Adolescence in the Time of COVID-19: Building an Identity Focused Online Environment

By Karis Lee, Juliana Salcedo, Jack Wren, & Lily Zhang

Highlights:

  • Adolescents explore different identities as they begin to figure out who they are and want to be.
  • Identity development is impacted by one’s social environment including family, peers, community, and online activities.
  • Even with the switch to online learning, adults can implement strategies to support students’ identity development.
Source: Curry School of Education & Human Development

Identity development in adolescents begins with their personal backgrounds and changes as adolescents encounter new experiences, ideas, environments, and people. Adolescents begin to answer “who am I?” by thinking about themselves in various contexts and from different perspectives. Adolescents may identify themselves in many ways such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and family. Younger adolescents are more sensitive to external feedback whereas older adolescents learn to hold stronger identity stances and consider themselves in broader contexts. There are many ways to navigate identity formation during adolescence that are relevant to education and distance learning. 

Why Identity Development is Important in Adolescence

According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, adolescence (ages 13-19) marks stage five of development and is key in the lifelong process of identity construction. During this period, individuals grapple with identity versus role confusion, and they focus on organizing their skills, interests, and values into a core sense of self. These tasks are also supported by key changes that occur in the brain during this time period, such as abstract processing, consideration of multiple perspectives and possibilities, and the reasoning of truths. Adolescents engage in the identity “search process,” in which they explore different identities and eventually commit and follow through. Adolescents spend a significant amount of time in school so peers and curriculum both play crucial roles during this search process. Since many students are engaging in distance learning at the moment, peer-interactions, online activities, and community support are elements educators must consider when building an identity-based learning environment. 

Adolescence is also the period in which individuals process their beliefs and attitudes about their ethnic-racial identity (ERI) membership. ERI is multidimensional, and it is impacted by how one’s racial identity is regarded by others, how identities are formed based on racial beliefs (or how a group “should” act), and the internal reconciliation of these various perspectives. It can be a combination of the maturity of one’s self-perception and the broader contexts that affect that self-perception. According to William Cross’s model of ERI development, a racial or ethnic “encounter” often catalyzes one’s processing. The “encounter” and how that impacts students’ ERI is especially important to keep in mind, as it could be affected by both the move to online classes and the current Black Lives Matter movement.

Adolescents Shifting to an Online Environment

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the move online may affect adolescents’ identity development  by restricting their autonomy. In-person school can provide a needed environment in which students can engage in the identity search process, where they can “try on” different identities without familial identity constraints or pressures. For example, schools can provide a needed social outlet for  LGBTQ students to learn about their sexual or gender identity. Online learning, however, constricts students to their home environments and thus limits the search process. Students may not feel as comfortable exploring their identity with the influence of their parents and their parent’s beliefs surrounding them as they are learning.

In an online learning environment, teachers can continue to support identity development through assignments that have students engage with their interests. Teachers will likely need to rely on parents and families to engage with students through this process. However, not all students have the same access to resources at home so flexibility should be a guiding principle.

Building an Identity Focused Online Environment

Here are some suggestions for building a identity focused online learning environment that teachers could consider:

  • Have students read books that are of interest to them and form reading circles to share.
  • Create playlists of music, podcasts, or documentaries that relate to class material and introduce students to new ideas and perspectives.
  • Encourage students and parents to work together to engage with their community by walking around to historical sites and landmarks, or exploring historical sites online. Students can use this activity to talk with parents and/or other family members about their own identity. 
  • Have students reflect on current global and social events, such as the role of social media during COVID-19, being GenZ, the Black Lives Matter movement and Supreme Court cases.
  • Continue school-sponsored activities online so students have the opportunity to stay connected with others and gain support for organizations that are important for identity development.
  • Provide flexibility and freedom when doing identity-based work so that students are not constricted by labels. 
  • Cultivate cognitive routines with a set of prompts allowing the teacher to guide the activity rather than directly transfer knowledge (this helps students to develop their own opinions and think for themselves).Use prompts such as: “What was the biggest surprise?” or “I used to think ____. But now I think ___.” It is important to let students showcase their interests and knowledge!

In sum, the school environment plays a crucial role in adolescents’ exploration of identity, and their interactions both inside and outside the classroom help them answer the key “who am I?” question. It’s important for teachers to be aware of how the transition to online learning can impact this exploration and develop class strategies that allow students to continue engaging with the identity search process.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Juliana Salcedo is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education and Human Development working on her master’s in teaching for secondary science education. She is a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in Biology and Chemistry.


Author Bio: Karis Lee is a student at the Curry School of Education working towards her masters in teaching secondary language arts. She is a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, where she studied English and history.


Author Bio: Lily Zhang is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education and Human Development working on her master’s in teaching for secondary English education. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019 with degrees in English and Psychology.


Author Bio: Jack Wren is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education working on a master’s in teaching for secondary Mathematics education.  He recently graduated from UVA in May 2020 with a degree in Mathematics.

Reflections on Youth Voice, this Historical Moment, and Dialoging for Democracy

By Symia Stigler & Kaitlin Nichols

Highlights:

  • After attending the Dialoging for Democracy conference, members of City Year national staff reflect on the last eight months.
  • Lifting up youth’s voices and allowing them to speak their truths is essential, especially in the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Supporting young people’s voices leads to transformative citizenship, even in the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: City Year

In November of 2019, Youth-Nex hosted a conference on “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice” in Charlottesville, VA. I was thrilled to be attending with three City Year colleagues and looked forward to exploring how the topic might support and stretch our service ideas rooted in social justice and transformative citizenship. 

What we did not know when we entered the double doors of the UVA Alumni Hall is that in the subsequent 195 days, George Floyd would be killed and that killing would be recorded and replayed on television, social media and in the minds of every conscious human. The shock and horror after 8 minutes and 46 seconds and the last cries of “I can’t breathe” stunned the world. However, this time, in place of recurring silence and deliberately closed eyes, thundering masses of citizens across the globe raised their collective voices and loudly proclaimed, “Black Lives Matter!”  

Given our current social and physical reality, the conference topic from eight months earlier, “Dialoging for Democracy”, still resonates with me, as does the words of the organizers who spoke at the conference.  

During the welcome, Dr. Johari Harris, a Research Assistant Professor at the Curry School of Education and Human Development asked, “How do youth process complex moral and social issues?” She asked attendees to consider how that processing changes as young people grow and develop. Over the course of two days panelists, youth and community organizers shared examples from research, policy, and practice to address these grounding questions. At the conclusion, Dr. Harris reiterated that…

The best way to support positive youth development in African American adolescents is through a strength-based approach which builds on their cultural backgrounds, while keeping their powerful and unique voices at the forefront of the conversation.  

In my role as national director of student engagement at City Year, I design and pilot social-emotional learning and development (SEL/D) resources that our City Year AmeriCorps Members use every day in their work as near-peer mentors. AmeriCorps Members partners with teachers to co-create positive learning environments and customize small group tutoring sessions for students in systemically under-resourced schools. Our SEL/D supports are grounded in relationships, which I believe are the most powerful lever in K-12 education. The trust and connections built between students and AmeriCorps Members, over time, prove fertile soil for social-emotional and academic growth. Each day of the school year, City Year AmeriCorps members support students as they lift their voices and speak their truths. When young people engage as equal contributors in classrooms and communities, their voices are elevated, their courage is unveiled, and their perspective and perpetual energy create momentum, demanding positive change in our world.  

-Symia Stigler, National Director of Student Engagement, City Year


Source: City Year

Having served as a City Year AmeriCorps member, I have seen firsthand the amazing things that can come from young people’s voices being at the table.

  • I saw it when a group of 7th grade students had the great idea to host a city-wide toy drive for the local children’s hospital and had their City Year team help make it happen.
  • I saw it when we heard our students wanting to do lessons in the concrete courtyard by our classroom, so we led a service project with the students to plant flowers, paint benches, and beautify the courtyard.
  • I saw it when we created interactive bulletin boards outside our classroom that students could add their voices to connected with a monthly theme – anything from honoring a loved one impacted by breast cancer, to writing a valentine for a Black person in history who made a difference in our world, to sharing tips for self-care leading up to the next standardized test.
  • I saw it in the one-on-one relationships, when my teammate worked closely with one of her students to help him apply for summer jobs he was interested in, and when my other teammate intentionally gave special attention to her student suffering the recent loss of her younger brother.
  • I saw it when my students helped me understand how to best meet their learning needs: when one student shared that using different colors helped her concentrate, we worked on reading comprehension with lots of highlighters; and when another student shared he preferred to read over breakfast, we ate together before discussing what we read.

And I’ve been seeing it now – when schools closed abruptly in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, our City Year AmeriCorps members stepped up to creatively connect with their students in the virtual space. Our young adult leaders have continued supporting these near-peer relationships by replicating viral video dances, recording videos assuring their students that they are still thinking of them, and coming up with thoughtful prompts and activities for students to engage in distance learning.

Participating in the Dialoging for Democracy conference alongside my City Year colleagues was a rich learning experience, and it was affirming to be able to hear from researchers and practitioners about the evidence base for the activities our young adult leaders are doing with their students every day. Now more than ever, it is important it is to uplift, celebrate, and listen to the voices of our young people – and embrace all the good that can come from it.

-Kaitlin Nichols, Sr. Impact Services Operations Manager, City Year
City Year Alumni ‘13, ‘14


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Symia Stigler brings over twenty years of field experience from education and youth-serving non-profits to her role as National Student Engagement Director at City Year Headquarters. In this position, Symia leads our work on upgrading or improving the network-wide Attendance, Social-Emotional/Youth Development, and After School tools and strategies. Symia is motivated by the power of relationships which are leveraged to forge new paths towards social justice in education.

Author Bio: Kaitlin Nichols currently serves as the Senior Impact Services Operations Manager at City Year Headquarters in Boston, managing operations and projects for our national group of program departments. Prior to joining City Year staff, Kaitlin completed two years of service with City Year Columbia as an AmeriCorps Member and Team Leader, serving middle and elementary school students across two school districts in South Carolina.  

What the School of COVID-19 Could Teach You About Strong Communities

By Mary Coleman

Highlights:

  • Mary Coleman is executive director at City of Promise, a nonprofit that provides cradle-to-college academic support for youth from Charlottesville.
  • As the coronavirus changes everyday life, the new “School of COVID-19” is exposing the resilience may families already have.
  • Many youth-serving individuals and organizations are recognizing the strong coping strategies already in our communities.
Source: Carrie Coleman

Schools may be closed throughout the country, but the “School of COVID-19” is hosting classes every day. What is the pandemic teaching those of us who serve youth? More importantly, how can we apply those lessons now and long after the emergency has passed?

As executive director at City of Promise, these questions loom upon my staff and me in our service to children and families in Charlottesville. Our program – modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone – has always depended upon in-person, on-the-street, and at-school engagement with youth. Moving to virtual academic coaching and mentoring was a painful transition, especially for staff with children at home who also need care and attention. The “School of COVID-19” forced us to dig deep to find the same kind of resilience we expect of the families we serve. The tables have turned. Those children and their parents are now our master teachers in the “School of COVID-19.”

For example, while the rest of us scramble and cry in the face of job loss and personal disruption, low-income persons draw from the strength they have built over time. The sad truth is, they have been here before. They have filed for unemployment before. They have relied on the food bank before. They have waited by the mailbox for government checks before.

While the rest of us complain about our hair salons being shuttered, black families carry on. They have been doing hair in the kitchen forever. Surviving without childcare or grandparents on call is tough, but it’s a daily reality for moms in our neighborhood. Can’t go anywhere because you’re sheltered in place? This is what it feels like for families who don’t have cars.

And what about virtual learning? Welcome to the world of those who always feel overwhelmed by their kid’s homework. COVID-19 is teaching us that being thrown into financial and personal uncertainty wears people down and creates household chaos that makes learning difficult. Coronavirus has taught us that Maslow was right: when basic needs are threatened, confidence and creativity are suppressed (read more about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

Those of us who find this stress new and overwhelming can turn what we are feeling into fresh resolve in our advocacy work by acknowledging the inner strength of the youth we serve.

Those who regularly face trauma and disruption show up to our after-school programs willing to engage. They never let on about how hard it is to jump through our hoops. Just the other day, one of our pathway coaches led a virtual session with a 6th grader who – determined to find a quiet place in her cramped public-housing unit – chose the floor next to the commode. This kid deserves our respect. She could write a book about “grit.”

And what about the parents? I spoke with a mom who came to City of Promise for the cleaning products and Kroger cards we distribute each Friday (thanks to donations restricted for COVID-19 relief). With a smile, she narrated the pride she felt because the trials of coronavirus haven’t plunged her into depression like they may have in the past. My eyes burned with tears as I realized that I focus too much on how far these parents have to go, instead of seeing how far they’ve come. This mom taught me a lesson about my own deficit thinking.

I’m sure many of us can admit that COVID-19 has exposed just how far we have to go as youth-serving individuals and organizations. It has exposed our lack of empathy. It has exposed our resignation that some children just don’t ever have internet or food on the weekend. It has exposed our complacency regarding a multitude of inequities and broken systems that make life difficult for the people we are trying to help. But if we are willing, we can learn from those very same people. They have so much to teach us. And we have so much to learn.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Mary Coleman is executive director at City of Promise, a nonprofit that provides cradle-to-college academic support for youth living in the 10th and Page, Westhaven, and Starr Hill communities in Charlottesville. A fundraiser by profession, Mary served from 2005 to 2012 as Director of Donor Relations at Woodberry Forest School in Madison County, Virginia. Later, as Director of Institutional Advancement at The Covenant School in Charlottesville, Mary managed fundraising, parent programs, marketing, and alumni relations. In 2017, Mary became development director at City of Promise where she raised the profile of the organization in Charlottesville. Mary is a trauma and resilience trainer through the Greater Charlottesville Trauma-Informed Community Network.

Black American Parenting During the CoViD-19 Crisis

By Valerie Adams-Bass

I am a parent and an assistant professor who teaches an introductory course about humanitarian crises and children, Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE). What we are experiencing with CoViD-19, is a humanitarian crisis. The CoVid-19 pandemic has caused an abrupt shift in the “normal day” and has brought challenges to all of us. In times of crisis (humanitarian), the needs of children and youth are often the last to be attended. While the global community appears to have been a bit better about considering the needs of children at the forefront vs. later in this crisis, we haven’t been super great at utilizing systems or putting systems in place swiftly here in the US. Even more so, the needs of Black Americans are often the last to be attended. To assist with coping particularly for  Black Americans whose higher contraction rates of CoViD-19 and morbidity related fatality is only now being publicly acknowledged, stay in side, hang out with your children and try some of these suggestions to help you during this dynamic and challenging period in your parenting and in our lives.

Source: In the Know Blog

Many parents are now at home parenting 24/7 and attempting to maintain a FT job that helps to keep the lights on, the mortgage or rent paid and the refrigerator full. Other parents are on the front lines and have limited time to have hands-on oversight. Whether you are at home 24/7 or you are setting up your home for your children while you are at work, it doesn’t matter how many children you have at home, I don’t take for granted that all parents and adults know what to do now that our children are home ALL day every day. I include in this list simple tips and strategies for integrating the awe-inspiring resilience of African Americans who generationally have had to overcome crises too often associated with being Black in America. The deterioration of Black communities have impacted how we think and transfer skills and knowledge to our children that is protective and models how “we got over”, but now is a time to reintroduce and practice those strategies. Our care for our children should be infused with our ways of being and our care for ourselves.

  1. Breathe, deeply. When you breathe deep you allow oxygen to reach your brain and you release tension. Your brain needs the oxygen to function at ideal levels. Deep, long breathes are also restorative and centering. When we breathe deeply we can also feel our body.
  2. Pray, meditate. Both mother wit and research have demonstrated faith is a protective factor for Black Americans! It helps with healing during sickness, with ailments and is calming. Spiritual or religious practice involve prayer or meditating on what is good and well. In spite of what is occurring, Black people historically rely on faith to get through difficult periods. Don’t, DO NOT let go of this practice. If you don’t already, include your children in your faith practices. I have a toddler. Sometimes she is in the mood to pray or practice gratitude, sometimes she isn’t. Today I found her in her room praying on her own, praying and expressing thanks to God. Works for me!
  3. Express gratitude for those who came before you and made a way. Look to what they did for strength and practical ideas to get through. If you have living family members who can tell you how “they made it” through segregation, the civil rights movement, serving in the military, or being the “first” in their field, now is the time to listen up. Black Americans have had to manage marginalization and acute societal contractions in the United States differently every time we have an occurrence. Call to ask, call, don’t text. Remember, telephones were made for talking. If you don’t have blood relatives to connect with, who are close friends and family you could reach out to for this conversation? A worry for many parents is the lack of inter-generational knowledge-again here is a space to invite your children into this conversation. Learning about how others they know have handled difficulties will likely prove useful for them as they learn about culturally based coping strategies. High school and college seniors, are understandably disappointed with the status of graduation celebrations this year. How might their perspective change if they heard family stories of resilience and persistence when public celebrations and appreciations of academic accomplishments for Black students were non-existent due to circumstance or could only be private and intimate? Turn these interviews into family histories. Tell our stories as keepers of our own culture.

There are 12 additional tips and strategies for Black American parents on the original post from the In The Know Blog.

This blog was also cross posted on Successful Black Parenting.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Valerie Adams-Bass is a developmental psychologist who earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She focuses on adolescent development. Dr. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of Youth and Social Innovations in the Department of Human Services at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. She is a faculty affiliate with the Youth-Nex and an affiliate faculty member of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Pennsylvania.

How to Teach Your Kids When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

By Andrew D. Kaufman

As the COVID-19 threat wreaks havoc on our lives, all of us are coping with the utterly unpredictable and traumatic circumstances as best as we can. For parents, in particular, who have been thrust into the role of a full-time stay-at-home mom and/or dad and full-time teacher, this new world is especially terrifying.

Source: Andrew Kaufman Blog

John Dewey, the famous educational philosopher and founder of experiential learning, said that “All genuine learning comes through experience.” And, thanks to COVID-19, just about every household in our country has just become an experiential learning classroom

As a parent with a seven-year-old and four-year-old now at home full-time, I know what it feels like. I’m also a teacher with a background in experiential learning, a teaching philosophy that puts students face-to-face with real life and then guides them through the process of learning from those experiences. 

A decade ago, I started teaching a class called Books Behind Bars at the University of Virginia, where my students meet regularly with youth at a juvenile correctional center to have deep conversations about Russian literature. 

It was an experiment. Such a course had never been attempted before. There were no roadmaps and no guarantees of success. What success would even look like was unclear. It was if I were attempting to build the Mayflower while sailing on it toward a destination I wasn’t even sure existed.

Sound familiar?

Many of the principles of experiential learning apply to the situation faced by parents across the country right now, so here are a few of my recommendations to help you navigate this new reality.

If you’re a parent, you’re already a teacher.

There’s a mystique surrounding the word “teacher,” but don’t let yourself become intimidated by the term. Some of the greatest teachers I’ve had never worked in any kind of formal classroom in their lives. They were the people I encountered growing up who were patient, cared for my well-being, motivated me to be better, encouraged me to take risks, taught me not by words but by example, and truly listened to me. Take heart in the fact that you’ve already been using these effective teaching methods for years. It’s called being a parent. 

Don’t teach by lecture, listen.

Active listening is probably a teacher’s greatest tool. Listening deeply to what another person tells us allows them to listen to themselves, to access their own creativity, and to find their own solutions—which will teach them more in the long run than anything you could possibly tell them. In order words, don’t feel like you have to lecture at your kids to teach them. 

Do the exact opposite by staying present and being curious. Ask them questions you truly want to know the answers to, not the ones you already have the answer to. Listen to them as you’ve never listened before, and they will learn more from this experience than ten hours of lecturing could ever give them. 

Co-create the curriculum with your son or daughter.

From day one of my Books Behind Bars class I told my university students that we would be co-creating this class together. I needed them just as much as they needed me in order to make it work. Those weren’t just inspirational words—they were the truth, and it took a lot of pressure off of me as a teacher. Approaching your new job as a homeschooling parent in a similar spirit will remove the pressure from you, as well. 

Sit down with your child. Ask them what they are interested in, what they would like to learn more about, what inspires them, what would they like to do? Listen to the answer without judgment. If they tell you that they want to run around outside all day in your yard and play Gaga ball with their younger brother, work with that. Go on the internet with them and learn about Gaga ball. If your child can read, then have them do the research themselves. Reading lesson accomplished.

As for math, ask them to find out the recommended size of a Gaga ball field. Do you have enough space in your yard to accommodate that? It’s a multiplication problem. If your child wants to play Gaga ball badly enough, he’ll do the math. And you do it with him.

Have your child teach you.

It’s okay that you’re figuring this out together. You don’t need to be a know-it-all. In fact, you shouldn’t be a know-it-all. Consider yourself lucky that your child is interested in a subject you know nothing about. Have her teach you about the subject. Not only will you learn something, but she will learn even more. 

As every teacher knows, you learn a subject the best when you’re trying to teach it to someone else, so turn your child into the teacher. Have her teach you one new thing about her favorite subject each day. Not only will this take the pressure off you, it will fill her with a sense of pride. And she’ll learn her favorite subject like she’s never learned it before. 

Forget perfectionism.

Perfectionism in teaching, as in everything else, is the enemy of the good. To give you a personal example: Like thousands of other college faculty across the country, I was recently told by my administration that I had to take my courses online within a week.  

The very core of Books Behind Bars—relationships between my university students and the correctional center students—will likely cease suddenly and completely. I don’t mean just the face-to-face relationships. I mean the relationships, period. The correctional center students are not allowed to have access to technology, so virtual teleconferencing isn’t a possibility. And after the semester is over, the so-called “no-contact rule” prevents further contact between the two groups of students for five years.

Imagine how traumatic this is all for the students on both sides. 

If I set myself the goal of creating an awesome class through all this, I’m doomed and so are my students. Some college administrations are putting pressure on faculty to maintain the same high standards in the online version of our courses that they expect us to have in the traditional classroom format. Such pressure is not only unethical but ludicrous, when people have mountains of pressure on them already. 

Now is not the time to be a perfect parent or a perfect teacher. Now is the time to radically adjust our expectations, and give one another—and ourselves—permission to be human and imperfect. 

Your most important teaching goal right now should be the well-being of your child.

There’s a saying in teaching circles that you start with the student, not the subject. This is more true now than ever.

The most important thing that should be on your mind in this traumatic moment is the well-being of your child. 

I am continually reminding my university students right now that my number one concern is their well-being first, their learning second. Imagine what college students must be going through at this moment. Some of them are be living at home, taking care of ailing parents, looking for work, and still trying to keep up with their studies. It’s insane. My students aren’t thinking about Tolstoy or Dostoevsky right now. They’re thinking about real things, big things, life things. 

If my students take nothing more from my class in five years than the knowledge of how to care and be cared for in a time of trauma, then this semester will have been a success. It will have taught them something invaluable.

The same is true for your child. If throughout this traumatic period they don’t learn one thing about math or reading, but learn instead that their parents love them deeply and are always there for them, then consider yourself a success as a teacher. 

Godspeed. 

Read the original post on Dr. Kaufman’s personal blog.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: A nationally recognized expert on teaching innovation and service-learning, Dr. Andrew Kaufman is currently an Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia. He supports faculty and teachers across the country in creating profound learning experiences that change the way students think, act, and feel, while making important contributions to their communities.

Teaching through Relationships

By Theresa Pfister

Source: The BOLD Blog

It was my first month of teaching and it wasn’t going particularly well. A native Midwesterner, I laughed loudly and smiled easily, two of the worst possible things a new teacher could do.

“Your lesson was good,” my coach told me, “but you’re coming off as too warm. Too friendly.”

“I—”

“They’re going to walk all over you.”

“I—”

“You’re here to teach them, right?”

I nodded.

“Then stop trying to be their friend, and be their boss.”

Read more of this post on the Blog on Learning & Development (BOLD).

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Theresa Pfister is a PhD student at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on adolescence, the importance of relationships, and equity. An educator first and foremost, she believes deeply in the importance of working in partnership with schools, communities, and students and using research as a tool to empower others.

Dialoging for Democracy, the 7th Youth-Nex Conference

By Johari Harris

Highlights:

  • Youth-Nex hosted their 7th conference in November 2019.
  • The title of the conference was “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice.”
  • Co-chair Dr. Johari Harris discusses why this conference was chosen and what participants got from attending.

The Unite the Right White Nationalist march that took place in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12th 2017 demonstrated the resiliency and inherent violence of White supremacy. In the time since, this nation has continued to see a rise in hate crimes directed at different, often marginalized, communities within the United States. These events run parallel to larger conversations about justice and human welfare happening both in the U.S. and abroad. From immigration to global warming, people are grappling with what solutions to these problems should look like. While these issues and subsequent conversations are often viewed as “best left to the adults,” events like March for Our Lives, the Global Climate Strike, and A Day Without Immigrants demonstrate the vested interest today’s youth have in these and other moral issues and the health of our overall democracy.

We at Youth-Nex wholeheartedly support these efforts. Further, we believe that, rather than overlooking the concerns of youth, our educational and policy systems should center youth in the process of understanding complex problems by paying attention to how youth think about these issues and how adults can support youth’s engagement in creating solutions to them. I had the wonderful opportunity to co-chair the 7th Youth-Nex conference on “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice” with Dr. Nancy Deutsch (Director of Youth-Nex) in November 2019. 

We realized during the planning of this, however, that there are key questions we must consider as we seek to support and collaborate with youth.

First, how does youth’s thinking about complex moral and social issues shift as they grow and change? What does the science of child and adolescent development tell us about how to best scaffold youth’s engagement with moral issues and how do we then engender civic engagement among youth? Second, what is the role of dialogue in this process? What are best practices for engaging youth in moral issues? Finally, how do we engage youth in moral issues in our current social and political climate? In particular, how do we do this work within K-13 spaces, both formal and informal educational settings?

To begin answering these questions, the conference looked closely at the developmental processes related to how youth think about moral issues, the power (and constraints) of dialogue, and the relationship of both of these constructs to democracy. Importantly and intentionally, we kept the structural issues youth face at the forefront of the conversation. There must be an understanding of macro-level forces, like systemic racism, that dictate the effectiveness and expression of individual agency. Therefore, we discussed how implicit and explicit issues of power cannot be divorced from the types of dialogue in which youth can engage. We unpacked the developmental process related to moral reasoning, empathy, civic engagement, and perspective taking, and provided examples of best practices of how to do this work in a range of spaces from classrooms to camps.

Our hope was that participants left the conference ready to return to their own spaces better equipped to amplify youth’s engagement with moral issues and social justice in ways that further their existing capacity as today’s change makers, and the future leaders of our democracy. You can watch video from all the sessions and many performances at the conference on the Youth-Nex youtube channel and our website.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Dr. Johari Harris is an Assistant Research Professor at the Curry School of Education and Human Development. Her work examines how social identities, specifically race and gender, along with cultural values systems, like Afro-centric values, influence African American adolescents social-emotional competencies. Her research is grounded in intersectionality, developmental psychology, and social psychology theories.

Special Journal Focuses on Civic Engagement, Moral Identity: Charlottesville’s Summer of 2017

We resume blogs about Positive Youth Development with a focus on the center’s three new core areas: a) Out-of-School Time; b) Educational Systems: Middle School; and c) Community Engagement: Civic and Political.

We start with the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue focus on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement. Nancy Deutsch penned the introduction, posted with the permission of the publisher, which shines a light on the events that transpired in Charlottesville over the summer of 2017.

Introduction to the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement

As our editorial team was putting together this issue, our home, Charlottesville, Virginia, was still reeling from the events of the summer of 2017. Images of angry White, mostly male, faces holding tiki torches and weapons, wearing white polo shirts and khakis, chanting fascist and racist slogans were still fresh in our minds. Many of these faces were young; the leaders were under 40. The man charged with killing Charlottesville community member Heather Heyer, who was one of the counter protestors on August 12, was 20 years old. For those of us who study young people, these images could seem to signify a crisis of civic engagement—a reflection of youth whose disengagement from the moral fabric of our society was so great as to lead them to a White supremacist movement that advocates violent hatred.

Yet that is not the full Charlottesville story. On the evening of August 11, 2017, a group of students from the University of Virginia faced down a mob of tiki torch wielding White supremacists who had marched across the school’s campus. The students linked arms, surrounding the statue of Thomas Jefferson that sits at the heart of campus, in front of a sign proclaiming “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” These students took the ultimate civic stand—putting their bodies in harm’s way to defend the values that we hold dear. Members of the antifascist movement, whom some clergy members credit with saving their lives during the protests on August 12, are also primarily young people. Furthermore, for weeks, months, and even years before the August events, local youth had been working within our community to organize for racial and social justice. It was a high school student who started the petition to have the confederate statues removed from our local parks. Local high school students started a Black Student Association and an organization to help undocumented students. Their story is one of civic and moral engagement of the highest caliber.

This fall, as I walked across campus every day, I was reminded of the courage and moral fortitude of our local youth. At the same time, I could not ignore the continued presence of White supremacy and the increasing public presence of hate groups across the globe, groups that often prey on disengaged young people for recruitment. The time for a developmental focus on youth civic and moral identity and engagement is now.

In line with our mission, and following that commitment, our editorial team decided to create a special issue featuring articles focused on civic engagement and moral identity. The four articles in this volume feature a range of perspectives from across the globe. Some consider contexts or interventions that may promote civic engagement, such as schools, service learning, and youth councils. Others consider the development of moral and/or civic identities. We felt that this topic was timely and deserving of a dedicated issue. We hope that you agree. And we hope that some day #Charlottesville can come to represent not the violent reemergence of hate groups in the United States but the power of youth civic engagement and moral identity, and the tremendous ability of young people to promote positive social change.

Nancy L. Deutsch
University of Virginia
Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development
Charlottesville, VA
nld7a@virginia.edu

Articles in the issue: (access depends on your individual or institutional permissions):

If Someone Asked, I’d Participate: Teachers as Recruiters for Political and Civic Participation
Rebecca Jacobsen, David Casalaspi
First Published October 24, 2016; pp. 153–186

Youth Civic Engagement: Do Youth Councils Reduce or Reinforce Social Inequality?
Astraea Augsberger, Mary Elizabeth Collins, Whitney Gecker, Meaghan Dougher
First Published January 4, 2017; pp. 187–208

Globalization and Moral Personhood: Dyadic Perspectives of the Moral Self in Rural and Urban Thai Communities
Jessica McKenzie
First Published October 9, 2016; pp. 209–246

Development of Adolescent Moral and Civic Identity Through Community Service: A Qualitative Study in Hong Kong
Huixuan Xu, Min Yang
First Published March 20, 2017; pp. 247–272

https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558418756524
Journal of Adolescent Research
2018, Vol. 33(2) 151–152
© The Author(s) 2018
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0743558418756524
journals.sagepub.com/home/jar
The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 33(2) 151–152, February/2018 published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved.

Series: Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes and Black Adolescent Identity III

This is the third post in a series based on Professor Valerie Adams-Bass‘ UVA class, “Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes And Black Adolescent Identity.”

Introduction by Valerie Adams-Bass, Ph.D.
TV talks. The characters we view on television shows and in movies speak to us through the written scripts and through the physical bodies of the characters. Media socialization—the exposure to mass communication (television, radio, internet, newspapers) messages, which teach people socially accepted behaviors that have: (a) a direct influence on cognitive ability and behavioral functioning, and (b) a mediating or facilitative indirect influence on learning (Adams & Stevenson, 2012), has been identified as a notable factor during adolescence. Arnett, 1995; Lloyd, 2002; Strasburger, Wilson & Jordan, 2014). Students in EDHS 3100, , are learning about the scripts that are associated with black media images and discussing the impact on African-American adolescents. Their blog entries reflect an understanding of the scripts viewed in television sitcoms, drama, reality shows, or movies and the potential impact of exposure to theses media images on viewers.


Boyz n the Hood
By Naana Ewool, UVA student

For this reaction paper, I chose to watch Boyz n the Hood. The film takes place in South Central Los Angeles, where a group of young friends navigate life within the gang culture that surrounds them. 10-year-old Tre Styles gets sent to live with his father, and viewers are exposed to the stark contrast in Tre’s life with his present and active father and his friends Ricky and Doughboy, half brothers living with their single mother. Throughout the film, Tre’s father Furious serves as a voice of reason, always lending a listening ear, sternly disciplining, and fiercely loving his only son. Doughboy, who from a young age begins stealing, spends time in and out of jail, and by 17 has joined a gang. Ricky becomes his high school’s number one running back and is easily his mother’s favorite child. Despite having a child out of wedlock with his live-in girlfriend, Ricky is presented as a responsible and noble young man, unlike his excessively violent and angry brother.

Continue reading

Series: Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes and Black Adolescent Identity II

This is the second post in a series based on Professor Valerie Adams-Bass‘ UVA class, “Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes And Black Adolescent Identity.”

Introduction by Valerie Adams-Bass, Ph.D.
TV talks. The characters we view on television shows and in movies speak to us through the written scripts and through the physical bodies of the characters. Media socialization—the exposure to mass communication (television, radio, internet, newspapers) messages, which teach people socially accepted behaviors that have: (a) a direct influence on cognitive ability and behavioral functioning, and (b) a mediating or facilitative indirect influence on learning (Adams & Stevenson, 2012), has been identified as a notable factor during adolescence. Arnett, 1995; Lloyd, 2002; Strasburger, Wilson & Jordan, 2014). Students in EDHS 3100, , are learning about the scripts that are associated with black media images and discussing the impact on African-American adolescents. Their blog entries reflect an understanding of the scripts viewed in television sitcoms, drama, reality shows, or movies and the potential impact of exposure to theses media images on viewers.

 


The Proud Family, “Twins to Tweens”
By Meagan Josephs, UVA student

For this reaction paper, I chose to watch an episode of The Proud Family called “Twins to Tweens” (season 3, ep. 8). The Proud Family is a Disney cartoon that depicts the antics of an African American family. Penny, a teenage girl, struggles through ordinary issues such as friends, boys and of course, family. In this particular episode, Penny’s mom, dad, and grandma, “Suga Mama,” head off for a bowling tournament, leaving Penny to watch her twin siblings, Bebe and Cece. Viewers are constantly reminded how often Penny has to watch the twins and how irritated this chore has made her. On this day, Penny’s wish for her siblings, to grow up is granted by the TV weatherman. With her newfound freedom, Penny is able to attend a pool party at the house of her crush, Dante. At the pool party, Bebe and Cece turn heads and quickly rise to the top of the social pyramid, whereas Penny tumbles to the bottom. At school, the twins ace their exams; in contrast, Penny barely passes. Even at home, their parents give the twins preferential treatment, including money, new clothes, and driving lessons; all of which Penny is denied. “Never be mistreated or ignored,” Suga Mama advises before ignoring Penny like everyone else.

The theme of rejection subsides when Mrs. Proud demands that the twins now take their sister to the mall. Though they initially deny her, Penny “may not have friends but she’ll always have family” they decide to bring her along. When she is then denied by the school nerd, she snaps and demands that things return to the way they were. The weatherman yields to her chants and the twins shrink back to their former selves, and everyone else’s memories are cleared.

I was surprised that an animated show depicted such negative, polarized stereotypes of Black people. For example, every encounter with Mr. Proud showed him as a stingy Mama’s boy. In the first scene, Suga Mama drops a bowling ball on his foot and delivers a punch line indicating that she is the one supporting the family. This idea reappears when Suga Mama chases Mr. Proud around the house with a rolling pin. These interactions show not only the relationship between a strong matriarch and weak father figure but also an extreme version of “tough love.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, Penny allows others to walk all over her; her friends and family abandon her, yet she does not fight.

Preference for white-appearance was also at the forefront of this episode, especially for women. Aside from Penny, all the girls had straight hair, some were even blonde. Suga Mama even referenced Penny’s “ugly hair.” Along with straight hair, light skin was a qualification for popularity. Dante and Cece both have light enough complexions to pass as White.

The twins are portrayed as the ideal people: smart, attractive, popular, and athletic go-getters. Ironically, since they have not grown into their role unlike the other characters; it is as if time causes Black people to become stupid and resentful. This resentment can go two ways: antagonistic like Suga Mama or withdrawn like Penny. Penny’s fight for equal rights is subdued by her White counterparts. When Penny eventually stands up to the weatherman, her demands, so out of character, come across as petulant. I interpreted that this episode was a colorful depiction of the White response to the civil rights movement. Penny was deemed stupid and unpopular by a group led by ignorant babies. In actuality, Penny knew what she wanted and she eventually acquired her desire, and Bebe and Cece were put back in their place.

This episode exemplifies how television can be used for identity formation and socialization. Arnett’s Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization says that one of the most important aspects of identity formation is defining gender roles. Whereas Penny’s identity constantly changes in light of her siblings’ impact, Bebe and Cece clearly take on their respective gender roles. Bebe is the tall, athletic man. He appeals to women with very little effort. In contrast, Cece loves clothes, canopy beds, cheer and boys. These passions depict girls as dainty, beautiful and absorbed by appearances. They also teach viewers “‘scripts’ for how to behave in unfamiliar situations” (Strasburger et al 758). Adolescents, who have not yet encountered many circumstances, would find this advice especially relevant.

Values stabilize society, so distinguishing what matters is a major aspect of Arnett’s socialization, which Bebe and Cece help express. When Mrs. Proud requests that the twins take Penny to the mall, they vehemently reject her. She responds with a crucial lesson, “Penny may not have friends, but she has family.” This statement emphasizes the importance of family in our society, which is easily overlooked among adolescents who are constantly searching for their identities in their friends.

Jackson’s text, Scripting the Black Masculine Body Identity also demonstrated concepts that viewers encounter in this episode, including colorism. As previously stated, Cece and Dante have such light complexions that they could pass as White. This idea, defined by Jackson as “the process by which bi-ethnic people conceal their African heritage and assimilate totally into the European American community,” was prevalent when Blacks’ rights were withheld. Colorism as a broader concept, entails a preference for lighter appearances. Even today, media depicts “light-skinned” Blacks as the beauty ideal. Those with light eyes and thin noses, Anglo-Saxon characteristics, are plastered on magazines and TV screens disproportionately. This episode pays homage to this uncomfortable truth through Cece and Dante.

 

References

Arnett, J. J. (1995). Adolescents’ uses of media for self-socialization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24(5), 519-533.

Jackson, R. L. (2006). Scripting the black masculine body identity. Albany, NY: Suny.

Strasburger, V. C., Jordan, A. B., Donnerstein, E. (2010). Health effects of media on children and adolescents, Pediatrics, 125(4), 756-767.

Discussion Questions

  • Why is Mr. Proud presented as a weak man? How would the show change if he was the head of the house?
  • Why would Suga Mama tell Penny to stand up for herself rather than help her?