The first encounter between teachers and students is often intriguing and exciting. In Freedom Writers, a new teacher at Wilson High school, Eric Gruwell faces massive hostility from her Asian, African American, and Hispanic students. Specifically, one of her many students openly declared hate for her because she was white. Despite this challenge, it is evident in the film that the teacher managed to grab the attention of her adolescent students segregated along racial lines and they eventually detect many analogs to their lives as teenagers from dysfunctional families as well as crude gangs. This essay seeks to establish the various behavioral changes that occur during adolescence and how different aspects combine during the period.
Life Course: Biological, Psychological, and Social Environment Perspectives
Adolescence is a period, which is characterized by dramatic cognitive, physical, social, emotional changes. Accordingly, it is a stage that s marked with a lot of independence, changes in physiological behavior, family relations, initiation of intimacy, increased peer affiliations and identity formation (Lerner & Busch-Rossnagel, 2013).What is more, the period is characterized by greater awareness of values and morals as well as emotional and cognitive maturity. Research indicates that despite the increased changes in adolescents, most of them find a way of coping with the demands of emotional, cognitive and physical development (Butcher et al., 2016). It is also worth noting that apart from the positive changes, adolescents experience significant challenges and turmoil that points towards a dubious kind of behavior and naivety. The reason behind difficulties is because of the increased risk-taking and exploration that is typical of teenagers (Hutchison, 2013).
Biological factors are believed to influence certain behaviors in adolescents especially risk taking, which happens through four sources. These sources include direct hormonal influence, genetic predisposition, the development of the central nervous system as well as the influence of asynchronous timing. Lerner & Busch-Rossnagel (2013) indicates that when these factors combined thoroughly affect an adolescent’s behavior as early shown and predispose adolescents to more risk taking habits besides the above elements.
Another pertinent point to note is that biological development is tagged along with physiological changes in the manner at which adolescents view the world around them and themselves. It is of crucial significance to note that cognitive development occurs together with physical development (Pluess, 2015). Notably, Hutchison (2013) postultes that when physical development happens before cognitive development as in the case of females experiencing early maturity, it is unarguably evident that adolescents tend to engage in behaviors that pose a risk to their health (Carr, 2015). Moreover, although a wealth of research on developmental neuroscience has postulated that the brain of the young adult is developing, the social environment may have unhealthy or unrealistic expectations of these young adults (Pluess, 2015). It is, therefore, significant to include the social environment while exploring behavior in adolescents.
Psychologically based research of adolescent risk-taking behavior seeks to examine the role of personality traits, cognition as well as dispositional characteristics that include depression and self-esteem in behavior. To begin with, cognitive theories explore how adolescents perceive risks and make decisions about them (Carr, 2015). It is wise to note that adolescents tend to view themselves as invincible, which justifies why adolescents engage in risky behaviors. For instance, it is incontestably evident that increasing the salience of all risks that are associated with making a dangerous decision and adolescents are significantly affected (Butcher et al., 2016).. Furthermore, the role of personality cannot be underestimated. Evidence points out that the decision making of adolescents might reflect a general inclination towards unlawful behavior (Butcher et al., 2016). Accordingly, unconventionality in behavior leads to the increased likelihood of engaging in risky sexual activities, delinquency and substance use.
Another pertinent point to note is that locus of control, self-esteem and depression are cited as empirical and theoretical protagonists of risk behaviors. It is noteworthy that low self-esteem is associated with a period of sexual debut especially in females while depression and stress have been linked to the intensity and initiation of use of drugs among male adolescents (Carr, 2015). It is therefore of crucial significance to indicate that cognitive factors such as decision-making and risk perception contribute to risk-taking behaviors. Moreover, the ability to make decisions among adolescents differ with adults, and adolescents lack the necessary experience when interacting with the environmental and social world and engaging in making decisions (Pluess, 2015).
It is of crucial significance to note that as adolescents grow, they tend to develop a sense of abstract thinking and therefore they begin to search for meaning in most experiences in life such as spiritual exploration. Research indicates that it is during adolescence that the quest for religiosity or spirituality is developed as a source of resilience (Hutchison, 2013). Accordingly, they begin to search for a precise meaning and relationship with God whether it is found in life forces or deity. It is also worth noting that this quest is as a result of mental health, physical fitness or other forms of physical regimen, which might not necessarily be spiritual (Hutchison, 2013).
It is unarguably evident that the film, Freedom Writers is an expression of the above-mentioned sentiments. There is a close relationship between the article by Hawkins & Weis (1985) and how Erin Gruwell used the social developmental model to address the students’ behaviors and issues. Erin Gruwell is a teacher at Wilson High school and although the teacher was a student at the same school the previous year, this time she was on her own with less or no security. What is more, she is meant to teach the unreachable adolescents whose primary concern was gang activities and not the study of predicates, subjects or Shakespeare. It is important to note that the school is located in a neighborhood referred to as safe in Long Beach and as a result of the safe neighborhood; it makes it a desirable institution accommodating many students. Throughout the years, it is significant to point out that the preponderantly White population at the school has radically evolved to include Asians, African Americans and Latinos, which called for a change in teaching strategies and methods.
As indicated in the preceding elements, adolescence comes with periods of awareness of race and other aspects of knowledge. Gruwell is confronted by the issue of race and she solves the crisis through the family crisis intervention services as indicated by Hawkins & Weis (1985) by interactively instructing. Interactional instructing is based on the affirmed postulation that when students are subjected to appropriate instructional considerations, most of them can master what they learn. It is wise to note that the advance calls for the stipulation of specific and clear teaching goals that learners should master before continuing with coursework. (Hawkins & Weis, 1985).
Addressing the Students’ Behaviors and Issues
Gruwell manages to grab the attention of the adolescents and made them realize what the impacts of racism and segregation were in the Second World War. Moreover, they detect their own parallel as students from quite dysfunctional families upon a visit to the locust section in the museum of tolerance. It is important to note that this revelation inspires them into writing diaries which became a major turning point in shaping their own lives. It is therefore prudent to indicate that the diaries became a meaningful outlet for their frustrations other than involvement in violence and gangbang (Hawkins & Weis, 1985).
The number of students taught by a teacher may also play a significant role in the determination of the availability of chances for an all inclusive active participation in the school. For instance, Wilson high school is a hugely populated school, which creates chances for delinquency. Research indicates that there is a relationship between size and average number of learners taught by a teacher and school crime (Breiding, 2014). Hawkins & Weis (1985) indicates that the establishment of a school within a school plan would help in promoting interpersonal relationships. It is prudent to note that this kind of reconstituting of learning institutions will provide an increase in the quantity and quality of prospects for active engagement as well as the contacts between teachers and students (Butcher et al., 2016).. Consequently, there will be more dedication to school and attachment between teachers and students (Breiding, 2014). Accordingly, these attachments will enhance their acknowledgement and a spirit in the legitimacy and importance of the entire instructive process.
Due to the student’s broad range of behavior and racial affiliation, their participation in the formulation of policies in the classroom and disciplinary processes is of crucial significance. To flesh out on this, it is important to note that adolescents are not able to take on significant work roles, which provokes the enhancement of commitment to established lines by giving them opportunities to get involved in the meaningful role in shaping the school. Specifically, this is where they are in most cases involved directly – their classrooms and school (Hawkins & Weis, 1985). For instance, in the film, the gang members could participate in the formulation of certain disciplinary procedures and policies while giving attention to the recruitment of a wide range of those who are thought to be natural leaders to participate in making policies. On the other hand, disciplinary bodies should also ensure that rules for involvement are made for learners who are not regarded in leading positions. As a result, this will lead to an increased commitment to the values and policies set by them, attachment to the school and moral order (Hawkins & Weis, 1985).
Sexual violence is any intimate act, undesirable sexual progresses or remarks, effort to acquire a sexual act or acts to dealings that are geared against any someone’s sexual orientation through compulsion perpetrated by any person irrespective of the human relationship of the affected in any particular place or circumstance, which includes but not limited to work and home (Kelly, 2013). It is of significance importance to note that coercion can cover a broad range of force. Besides physical force, sexual violence may also involve threats and blackmail such as not obtaining a job being laced off or those of physical harm. Additionally, it may include psychological intimidation and may also occur when an aggressed person is not at a state of giving consent such as mentally incapable, drugged, drunk and asleep (Kelly, 2013). In addition, it is also important to note that sexual violence also includes rape, which is defined as forced penetration even if it is slight of the anus or vulva using an object, a penis or any other part of the body.
The consequences of sexual violence are appalling. Just like in the case with victims of sexual abuse in females, research indicates that male victims have the likelihood of suffering from a broad variety of psychological effects over the long term or immediately after the violence. These include suicide, guilt, withdrawal from any relationships, depression, anger, sleep disturbance, somatic complaints and post-traumatic stress (Kelly, 2013). What is more, research on adolescent males postulates that there is interplay between suffering sexual violence and absenteeism from school, stealing and violent behavior. It is noteworthy that adolescents are most vulnerable to sexual abuse due to their exposure to many factors that influence the risk of such violence (Kelly, 2013). Specifically, this is because of their age and susceptibility to alcohol and drugs.
Ability and Disability
A wealth of research points out that most people know individuals with a disability but they do not realize that they have it because not all disabilities can be seen. It is noteworthy that people with disabilities are identified or stereotyped, not by the things they can do, but the things they cannot do (Rose et al., 2016). For instance, one in five people with disability in Australia experience forms of mental illnesses in their life. Reforms in the eradication of discrimination and stereotyping suggest the view of disability as a personal journey. This is because disability, its associated experiences and symptoms are diverse and therefore, it is difficult to fully understand an individual’s personal journey (Rose et al., 2016). In sum, adolescence is a period that requires correct guidance and shaping in order to endure the challenges that are tagged along with it such as psychological, biological or social. On the whole, correct methods of resuscitating the adolescents should be used in order to build a good adult as expressed in the early sentiments.
Breiding, M. J. (2014). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization—National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Surveillance summaries (Washington, DC: 2002), 63(8), 1.
Butcher, J. N., Hooley, J. M., &Mineka, S. M. (2015). Abnormal psychology. London: Pearson Higher Ed.
Carr, A. (2015). The handbook of child and adolescent clinical psychology: A contextual approach. New York: Routledge.
Hutchison, E. D. (2013). Essentials of human behavior: integrating person, environment, and the life course (5th ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.
Kelly, L. (2013). Surviving sexual violence. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Lerner, R. M., & Busch-Rossnagel, N. A. (Eds.). (2013). Individuals as producers of their development: A life-span perspective. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Pluess, M. (2015). Individual differences in environmental sensitivity. Child Development Perspectives, 9(3), 138-143.
Rose, S. M. S. F., Eslinger, J. G., Zimmerman, L., Scaccia, J., Lai, B. S., Lewis, C., &Alisic, E. (2016). Adverse childhood experiences, support, and the perception of ability to work in adults with disability. PLoS one, 11(7), e0157726.
Weis, J. G., & Hawkins, J. D. (1981). Preventing delinquency: The social development approach. National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.