person’s personality and identity that they will carry throughout their adult life. During junior high and high school this identity process can often lead to instability and emotional outbursts that often seem out of character for the student and can be disruptive in your classroom. The identity process is one of the most crucial processes that students will go through as they create a patchwork self. David Elkind is one of the leading researchers on student personality development and has identified students as creating a patchwork self. He defines a patchwork self as, “an end result of a personality growth by substitution” (Elkind 1998). A patchwork self is the result of different attitudes, values, beliefs and habits that do not really connect. It is a combination of students trying to create a personality that mirrors someone else, such as a popular kid or a well liked student at school to the struggle of trying to decide what is best for them as an individual. Student’s who create a patchwork self often have low self-esteem and are trying to fit in with a more popular crowd at school. They may for example go to a drinking party that goes against their religious beliefs but sacrifice their own values in order to be/feel accepted. This creates an inner anger problem as they struggle with being angry at themselves for not standing up for what they believe in to the polar opposite of being angry at themselves for standing up and not going along with the crowd (Elkind 1998). The stress that goes along with this inner struggle can cause many difficult situations within your classroom. It is important to understand the causes of this stress in your students in order to be better able to help them coup with the stress and help them begin to create an identity that is true to themselves which is important for a solid transition into adulthood.

David Elkind defines many different stresses that can cause problems for students with a patchwork self. Two that we will examine are anxious and conforming teenagers because these will be the two most common found in your classroom. Anxious teenagers stew over their decisions because they lack a sense of self and can not decide whether to give in or get out of a situation, when these students are confronted with negative situations that are avoidable oftentimes their conflicting values within their patchwork self can pull them in multiple directions at the same time, this can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. Elkind compared anxious adolescents to those lacking mature stress-management skills and often times reverting back to infant skills such as pretending to get sick to avoid the situation (Elkind 1998). While many new teachers could have trouble seeing how this personality disorder can have an affect on your classroom an environment it is often something that when not considered can cause a huge problem during class. An example would be when you ask the students to break into group to solve a problem say in a history textbook. This problem could deal with how the students would react to a situation during the Great Depression. A student with a patchwork self who leans toward anxiety disorder may pretend to get sick or not participate in the group for fear of saying something that would not be accepted. One way we can help encourage our students to develop a greater sense of self identity and maturity is to encourage each student to first write down their thoughts separately and then compare them. We also must create an environment where everyone’s ideas are respected and heard. You can create this environment by setting down ground rules on day 1 about respect and the consequences of not respecting their peers. Conforming teenagers have similar issues as they deal with creating a patchwork self but differ from those with anxiety because they lack self-acceptance and often do not get support from home so they seek it in their peers (Elkind 1998). These are the teenagers in your classroom who most likely will engage in risky behavior to get the attention and support of their peers. It is important as educators to notice when a student is acting out in class to get a response from their peers and to not respond to them in front of their peers. In order to deal best with these students it is important to set up a time to meet with the student outside of the classroom time when their peers are not present. Often it is during this time that we can talk with the student and encourage them to discover their own identity and not define it by others. One way we as a teacher can assist students in this process is to assign classroom time or homework where the student is given a life situation or a problem and they must journal how they would respond to this. By the student being able to write privately about their response they will avoid the stress of conforming to their patchwork self. It is with hope that this will help aid the student into a more mature and adult like identity and allow them time in quiet to get to know their inner self and not the outward self they claim to be in front of their peers.

While we as teachers want to make a great impact in teenagers lives and often times go into the teaching profession seeking to “change” students, it is important to note that we may never see these changes that many times will occur. Often times these changes take years to see and we as educators may never see the benefits of what we have done but we must still march on and continue to encourage our student to grow in maturity. Creating a classroom environment that is accepting of students from all background and cultures can help open the door for new identities to be formed and students to start breaking away from the patchwork selves. Acknowledging this issue is the first step into aiding students in a transition to adulthood. You can not change them even when you see negative behavior but you can use your knowledge and understanding of these behaviors to create lessons and environments where individual learning is encouraged and respected.

Elkind, D. “All Grown Up and No Place to Go.” Perseus books, NY, NY 1998.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A video about what teaching middle school truly looks like?

Teachers of adolescents should check out the article below from The New York Times that has a video about teaching middle school students. The video came from an article entitled: “For Teachers; Middle School a Test of Wills”. Click on the link below to see the article and view the video.

Advice on Adolescents Transitioning into Adulthood

The goal of the teacher in an adolescent’s life is to help the adolescent get ready for the real world by giving the adolescent enough practice so that there are no big surprises when adulthood arrives. In order to accomplish this goal there must be reciprocal behaviors between the teacher and the adolescent. The teacher should have expectations of respect from the adolescent, expectations that school work should get done, and that overall grades should be average if the adolescent is of at least average intelligence. On the flip side, the adolescent should have expectations of support, expectations that they may ask the teacher questions, and expectations that the teacher wishes the adolescent good luck in the future.

Teachers cannot be too involved in bailing adolescents out of bad situations. This is why the teacher should at times wish the adolescent good luck, and let the adolescent solve some of their own problems. If a teacher becomes too involved a message may be sent that the teacher thinks the child cannot solve the problem on their own and that the teacher better do the work for the student.

Teachers need to give adolescents responsibilities. If the adolescent student blows the responsibility, then it will be a learning experience for the student. Generally the cost of a mistake as an adolescent in school is cheaper than in the adult world. When an adolescent makes a mistake regarding responsibilities consequences should occur and at the same time the teacher should express empathy to the adolescent student. Following the mistake, the same responsibility should be given to the adolescent again to show the adolescent that the teacher believes that the adolescent has learned and the job will get done. Teachers should encourage adolescents by focusing on their strengths. Adolescents like it when teachers can recognize their strengths. Also, teachers should let adolescents improve at their weaknesses before taking away an activity that is their strength.

Adolescents do need consequences. Teachers should give consequences that will hurt from the inside out. These consequences feel like they are from the real world. The consequence must be something that will truly make the adolescent internalize what they did wrong and correct the behavior in the future. Teachers should not give punishments that hurt from the outside in and do not make a lasting impression, but instead just create anger.

Teachers should try to be calm and rational when getting angry with adolescents. Teachers must also avoid being inconsistent with discipline. This will send the wrong message to adolescents. If a disagreement continues between a teacher and an adolescent a third party, who both the adolescent and the teacher respect, should be sought out to help end the disagreement. A good person in a school would be a guidance counselor.

Teaching adolescents to transition into adulthood means teaching adolescents to take responsibility for their own actions. The goal is to teach adolescents to make their own judgments, to make decisions, and to live with the consequences.

Tips for Teaching Transescents

Students are going through incredible changes during the adolescent time period of their lives. Adolescents are going through cognitive, emotional, and physical development. It is at this time that many students begin to be able to “think” for themselves. This is also the time where students begin to test the boundaries in the classroom. Below are some suggestions for providing a positive school experience for adolescent children.

First, a new teacher needs to work hard to provide an engaging learning atmosphere. An engaging learning environment motivates kids. This environment is one where student work is celebrated and showcased around the classroom. An engaging learning environment also needs to maintain high learning expectations. Learning can be fun, but there must be a learning outcome for each lesson with results showing achievement of that outcome. In this day and age an engaging learning environment will also be media-rich. A media-rich classroom may include many different resources such as books, computers with internet access, power-point presentations, and hands-on manipulatives. This is no longer the time to solely use a textbook to teach effectively. An engaging learning environment should be task-based, but follow the student interests. It is possible to follow student interests and address core content and skills at the same time. If student interests are tapped into, then there will be a natural motivation to learn. Finally, students must be involved in the lesson from the moment they enter the classroom until the moment they leave. Work from bell to bell.

Second, a new teacher of adolescents must maintain a structured learning environment. It is important to set up classroom rules, routines, and procedures at the beginning of the year. Next, the new teacher must remember to consistently enforce these rules, routines, and procedures. Adolescent children like routine because it makes class predictable and the students are aware of the expectations placed upon them. A structured learning environment will be very helpful to any teacher when adolescent students begin to test the boundaries in the classroom as part of their developmental process.

Third, starting teaching for the first time can be exhausting at any grade level. In order to avoid severe exhaustion, new teachers should get involved with a mentor teacher program. Even if there is no organized program in your school or district, find an experienced teacher who you can work with. This is not a time to reinvent the wheel. This is a time for new teachers to breathe life into a good lesson that may have already been established by an experienced teacher. A mentor teacher can be a great help in planning engaging lessons for adolescent students. Finally, let your mentor teacher help you to say no to taking on too much responsibility in your first years of teaching. A new teacher who is stretched too thin will not be as effective in the end.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Coping Strategies For New Teachers

Useful Tips & Coping Strategies to Relieve Classroom and Student-Induced Stress For New Teachers
Follow these suggestions to ease the stress of daily transescent overload!!!

  1. Practice peer and colleague communication as a resource tool.

  2. Have open and honest communication with your department head.

  3. Start calm, stay calm.

  4. Utilize free periods for student conferences and/or to grade homework assignments.

  5. Journal as an outlet for pent up anxiety and frustration.

  6. Stay as organized as possible.

  7. Perform stretch and deep breathing exercises throughout the day.

  8. Keep a stock of various relaxation tapes ready or download relaxing music to your IPod.

  9. Try to talk with your significant other throughout the course of the day.

  10. Try to remember the reasons why you became a teacher and STAY POSITIVE!

  11. Look for a mentor.

  12. Do not be disappointed if your students do not seem to like you, and do not take it personal. They are adolescents, and adolescents tend to be skeptical of adults. Be aware that you have changed sides, even if you still feel young at heart!

  13. Show interest for (or be knowledgeable in) current trends, fashion, computer games, technological gadgets, etc. This will make it easier for you to connect with teenagers.

  14. Realize that you are part of a great mission, even if you do not feel like it every single moment!

  15. Do not forget that your life does not consist of your job alone. Keep other fields of interests other than school – a hobby, family time, community cause, etc.

  16. Look for friendly colleagues who may be able to help you out or share their materials with you.

  17. Spend time with colleagues who make you feel good about what you do, not those who make you feel inferior. You’ll probably feel insecure at first, which is quite normal.

  18. Test new ideas and techniques with small groups first before trying them with an entire class.

  19. Act professional at all times – this will make you feel more secure and credible.

  20. Admit that you do not know everything and that you sometimes need help.

  21. Memorize the names of your students as fast as possible!

  22. Be clear and consistent.

  23. Praise yourself and your students.

  24. Regard your students as interesting, challenging human beings who want to grow and develop.

  25. Love your students!

  26. Humor helps.

  27. Look for new friends who are not teachers.

  28. Find one day per week that you will neither think about your job, nor work on something school-related. Instead, do something entirely different, such as hiking or taking a cooking lesson.

  29. Clear your mind and relax completely for a few minutes at least 10 minutes per day.
  30. Remember, Rome was not built in a day...the same applies to building a rewarding, meaningful career as a teacher!

Advice on Transitioning Into Adulthood

“Students don’t act out because they are bad people. They are simply looking for ways to establish and maintain a sense of self while navigating through the sometimes extreme experiences they have.”

Influence of Peers

Another important thing to remember is the social development of adolescence. This takes place in all of their relationships. One of the greatest social changes for adolescents is the importance of their peers. This change allows them to gain independence from their families, and explore how they differ from their parents. The relationship between adolescents and their parents is changed by the adolescents’ social development. The shift in the social world from family to peers does not lessen the importance of the family in the adolescent’s life.

Young adolescents are very concerned with being accepted by a peer group. This can strongly influence some to engage in activities they normally would not consider.

An adolescent’s new desire for independence leads to increasing conflicts with their parents. We as teachers have a unique opportunity to observe adolescents and their involvement with their peers. We can see the changes and should act as facilitators between the students and parents when needed. Starting with an open and honest classroom is a good place is encouraging. Hopefully these values will be carried on with the students in all of their relationships.

Influence of community

The characteristics of a community, such as socioeconomic status, schools, religious organizations, the media and people who live in the community can also have a great impact on an adolescent’s social development. We need to take these into consideration when dealing with adolescence and needs.

Our students learn about themselves by measuring their experiences against those of the people in their community. Being open takes the edge off the challenges of being human. But being a teacher means being open to more than asking for help; it also means being a role model. One of our jobs is simply to be seen as an adult in the world.


We are role models and can be mentors for our students. Research shows that mentoring is important to teens. Parents play the most influential role in the lives of their children; however studies show that other significant adults can have an important positive influence, helping teens make a successful transition into adulthood. A mentor can inspire a teen’s educational achievement and shape careers. Successful mentors can also influence social and emotional well-being, health and safety. As a teacher we can either be an appropriate mentor or help our students by finding community member that are willing to be mentors.

Cognitive Issues of Adolescents

What is Cognitive Development?
Cognitive development refers to the development of the ability to think and reason. Children (6 to 12 years old) develop the ability to think in concrete ways (concrete operations) such as how to combine (addition), separate (subtract or divide), order (alphabetize and sort), and transform (change things such as 5 pennies = 1 nickel) objects and actions. They are called concrete because they are performed in the presence of the objects and events being thought about.

Adolescence marks the beginning development of more complex thinking processes (also called formal logical operations) including abstract thinking (thinking about possibilities), the ability to reason from known principles (form own new ideas or questions), the ability to consider many points of view according to varying criteria (compare or debate ideas or opinions), and the ability to think about the process of thinking.

What cognitive developmental changes occur during adolescence?

During adolescence (between 12 and 18 years of age), the developing teenager acquires the ability to think systematically about all logical relationships within a problem. The transition from concrete thinking to formal logical operations occurs over time. Each adolescent progresses at varying rates in developing his/her ability to think in more complex ways. Each adolescent develops his/her own view of the world. Some adolescents may be able to apply logical operations to school work long before they are able to apply them to personal dilemmas. When emotional issues arise, they often interfere with an adolescent's ability to think in more complex ways. The ability to consider possibilities, as well as facts, may influence decision making, in either positive or negative ways.

Some common indicators indicating a progression from more simple to more complex cognitive development include the following:

Early Adolescence

During early adolescence, the use of more complex thinking is focused on personal decision making in school and home environments, including the following:

  • The early adolescent begins to demonstrate use of formal logical operations in schoolwork.

  • The early adolescent begins to question authority and society standards.

  • The early adolescent begins to form and verbalize his/her own thoughts and views on a variety of topics, usually more related to his/her own life, such as:

  • which sports are better to play.

  • which groups are better to be included in.

  • what personal appearances are desirable or attractive.

  • what parental rules should be changed.

Assist adolescents in re-evaluating poorly made decisions for themselves.

Middle Adolescence

With some experience in using more complex thinking processes, the focus of middle adolescence often expands to include more philosophical and futuristic concerns, including the following:

  • The middle adolescent often questions more extensively.

  • The middle adolescent often analyzes more extensively.
  • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to form his/her own code of ethics (i.e., What do I think is right?).

  • The middle adolescent thinks about different possibilities and begins to develop own identity (i.e., Who am I?).

  • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to systematically consider possible future goals (i.e., What do I want?).
  • The middle adolescent thinks about and begins to make his/her own plans.

  • The middle adolescent begins to think long term.

  • The middle adolescent's use of systematic thinking begins to influence relationships with others.

Late Adolescence

During late adolescence, complex thinking processes are used to focus on less self-centered concepts as well as personal decision making, including the following:

  • The late adolescent has increased thoughts about more global concepts such as justice, history, politics, and patriotism.

  • The late adolescent often develops idealistic views on specific topics or concerns.

  • The late adolescent may debate and develop intolerance of opposing views.
  • The late adolescent begins to focus thinking on making career decisions.

  • The late adolescent begins to focus thinking on emerging role in adult society.

What encourages healthy cognitive development during adolescence?

The following suggestions will help to encourage positive and healthy cognitive development in the adolescent:
  • Include adolescents in discussions about a variety of topics, issues, and current events.
  • Encourage adolescents to share ideas and thoughts with you.

  • Encourage adolescents to think independently and develop their own ideas.

  • Assist adolescents in setting their own goals.
  • Stimulate adolescents to think about possibilities of the future.
  • Compliment and praise adolescents for well thought out decisions.

Psychosocial Issues of Adolescents

The development of an individual from childhood to adulthood depends upon the developmental stages we pass through in life. We are faced with new challenges in each stage and we build upon those as we develop as humans. An important factor to look at in each stage of human development is the psychosocial aspect. Defined in Webster’s dictionary as involving both psychological and social aspects; relating to social conditions and mental health.

Sigmund Freud

When discussing psychoanalytical theories of human development, where better to start than with Sigmund Freud. Although more modern theories have replaced Freud it is important to be familiar with the basics of his work, because many modern views of human development still have their roots in Freudian theory. He made an enormous contribution to our understanding of human behavior.

Freud was not greatly involved with theories on adolescence; he believed that the early years of a child’s life were the formative ones. Freud believed that the mind of an infant consists only of primitive desires, such as the need for food and physical comfort, which he called the “id.” During the first few years of life the “ego” develops, whose function is to find safe and appropriate ways for the id to be expressed. A child is able to find ways to get what he or she needs within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the parents. The child then develops a conscience, which Freud called the “superego.” The child has internalized the parents’ values and feels guilty for misbehaving and will try to behave even when adults are not around.

Freud believed that the desire to satisfy biological needs and thereby discharge tension was the single motive for human behavior. His defined stages of development are based upon the organs he thought were used to discharge tension at that age. From birth to adulthood, a child develops through these stages in sequence: oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. If a child fails to experience gratification for basic drives during a given state, he or she could become stuck forever in that particular psychological mode.

Freud believed that adolescence is filled with internal struggle. He viewed the preadolescent “latency” period as a time when the child develops a balance between the ego and id. When the child enters the “genital” phase of adolescence, the child is overwhelmed with instinctual impulses that disrupt this balance. There is conflict, turmoil and stress, as the ego is torn between the strong impulses of the id and the restrictions of the superego.

Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson modified Sigmund Freud’s theory. He retained many of Freud’s concepts including the id-ego-superego triangle. However, Erikson placed less emphasis on the id’s basic biological urges and instead believed the ego was the driving force of much behavior. Erikson’s theory takes a broader view of the factors that impact human development.

Erikson proposes a series of developmental tasks that all people face and resolve in some way. Again there are different stages. The previous developmental outcome sets the stage for upcoming issues. However, with Erikson’s model an individual does not become “stuck” in a phase as Freud believed. Instead, the old issue is reworked in the context of the current tasks.

Erickson viewed adolescence as a time of conflict, turmoil and stress like Freud. He believed the turmoil resulted from an identity crisis rather than a struggle between the id and ego. Erikson saw adolescence as a necessary and productive period. A time in which one works to for one’s own identity.

What does this mean for the classroom?

“Learning behavior is at least equally if not more important than learning content.”

Freud and Erickson discuss behavior. As a beginning teacher you may enter the classroom ready to teach science, music, or foreign language. In reality we soon discover that we are in the profession to teach people. People have many needs beyond the content area. Therefore, we teach content, procedures necessary to facilitate learning that content and appropriate behavior. Students need to learn what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, how to tell the difference, and how to discipline themselves to make nurturing choices. Life is about making choices, receiving consequences, and learning from our successes and mistakes. When we teach behavior, we are really teaching life skills.

When students test us by breaking behavior rules in the class, they want the teacher to pass the test. If we go with this assumption, regardless of whether or not it’s actually true, it allows us to enforce a whole range of consequences with out unduly ruffling students’ feathers, and without taking our rough days home with us. Students do not act our because they are trying to “get us.” They are not “bad kids.”

Student Dress in Public School

Clothing allows the students to express their individual and collective identity. Students can use clothing to gain recognition, generate common bonds, and share interests within peer groups. Can a school restrict this student expression because it conflicts with the values the school wants to instill? What if the dress is disruptive to the education process?

Through discussion with both teachers and administration I’ve realized that the dress of adolescents can be a challenge in the school. How does one in an authoritative role deal with inappropriate clothing being worn to school. This seems to be more of a problem with girls than boys. Though, at times, boys will wear items that are not acceptable at school. The majority of the time the issue deals with girls wearing clothes that are too revealing.

An assistant principal at a top Chicago Public School deals with the problem of a female student dressing inappropriately multiple times a week. And has told me she really doesn’t know what else to do? After months of attempts to change the problem, conversations with the student and parents, she really is at a loss. They will give the student t-shirts to wear at school. They will have her adjust her clothing so that it is not so revealing though, it is a continuous problem. It seems to just change her for the day. The mother of the student says she can’t do anything about it. So administration is at a loss.

A high school teacher at an urban, low-income, minority high school and I discussed the same issue. His concern was how am I as a male teacher to make comments to these students? When he sees the issue in his classroom he will tell the student that they are breaking school rules and they need to “cover up”. He says this usually takes care of the problem, but he will approach administration if necessary.

What does the research say?

School officials see the need for regulations that prohibit inappropriate forms of attire. They enforce these dress codes for all students. The students look at it from the perspective of an unwanted restriction on their freedom. School officials have the legal authority to regulate student appearance; however that authority must be exercised within the bounds of the Constitution and state law.

What can teachers do about this problem?

First I would say, know and understand your school’s dress code rules. Enforce them upon your students in the classroom or any school setting. Seek help from administration when necessary.

For students who repeatedly challenge the rules, the issue may lie deeper than just dress and appearance. We will need to determine what the underlying factors are with each individual.

Physical Development of Adolescents

Source of all images in this section:

Adolescence is a time of significant physical development. Major physical changes take place while children mature until their bodies resemble those of adults. These changes are the result of biochemical processes based on an increased release of hormones by the endocrine glands. The stage during which adolescents become physically capable of reproduction is commonly referred to as puberty (Rice & Dolgin, 2007).

What happens?
Changes in height, weight, and body shape

During adolescence, youths grow in height and their body weight increases. As a result, the proportions of adolescent bodies change. For most youths, this process begins with a pronounced growth spurt, typically around age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys. During early adolescence, girls mature earlier and are generally taller and heavier than their male peers, though this is not always the case.

Did you know that …
body height is thought to be the result of a variety of genetic and environmental factors? Due to better health care and nutrition, adolescents at present become taller and reach their absolute body height faster than previous generations. They also mature faster sexually. This phenomenon, also labeled secular trend, is thought to be the effect of higher body weight (Rice & Dolgin, 2007).

Development of secondary sexual characteristics

Between approximately ages 10 to 16 (females) and 11 to 18 (males) adolescents develop different secondary sexual characteristics. Secondary sexual characteristics are features that distinguish members of either sex, but are not directly concerned with reproduction. They include:

  • Growth of pubic, axillary, facial, and body hair; receding hairline (in males)
  • Deepening of male voice due to growth of larynx and lengthening of vocal chords
  • Changing body shapes: Girls' hips round and widen, breasts develop. Boys' bones and muscles become more pronounced, and their chests and shoulders broaden.

Keep in mind, however, that secondary sexual characteristics can vary considerably between individuals!!!

Development of primary sexual organs

While the development of female sexual organs is more gradual, male sexual organs mature in more distinct states.


Gradual development of uterus, vagina, labia, clitoris, mons veneris, and ovaries between ages 10 to 18

Beginning production of ova (eggs) every 20-40 days

Onset of menstruation (= menarche), usually around age 12/13, though there can be considerable variation. Although initially menstruation may follow irregular patterns or may occur without ovulation, girls should be considered physically able to become pregnant after menarche.


Accelerated growth of testes and scrotum during early adolescence, slowing down around age 13

Development of mature sperm cells in testes

Growth of penis particularly between ages 14 to16

First ejaculation, also referred to as semenarche or spermarche around age 13

Nocturnal emissions (“wet dreams”)

What you should know

One consequence of the physical changes occurring during adolescence is an awakening interest in sex: “Attention becomes focused on sex, new sexual sensations, and on people of the opposite gender. Adolescent boys and girls spend a lot of time thinking about sex, looking at pictures of sexy individuals and talking about the opposite sex” (Rice & Dolgin, 2007). This period is an exploratory stage in which youths seek to come to terms with their emotions regarding sexuality.

What you can do to aid the transition

  • Emphasize that the physical changes taking place during adolescence are normal and healthy processes which do not follow uniform patterns.

  • Be sympathetic and sensitive if students approach you to talk about topics related to physical development.

  • Signal that you care and are ready and willing to listen.

  • Keep conversations confidential.

  • Give information if it is sought.

  • Be knowledgeable about physical changes during adolescence.

  • Refer student to other resources, if appropriate.

Sex education: Recommendations by an interviewed teacher

“If possible, teach male and female adolescents separately about topics regarding physical changes and sex education. Separating girls and boys to discuss topics such as menstruation or contraceptives makes it easier for them to open up and ask questions. There is less fear of embarrassment, less of a nervously giggling audience. Also, same-sex peers are more likely to be sympathetic”. She further suggested inviting outside “experts” to teach about sex education and other sensitive topics. “For adolescents, it can be less challenging to ask questions and discuss embarrassing topics with someone they do not need to face on a daily basis afterwards”.

Did you know that …
for many adolescent girls, the onset of menstruation represents an anticipated milestone, as it is associated with adulthood?
The following quote from a girl illustrates this: “When it happened, I thought FINALLY! It seemed like all of my friends had had their periods for years. I felt very left out when they’d sit around and talk about it (even though they didn’t make it sound very pleasant)” (Rice & Dolgin, 2007).

Nevertheless, for many adolescents, menstruation carries negative connotations, and is often linked to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and insecurity, which can result in lowered self-esteem. Usually such negative feelings are the result of negative conditioning through advertisements or negative messages from others (Rice & Dolgin, 2007). It is therefore important to emphasize that menstruation is normal and healthy.

One interviewed teacher recalled that her school had female hygiene items available to students if needed: “Everybody knew where we could get a tampon discreetly, should the need ever arise during a school day.” This information was handled like an open secret and passed on by the female students.

Body image and body dissatisfaction

The many physical changes taking place during adolescence can cause a great deal of embarrassment, insecurity, and discontent among youths. Recent research indicates that about 30 per cent of male and 60 per cent of female adolescents would like to change the shape or size or their bodies (Presnell, Bearman & Stice, 2004).

Causes of body dissatisfaction

Body dissatisfaction is often the result of cultural norms as well as of exposure to stereotypes through the media, which convey that being tall, thin, and slender is highly desirable, particularly for females (Rice & Dolgin, 2007). In addition, perceived peer pressure may play an important role as well (Presnell et al., 2004).

Unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction in regard to body shape or size generally increase throughout adolescence. Body dissatisfaction is highest among Caucasian, Asian American, and Hispanic girls, and significantly lower among African American girls.

Did you know that …
overweight adolescents are generally most dissatisfied with their bodies?
In contrast, underweight females and average weight males are most satisfied with their bodies (Presnell et al., 2004).

Male adolescents are influenced by popular perceptions and stereotypes as well. In contrast to their female peers, they are not so much concerned with their weight, but rather with a body image of strength and athletic build, which carries positive social connotations. However, compared to girls, male adolescents are less likely to be dissatisfied with their appearance, and tend to feel better about their bodies over the course of their adolescence.

Did you know that …
during early and mid-adolescence, many youths experience a phenomenon called locker-room syndrome?
While changing clothes before and after gym class, adolescents involuntarily compare their physical development to that of their peers. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, or even inferiority (Rice & Dolgin, 2005).

Consequences of body dissatisfaction:

The relationship between self-perception and self-esteem

Particularly during adolescence, self-perceptions about physical attractiveness are closely linked to issues of self-esteem. Physical attractiveness yields greater popularity and peer acceptance, as attractive adolescents are perceived as friendly, successful, and intelligent. Girls who think of themselves as not sufficiently attractive are more likely to be dissatisfied with themselves, and as a result may become preoccupied with appearance, experience emotional distress, or develop eating disorders or depression (Presnell et al., 2004; Rice & Dolgin, 2007).

What you can do to aid the development of a healthy body image

1. Reality check: Increase awareness about unrealistic norms and ideals. Some ideas:

  • Discuss: What does an attractive person look like? Why do we think these persons are attractive? Where do we learn what is attractive?

  • Let students bring images of stars or advertisements from magazines to class. In small groups, let students answer the following questions: What do people depicted in these images have in common? Let the students compare these images to real people they know. How do they look different? What could be the reasons for this?

Make students aware that celebrities have a full-time job in looking the way they do. They have personal trainers, nutritionists, makeup artists, and other experts available to them. Point out that many celebrities and models are in fact anorexic and not healthy!

  • Demonstrate in class how digital image retouching works. Alternatively, compare images on websites before and after retouching.

Tip: For examples of before and after images, take the image manipulation quiz on

  • Compare different ideals of attractiveness, historically and cross-culturally. Alternatively, let older students do research on concepts of ideal beauty in different cultures or during different times and compare the results in class. Do interview projects with parents or grandparents to find out what was fashionable and beautiful when they were young (e.g. hairstyles, dress, make-up).

Tip: You can find a step-by-step lesson plan to develop a healthy body image at

2. Personality is not appearance: Focus on innate qualities and embrace difference

Make clear that

  • bodies come in various shapes and sizes, much of which is influenced by genetics.

  • it is normal to gain weight and experience physical changes during puberty.

  • it takes time to adjust to this "new body".

  • Emphasize that personality and appearance are not the same.

  • Show your concern for all students and treat them the same, regardless of their appearance.

  • Do not comment on a student’s size or weight.

  • Let students write down what they like about themselves, and which personality traits or talents make them unique.

  • Pair up students randomly and let them write down three personality traits they appreciate about the other person, then exchange these notes.

  • Establish respect as a ground rule in the classroom. This means that jokes or teasing about appearance are completely unacceptable.

Tip: If you notice that the same students tend not to be chosen for group activities, games, etc., it may be helpful to determine groups randomly (e.g. by drawing cards) rather than let students choose their teammates.

Did you know that …
research indicates that maturing much faster or slower than average can be problematic?
This is true for males and females. Late-maturing adolescents are commonly faced with lower social acceptance, which may contribute to the development of negative self-perceptions. In contrast, early maturing youths are often overwhelmed by high expectations regarding their behavior and responsibilities. Off-time maturing adolescents typically become self-conscious because they perceive differences between their peers and themselves, while it is really important to them to fit in. They are more likely to develop disorders such as anxiety or depression, to take drugs or alcohol, to engage in early sexual behavior, or to become delinquent (Rice and Dolgin, 2007).

Adolescent health

Despite their overall good health status, many adolescents are not making optimal choices regarding their own health. They may not get enough sleep, eat well, or exercise sufficiently. Such behavior is often influenced by poor examples in the media, or among friends and family. Furthermore, many youths share a perception of invulnerability and optimism. They believe that nothing bad could possibly happen to them, as their abilities to consider long-term effects of their behavior may not yet be fully developed (Rice & Dolgin, 2007) .

This is where you as a teacher come in ...

Recent research suggests that teachers can be an important influence on teenage health-related behavior. In a recent survey, seventy per cent of surveyed teachers mentioned being actively approached by students about health issues, irrespective of race or ethnicity. This means that many students view teachers as accessible, trustworthy, and knowledgeable in these topics (Cohall et al., 2007).

One area of concern is food and nutrition: “The school environment is an important venue for students to internalize healthy food practices through the types of food offered for consumption as specified by school policies, through delivery of knowledge related to making healthy food choices being included in the curriculum, and through observation and modeling of food choices made by teachers” (Rossiter, Glanmille, Taylor, & Blum, 2007, p. 698).

What you can do to aid in the development of healthy habits

  • Be a role model.

  • Establish healthy classroom food practices. For instance, do not reward your students with candy, and avoid selling unhealthy foods for fundraising purposes, if alternatives exist.

  • Speak up about unhealthy food choices offered in your school.

  • Prevent snacking during class.

  • Emphasize that food should be a nourishment, not a reward, or means to fight boredom or bad emotions.

  • Make clear that all foods can be part of healthy eating. No foods are off limits if they are eaten in moderate amounts.

  • Be knowledgeable about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Provide information about these topics, e.g. about food groups, nutrition values, food additives, allergies, etc.

  • Have students critically examine their food intake and compare it to recommended daily allowances.

  • Educate about the dangers of dieting and its negative effects on metabolism.

  • Shape awareness regarding eating disorders. Inform students about warning signs, dangers, and where to get help.

  • Create positive body images (see separate section) and emphasize that character/personality is not linked to appearance.
  • Promote exercise as a means to have fun, and stay fit and healthy, not as a tool to change the shape of one’s body.

  • Plan hands-on activities and research projects about food and nutrition.

Here are some ideas:

  • Bring different processed and raw foods to class. Classify them according to food groups. Compare nutrition values, ingredients, labels, serving sizes, etc.

  • Create healthy snacks or other finger foods in class and eat them together.

  • Calculate and compare which activities require how many calories.

  • Examine school food choices in regard to their nutritional value.

  • Research food production processes (e.g. bread, cheese, fruit, vegetables) to sharpen awareness of what is involved in such processes.

  • Research "world foods" (e.g., typical dishes, staples, etc.)

  • Research global issues regarding food, e.g. hunger, deforestation and meat production, genetically engineered foods, eating "local", etc.
  • Research ingredients listed on food labels.


    Increasing numbers of adolescents in the U.S. and other Western countries are severely overweight. This not only has a negative impact on adolescents’ self esteem and acceptance among peers, it is also associated with serious medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Obesity is thought to result from a combination of individual, genetic, and environmental influences (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). According to teachers working with adolescents, teasing and bullying are frequent problems encountered by overweight students.

    Some tips on how you can support overweight students

    • Treat all students equally and include them equally in class activities.

    • Do not comment on the physical appearance of your students.

    • Focus on the innate qualities and achievements of your students.

    • Make clear that there is no room for teasing or bullying in your classroom.

    • Promote healthy lifestyle choices. Emphasize the importance of healthy food choices and exercise.

    However, keep this recommendation by an interviewed teacher in mind:

    “Do not overemphasize the topics of food intake and exercise in class because it can unintentionally place overweight students at the center of attention. Often overweight students are unhappy and sensitive about their size and may perceive these topics as directed at them. They may think that discussing these topics in class is a means to address them. Furthermore, for overweight students it can be frustrating to hear the same well-intentioned advice over and over again because it reminds them of their apparent ‘faults’.”

    Eating Disorders

    Some adolescents become so obsessed with their appearance that they develop eating disorders. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating, or shape control issues such as muscle dysmorphia, an obsession about not being muscular enough. While sufferers are predominately female, these issues become increasingly problematic for male adolescents as well, who are estimated to account for up to 15 percent of sufferers (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008). This handbook will focus on anorexia nervosa and bulimia, the most common and arguably the most dangerous of these disorders.

    Some common warning signs for eating disorders

    • Preoccupation with food, food intake, calories, dieting, etc.

    • Changes in body weight, e.g. rapid weight loss

    • Excessive exercising

    • Anxiety about being fat, regardless of weight, and distorted image of own body, e.g. lamenting about “being fat”

    • Preparing food for other people

    • Lying about food intake

    • Numerous trips to the bathroom, particularly directly after meals

    • Feeling cold irrespective of actual temperature

    • Inability to focus

    • Paleness, dizziness

    • In girls: loss of menstrual periods

    !!! Keep in mind that
    a sufferer does not necessarily appear underweight or even "average" to suffer any of these signs and symptoms!!!

    Some facts about anorexia nervosa

    • Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa are preoccupied about food intake and body weight, while at the same time being severely underweight.

    • Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening disorder which can cause numerous serious medical conditions. Over 10 percent of anorectics ultimately die from this disease. It is estimated that up to three percent of adolescent girls suffer from this disorder, and research indicates that the number of adolescents suffering from this disorder have been increasing over the last decades (Valois, R. F., Zullig, K. J., Huebner, E. S., & Dran, J. W., 2003).


    Bulimia is an eating disorder which consists of episodes of binge-eating and subsequent purging. Like anorectics, bulimic individuals are overly concerned about their weight. However, unlike anorexics, individuals suffering from bulimia are typically within normal weight ranges, or they are overweight. Up to three per cent of adolescent girls may suffer from bulimia (Valois, R. F., Zullig, K. J., Huebner, E. S., & Dran, J. W., 2003).

    What causes eating disorders?

    Individuals suffering from eating disorders often have negative images of themselves and low self-esteem, and cannot fulfill the perfectionist standards they have established for themselves (Rice & Dolgin, 2005).

    Current research links eating disorders to family structures. Anorexic individuals often have a controlling, overprotective family background, while bulimics are often from families where attractiveness, achievement, and success are highly valued (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). A recent study suggests that a perceived lack of communication within the family, particularly with fathers, as well as perfectionism and perceived lack of control may contribute to the development of eating disorders. According to Miller-Davis and Marks (2006) eating disorders express a desire to be “perfect, in control, and conforming to perceived ideals” (p. 161) in order to be recognized.

    In their own words: Victims of eating disorders talk about the reasons for their disorders

    "I was a very unattractive child and was reminded about it all the time. I found much pleasure in eating. It made me feel good. When I became an adolescent, I started gaining weight. I heard the comments and the giggles. I was the one girl who was left standing at dances. I was the one who was bypassed for teams."


    “I think that the single most important thing is the way society, and the media portray body image. We are given the message, over and over and over, that if you are not attractive, forget it, you are a loser. And attractive means thin. All of us are not blessed with genetics that support that size, so we suffer untold agonies to try to be what we are not intended to be. The message is reinforced by all around us. My parents never bugged me about my weight, except I liked it when they were concerned that I was too skinny. Maybe I was looking for attention from them. They had their own problems, my dad was an alcoholic, and my mum was trying to cope with that and four kids. Men certainly pay a lot more attention to you when you are skinny. I know, I've been from fat to skinny, and back and forth. Right now I am on the heavier side, not really fat, but I sure feel it. I know that people like me for more than how I look, but it's hard to be with people when I feel like this! I feel so gross, and ugly about myself.”


    "What could have been done to prevent my ed [eating disorder]? Everything. My parents shouldn't have forced me to sit at the table until I ate everything from the time I could consume solid food on.(I never would, I was to stubborn. This was the only battlefield at my house on which I could win). My athletic director shouldn't have taken our body fat every 3 months, and put us down for it. If I hadn't been such an overachiever and perfectionist. If people acted like shocked smartasses if I decided I didn't want to run for class officer, or join some other club. If my grandmother wouldn't have been so upset when I was on Homecoming court, but didn't win. If I hadn't passed out from drinking when I was 16, and found my boyfriend of 2 years doing things to me I refused to do when I was conscious. If my father hadn't told me in a fit of rage one night I was the cause of his problems with my mother. My boyfriend going around school and telling everyone I was a good f---. Maybe all of these are simplistic, and should just be brushed off. Maybe since I know the roots of my problems I should be able to heal myself, or get help. But I can't do that. So I stick my finger down my throat."


    What you can do when you suspect that a student suffers from an eating disorder

    • Talk privately to the student and explain why you are concerned. This requires a great amount of sensitivity and empathy.

    • Throughout the conversation, show your care, concern and interest. Do not promise confidentiality if you cannot keep it, e.g. due to school policies.

    • Let the student respond and listen. Avoid judgment.

    • If your concerns are confirmed, propose that further evaluation of the issue is in order. Convince the student that eating disorders are difficult to overcome on one’s own and to seek professional help.

    • Refer the student to appropriate services.

    • Follow up with the student.
    • Do not give advice on food, dieting, or exercise, or comment on appearance or weight.

    Keep in mind that “ Throughout the process of detection, referral, and recovery, the focus should be on the person feeling healthy and functioning effectively, not weight, shape, or morality” (Levine & Smolak 1994).