by Jen Dondero
This graphic adequately describes what many parents and teachers face when working with adolescent students. Their brains are processing so much information academically, socially and emotionally and it’s our job as their supporters and cheerleaders to find the best ways in which to support their growth and development. In order to help them, we need to understand how they process information and then use our knowledge to set them up for success. This is a time for rapid growth especially between the ages of 10-15. It is the greatest time of brain growth in human life. In addition to a rapid growth of neurons in the frontal lobe, puberty unleashes a hormonal wave, resulting in increased cognitive abilities and new and far more intense emotions. This may be way adolescents misinterpret 40% of emotions and instructions. Their brains are overwhelmed with taking in information, processing it and deciding how to act upon it and in dealing with all of that confusing information they make mistakes. Middle school students (and most people) retain 5-7 bits of information at a time. I remember this from my time in psych 101, which is why phone numbers are typically 7 digits long. We need to remember this when giving instructions and presenting information for note taking. It is important to allow time for them to process those 5-7 bits of information and then present the next task or set of information. So the next time you ask your son or daughter to take out the garbage, put their dinner dishes in the dishwasher, finish their homework assignment, take their laundry to their rooms AND put it away in the appropriate drawers, they may be overloaded with information and misinterpret your directions. The key word to adolescence is patience. Middle school is the learning ground for making better choices. Students are going to make mistakes, but mistakes provide the opportunity to grow and to learn. Middle school is a place to fall down, learn to take responsibility and to learn to get back up.
Which of these blurbs stands out the most to you? Are you surprised by any?