Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The Stirrings" - A comment on maturity

My co-teacher and I seem to have a particularly, how do you say this, young in their maturity, group of seventh graders. If you read this title and knew immediately what "The Stirrings" are, then you knew that we are reading Lois Lowry's The Giver. If you didn't know this, I will briefly explain.

The Giver is a story about a boy who lives in an allegedly utopian society. In this society that are tons and tons of rules and strange regulations that the people follow. The people in this society also have a "cure" or prevention medication for virtually everything, including what they call "the stirrings" - what we know as the first throws of puberty and simply being attracted to others. In the novel the main character has his first stirrings in the form of a dream. In the book the character has to describe his dream in detail to his family as part of a morning ritual. He describes his desires and feelings for a friend of his, a young girl, to take off her clothes and get into a bathtub so that he can bathe her. She laughingly refuses.

This description caused an uproar of discomfort and horror in some of the students, let me change that to nearly all of the students. Mind you, these students are between the ages of 11 to 13, you would think they would know about these things, or try to act cool like they know about these things, or just do something other than cringe and say how "messed up" and "disgusting" it is. This rose a question - Is this saying something about their group morality or their group mentality?

Personally, I have concluded it is the latter. These students are in a unique situation. They attend an elementary/middle school where the majority of the students have attended the same school since it open when they were in the second grade. If you have known your classmates for the last six years, I feel that the sexual interest in the community would be rather low, and from what I have noticed there is not much discussion of crushes, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

I think that due to the fact that these students have not had the forced maturity increase that is caused by moving to a new school environment for middle school, or the experience of having new students, and therefore new opinions and expectations, brought into their learning environment, they have never had to change very much. Their maturity is only affected by each other and the teachers they see. This likely has an impact on why they dislike it when a teacher has higher or just different expectations of them than from the previous year. They have not had to change or mature very often.

It would be interesting to find out if this is true in other schools, I highly doubt it is just this one. I believe that maturity is a function of new interactions and change. When your youth is limited in these types of influences, it is hard to mature yourself, I think it is good to remember this when someday I am expecting a great difference from my students than their other teachers may have expected in their past.

That is the point right there isn't it - THEIR PAST. This is what influences and changes a student's learning style, what they can handle, what they will listen to, what they won't freak out about. I hope that we are able to move through "the stirrings" and they begin to understand why this is so controversial.

One other thing - it was impossible to make it through a paragraph where the word naked was used without fits of giggles or horror. It was hysterical. I am really glad that it happened to be my turn in my reading group when we got to that part. I think to hear a teacher say it made it even more crazy for the students. The students are just so funny.

1 comment:

  1. I think the response of your students was pretty normal for their stage of development. You check out the following link for some helpful information about adolescent development.