Under Construction: Helping HS Students Develop Their Adult Identities

As many of you know, last week we were fortunate to host our annual Fresh Take Conference. It was an intellectually stimulating day for all and we were honored to host over 300 educators and parents for this important day of sharing. If you read Juli’s blog, you will see that she also highlighted our keynote speaker, Michelle “Michelle in the Middle” Icard. Michelle wrote the book, Middle School Makeover, which is a tremendous resource for both parents and teachers. Juli hosted a book study with parents over at the middle school as it is filled with helpful hints as we try to understand our blossoming teenagers and the perspectives they bring to the table. We highly encourage parents of upperelementary and middle school students to check out this terrific book!

One phrase that Michelle used during her keynote really struck a chord with me as it is something that Connie and I, along with the entire High School staff, work on daily with our 9th through 12th graders. Michelle commented that one critical phase of the growing up process is that children have to grow into a young adults. Specifically, she said, “Kids need an adult brain, an adult body, and an adult identity to become adults. Teenagers have to develop an identity apart from their parents.” (Michelle Icard, Keynote Presenter at Fresh Take Conference, January, 2015)

Michelle hit this spot on! Our job as parents and teachers at the high school level is to help our students prepare for this transition into adulthood by giving them a lot of practice with problem solving, conflict resolution, self-advocating, decision making, and discussion with other adults. Once our children become eighteen, things change significantly. Doctors and professors no longer converse with parents as they direct their communication to these young adults. We are helping them hone their skills as young adults by allowing them to practice these skills in a high school environment that includes staff at school and parents at home to guide them when they fall short in these areas. We cannot wait to begin this process during the senior year of high school. I share this because we believe it is important that parents know and understand our intentions. The teenage years are fraught with parental worries as our children pull away from us as parents leaving us feeling unsettled and uninformed. Believe me when I say that I know that journey first hand as a parent myself. Please know that we always have our doors (and email inboxes) open for your questions. We are happy to communicate and keep you informed as partners. However, we don’t want that communication to take place in lieu of our communication with students. The High School staff is dedicated to having personal conversations with students that help them grow as adults. That is a big part of our job at the high school level and we consider it to be a significant responsibility. Connie and I often comment that we are grateful that our parents are willing to get into the “mucky mess” with us in this process. We know as parents that this is a tough transition for us all! We hold that trust close to our hearts and are honored to be on this journey with you and your growing young adult children. These CSD High School students are amazing young people already! I wish you could witness what we witness on a daily basis!

One other important thing I want to point out is that these conversations with students come with no judgment. We do not expect our students to have perfected these adult skills. They are supposed to make mistakes and it is our job (along with parents) to let them know that these mistakes are the best teachers in life! Every student is in the process of learning and we do not ever expect perfection! I promise you that the outcome is well worth the time and the effort that we all give to this process. By the time our students leave us after senior year, they literally take my breath away.

I will leave you with the wise words of one of our senior students. When asked recently (with no warning I might add) by an open house parent visitor, “What does this life-long learning mean?” Our amazing CSD student replied, “I can’t imagine not learning forever. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t evolving as a person.” Connie and I were beaming with pride as, yet again, a CSD student said it better than anyone could! Touche’! Another senior student, while presenting at our Fresh Take Conference, said, “You cannot quantify relationships!” I close with these words as I think they are the perfect reminder that the relationships we have with our students and parents are what allow us to collaborate as partners and create an environment that allows students to blossom into amazing young adults…..with extraordinary young adult identities! Thank you for being our partners on this journey! Have a great February!

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