Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Summary: Adolescents at School


    Adolescents At School: Perspectives on Youth, Identity, and Education, edited by Michael Sadowski, is a collection of essays, research summaries, commentaries, and profiles from American secondary schools. The work introduces many faces of youth identity that exist within modern school systems. Not surprisingly, many of the identities are not the traditional Protestant, Anglo-Caucasian archetypes that have dominated most of US history, literature and thought; instead, these identities and voices are African-American, Chicano, Immigrant, Asian, Homosexual, Underprivileged, and countless others who have found themselves outside of the traditional American identity. Sadowski’s collection asks educators to consider other possible identities as not only acceptable and normal, but more common and real than the traditional US identity.
    Micheal Nakkula, one of the contributing authors of the collection, suggests the idea of creating possibility by opening the door to allowing students to explore other options and futures. All adolescents need opportunities to develop their passions and skills in activities that allow them to invest personal energy in a positive way that will provide alternatives for their future. Educators can help students flourish through helping nurture their passions and skills. Through directing students toward positive role models within the community and by being positive role models themselves, educators can help more students realize their full potential and prevent adolescents from falling victim to stereotypical problems. By building real, genuine relationships with adolescents, educators can provide alternatives to the limited possibilities that adolescents may see before them in their community (Sadowski, 2010).
    After working in education for 15 years in places like rural Montana and Alaska and urban areas like Seoul, Korea, these alternative identities speak to me directly. These are the voices who have cried for attention and nurturing throughout my career -- Native American, Native Alaskan, Underprivileged, Homosexual, Special Needs, and Asian. Sadowski’s collection has reaffirmed my belief as a professional that every child deserves acceptance and love while receiving the best education possible. Students do not need our sympathy; they need our respect. They do not need our judgment; they need our trust. When we make real relationships with students, they flourish; when we simply show up and do our jobs, they flounder. Our job as educators is to look at each child and say, “You are unique and a valuable individual. How can I help you reach your dreams?” To do anything less is unethical, immoral, and criminal.

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