Lexicon of Adolescence Table of Contents Angsty by Jasmine Kummer
Decision Making by Jean Fitzgerald
Extraordinary by Joanne Easton
Fantasy by Roxanna Eastman
Graffiti by Miguel Aguilar
Identity by Jennie Morris
Identities by Miles Vance
Identity Crisis by Kent Dyer
Imagination by Blythe Lancaster
Nerd by Anne Erickson
Performance by Jeannette Villapiano
Potential Realities by Brittanie Wine
Precocious by Veronica Stein
Risk by Rachel Harper
Swagger by Irene Byun
Angsty: adj angstier, angstiest: The act of displaying feelings of angst, especially in a self-conscious or “misunderstood” way. An angsty state of mind may occur when one feels alone in the world or frustrated. Angsty feelings are an important part of a young person’s process of becoming of self. However, during an angsty moment, one may lack the maturity to control these feelings. Waddell (1998) points out that the adolescent relies on defense mechanisms in order to tolerate angsty feelings: “The anxiety involved in a young person’s attempts to discover who he is, or who she is, and to define more clearly their sense-of-themselves-in-the-world, often arouses extremes of defensive splitting and projection” (p. 157). Optimal development is described by Csikszentmihalya and Larson (1984) as “...the high [up-lifted feeling] one receives from functioning at the edge of our capacities for a sustained period of time” (quoted in Nakkula and Toshalis 2006, p.61). If these “highs” are rare, teens may feel frustrated and angsty more often than not. Finding one’s identity in the process of experiencing the day-to-day ups and downs of development would be enough to induce tremendous angsty behavior from anyone. Adolescent angst can function as a challenge to adults and teachers by forcing them to accept and reflect who teens are. Disagreements or feelings of misunderstanding may bring teens to an “angsty place”. It is the responsibility of adults and educators to help teens develop strategies to understand their feelings rather than projecting them. In this way, according to Waddell (1998), adults can “go on thinking” in relation to the adolescent’s distress. As a teen, my angsty behavior was reaction to the frustrations I felt; my individual creative strategies allowed me to learn to process deal with my feelings on a more mature, relational level—most of the time! Nakkula, M. & Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the personality. New York: Routledge.
Another way to describe the state of mind called adolescence is through the concept of "Decision Making." Much of development leading up to adolescence is much more contained and pre-determined. Children before puberty rely on their parents and the immediate environment to form their identity. In Margot Waddell's Inside Lives (1998), she states, "[The latency stage] is this desire to be doing the same as the others, the necessity of sorting out the internal relationships between siblings and parents..." (p.95). There is more conformity than inventive independence forming at this point. While there are decisions and choices to be made throughout all stages of life, adolescence is a particularly volatile period for making decisions. This is a time when adolescents are confronted with the problem of choosing an identity much more independently by searching, finding, responding, and coping with the "sense of oneself-in-the-world." Waddell (1998) argues, "For adolescents the psychic agenda is a demanding one: the negotiation of the relationship between adult and infantile structures; the transition from life in the family to life in the world; the finding and establishing of identity..." (p.140.) The adolescent must learn to make decisions as adults make decisions. According to Waddell, adults may return to an adolescent state of mind and re-negotiate their "stable sense of self" (p.141). In the movie, The Breakfast Club (1985), the adolescent characters are in the process of deciding who they are, who they want to be, and what others think of them. The high school principle, Mr. Vernon, asks the students to make a decision-even if they are not ready or able toabout who they are in an essay. The five students decide to not decide who they are in their letter to the principal: Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge. Friesen, G. (Producer), & Hughes, J. (Director). (1985). The Breakfast Club [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.
In general the word extraordinary is defined not ordinary, exceptional, and unusual, generally focusing on the sense of the word in terms of difference (en.wiktionary.org). Extraordinary can be differentiated from what is ordinary, because it tests, tries on, and defines itself against what is normal. On the other hand, extraordinary can be seen in terms of addition because it involves going beyond what is ordinary. In their search for identity, the developmental period known as adolescence is a time when teens both differentiate themselves from and add to what is ordinary and known about others as they develop their own sense of self. According to Waddell (2008), “one of the main undertakings of adolescence is that of establishing a mind of one's own, a mind which is rooted in, and yet also distinct from, the sources and models of identification that are visible within one's family, or in the wider school and community setting” (p.176). In doing so, adolescents differentiate themselves from the ordinary through projected or internalized forms of experimentation. An example of projection, is the way in which adolescents try on identities like clothes and try to find a suitable fit. In introjection, adolescents internalize a known identity as a foundation that roots their understanding of the world. Adolescents add the ‘extra’ to the word extraordinary because they go beyond the ordinary as theoreticians and model-makers. If, following Nakkula and Toshalis (2008), we understand adolescents to be theoreticians, “the adolescent literally becomes a theorist in search of experiments that test the boundaries of self-understanding, relationships, and social conventions” (p.48). At this time the adolescent is both mindful of his/her own viewpoint and developing the capacity to see the world from the perspective of another, which opens a space in-between for abstract thinking. The space between the two perceptions can potentially be a space of development and creativity filled with invisible feelers that try to make connections and test suitability. Likewise, Madeline Grumet (1998) describes this space of blending and creation as “ the third space, neither here, nor there, the place of story, where reading takes place, and meaning is made” (p.27). In these ways, adolescents as extraordinary beings are both brilliantly and frighteningly different, and fascinatingly creative. Grumet, M. (1998, Summer). Lost Places, Potential Spaces and Possible Worlds: Why We Read Books with Other People., Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. 14(2), 216-19. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge. Extraordinary Definition. (n.d.). In Wiktionary. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/extraordinary?rdfrom=Extraordinary
When considering the term fantasy in relation to the concept of adolescence, the first word that comes to my mind is daydreamer. As a child, I was often accused of daydreaming too much in school. According to my teachers, fantasizing was good at a certain time or place, such as recess, but in science class it was not okay. But, they apparently were not considering that I might have been fantasizing about science. What if I was imagining what it was like to be an astronaut or a chemist? How can a student learn if they aren’t given the opportunity to consider the possibilities of their learning? What would happen to our world if we were to lose our imaginations? If we lose our ability to imagine, we would inevitably lose our ability to create or to manifest anything that is possible. As teachers, we are required to contribute to the construction of a student’s identity; this is reinforced by Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) when they suggest that students use school as a time to ask, (…) what kind of person they should be, who their friends ought to be, in what or whom they should place trust, or what kind of world they should make, the answers we help construe and imagine with them help coconstruct who they become and the way they approach the world. (p. 3) If we do not limit our possibilities so that we can see beyond an image or imagine what might be or what should be, the capacity to understand an unknown and the awareness to develop a complex social context with the world will fall short. Imagining our world or the world of another gives people the opportunity to empathize. Greene (1995) writes, “It is what enables us to cross spaces between ourselves and (…) others” (p. 3). Having the intelligence to use a fantasy in place of reality, adolescence can use this to experiment possibilities before recognizing a certainty in a developmental manner (Waddell 1998, pp. 163). Fantasy should be embraced and used as an instrument to grow our minds in schools. It should be encouraged by an educator and utilized to allow students to think outside themselves, which in turn can open up a space for learning. Greene, M. (1995), Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Nakkula, M and Toschalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.
Tagging is not simply an act of vandalism or violence; it is a social practice with its own rules and codes – a literacy practice imbued with intent and meaning. MacGillivray & Curwen, 2007, p. 354 According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, graffiti is “an inscription or drawing made on some public surface…a message or slogan…” (http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/graffiti). My experience of living an urban existence has been directly informed, referenced, and influenced by graffiti. Graffiti allowed me to build an identity based purely on the merit of my efforts as an artist and cultural producer. As an adolescent, my identity as a graffiti artist liberated me from the marginalization of my physical identity, and provided me with an important platform for literacy and selfexpression. As a high-school student, graffiti was the only art form that enabled me to represent my community, my music, and my values. Graffiti, as a practice of literacy, has the potential to engage youth in a process of critically analyzing and creatively defining their familiar priorities of urban identity and developing sense of agency. As an educator, I understand graffiti to function as a ‘container’ for the adolescent’s process of identity formation. Waddell (2008) defines the ‘containing function’ as “establish[ing] a precondition for more integrated capacities, for a more integrated self” (p. 31). Marginalized communities that do not find successful models of representation in everyday life must negotiate how to construct their own identities. Graffiti can serve as a container for youth to select and choose how they want to represent themselves. The role of an educator who introduces graffiti to adolescents would be to facilitate further investigation of how to visually represent the ideas they choose. As a youth, I was lucky to find a graffiti mentor that helped cultivate my understanding of how graffiti could successfully function for me. Graffiti. (n.d) In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/graffiti MacGillivray, L., & Curwen, M. S. (2007). Tagging as a Social Literacy Practice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(5), 354-369. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.
jennie Lyn (w) morris
What is identity? There are many ways to define the term. A search of Wikipedia reveals seven topics including around forty different definitions of identity. Just to give one example, the website states, “Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual's comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. ” Identity is far too complex of a word to try and explain using one definition. Just think of all the identities youth may take on such as a career identity, an online identity, or a social or cultural identity. So how does identity affect adolescents? As teachers, we have the experience to know that identities are ever evolving. Our challenge is to channel our students’ attitudes and energies into a process of ‘co-authoring’ their evolving identities. Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) write, “An achieved identity status does not represent the conclusion of the identity construction process; rather it is a waypoint in the individual’s lifelong journey of understanding and constructing the self ” (38). As well they say, “When adolescents implicitly ask what kind of person they should be, who their friends ought to be, in what or whom they should place trust, or what kind of world they should make, the answers we construe and imagine with them help co-construct who they become and the way they approach the world” (3). Identity is constituted by the experiences we have and the way we process these experiences in our minds. It is the outcome of how we choose to order and think about experiences. It is the emotional makeup of our experiences. Adults and educators are responsible for helping students make sense of the multiple and at times contradictory identities they try on during adolescence. Waddell (1998) writes, “the child can only learn from his own real experiences and the educator should seek to support those experiences rather than to stand in the way of them ” (112). Nakkula, M. J. & Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge, MA. Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. London: H.Karnac Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_%28social_science%29
Young people develop their sense of place and being in society by trial and error. Identities are formed as many teenagers pilot the new terrain called adolescence. This process is similar to the manner in which a broadcasting company goes through dozens of television programs every year until they find a show that works for their target audiences. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2006), identities are layered masks and acted out performances that people exchange throughout the course of the day to meet the demands of their complex lives and relationships. In many ways, people pick and chose which mask they will act out and present to the world. Throughout adolescence, young people are faced with many changes including the challenge of creating and performing their identities for multiple audiences. As young people begin to learn more about the world and the history of their individual backgrounds, their understanding of themselves begins to move away from having a traditionally centered identity into a complex interchange of identities. This shifting away from the centered self to having multiple identities is what makes this period in development difficult for teenagers. Margot Waddell (1998) writes, One of the main undertakings of adolescence is that of establishing a mind of one’s own, a mind which is rooted in, and yet also distinct from, the sources of models of identification that are visible within one’s family, or the wider school or community. (p.158) Having a mind of one’s own is like shifting gears in a car that has a manual transmission; it is complicated and takes a while to get use to. Identities are the processes that shape the way people formulate their understanding of the world and this is ever changing. I relate identities to the concept of switching masks during different scenes of a performance. Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1898) wrote, “Why should the world be over-wise, in counting all the tears and signs? Nay, let them only see us, while we wear the mask” (p.167)! This is how I see identities playing out in the everyday life of the adolescent. Alternating from one identity to another, the teenager has to steer through the confusion of the intense physical, emotional, and psychological growth taking place during adolescence. Dunbar, P. L. (1898). We Wear the Mask. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. Nakkula, M. and Toshais, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.
Kent M. Dyer
According to Erikson’s developmental stages, the onset of identity crisis appears in the adolescent stage. In this period, “the adolescent attempts to find ‘the real me’ by playing many roles, by experimenting with possible selves, and by shifting back and forth between potential identities in different contexts” (Nakkula & Toshalis 2006, p 21). Adolescent development is further complicated by puberty and the rapid bodily changes that bring enormous psychological and emotional upheaval to an individual’s sense of self and identity. Puberty sparks “mental and emotional shifts in states of mind which psychologically mark the transition from one phase of life to another” (Waddell 1998, p. 125). It is at this stage that the body rapidly experiences the greatest period of physiological and emotional change outside of the womb. During the transition from latency into puberty, youth “attempt to discover who he is, or who she is, and to define more clearly their sense-of-themselves-in-the-world” (Waddell 1998, p. 157). Feelings of loss and anxiety while moving between stages of development create, in most youth, an experience of identity crisis. Erikson believes it “results from the pressures placed on adolescents as they attempt to construct an identity that will meet with the support of their friends as well as their family, teachers, and society at large” (Nakkula & Toshalis 2006, p. 21). Through this process of trying on possibilities for becoming a self, youth explore the meaning and relationship between the “‘me-I-am’ and the ‘me-I-want-to-be’” (p. 21). This is an exhausting process for an adolescent that inevitably becomes unsustainable. The identity crisis serves as an open space where youth can explore and entertain possible selves, while at the same time trying to develop an integrated and cohesive sense of self that they find sustainable. Nakkula, M.J. and Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: Adolescent development for educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside lives: Psychoanalysis and the growing of the personality. London: Karnac Books.
Blythe L. Lancaster
Imagination is the mind’s ability to create situations that were previously unperceivable. Imagination also acts as a means for the adolescent to utilize creativity and find possibility when faced with conflict. As we mature, the manifestations of our imagination change, but during adolescence, imagination is central to how we develop as individuals, how we see ourselves, and how we see and understand others. Waddell (2002) writes about the importance of keeping our imagination active: “The…capacity to refresh the imaginative wellsprings offers resources of untold depth, available to enrich those who come in contact with them in-so-far as they are themselves open to the experience” (p. 99). During adolescence the imagination is a vehicle to see oneself as an individual “self,” separate from the adult world, while exploring possibilities of what that “self” is. It is also a means of learning ways to endure the emotional and mental challenges of thinking and becoming a self. Meltzer (1988) writes that imagination is “a foraging impulse: it will find food for thought in the desert” (quoted in Waddell 2002, p. 98). If the use of the imagination is nurtured during latency, the adolescent will be able to call upon it to find creative solutions for the emotional and mental hardships that development brings. A key developmental task of adolescence is learning to see the world from another person’s point of view. According to Greene (1995), imagination “feeds one’s capacity to feel one’s way into another’s vantage point” (p. 37). Imagination also helps the adolescent to interpret and find meaning in the world: “We must use our imagination…to apply concepts to things. This is the way we render the world familiar and therefore more manageable” (Warnock, quoted in Greene 1995, p. 35). Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside lives: psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. London: Karnac Books.
David Kinney (1993) uses “Nerd” as synonymous with “geek”, “brain”, and “unpopular.” In his study of adolescent identity development entitled, “From Nerds to Normals,” these terms are interchangeable and equal. Kinney investigates identity formation in youth during middle school and it’s changes as those youth age and transition into high school. He states, “A recurrent theme in the data indicated that some adolescents who were labeled by their peers as unpopular nerds in middle school were able to embrace a more positive self-perception in high school that centered on defining themselves as ‘normal’” (21). He goes on to distinguish between two important factors in the identity formation of youth: personal social identity and attributed social identity. Both of these serve vital roles in articulating an adolescent’s whole social identity and often make liberal use of “social-type labels”; nerd, for example. Kinney argues that these labels are useful in developing a common language for groups of teenagers that is exceptionally rigid in middle school and tends to relax in high school: As these students observed, the transition to high school was characterized by a more highly differentiated social scene, based on a larger number and greater variety of groups and students. Many students commented on the diversity of the high school, noting the existence of groups like the headbangers and punk rockers- two groups that did not exist at the middle school. (29) Kinney’s use of the social-type label nerd indicates his position (based on interviews with high school students) that being a nerd is a very bad thing indeed. He allows very little room for interpretation and his study does not explore the positive connotations of a social-type label like nerd. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) argue that adolescence is a creative process. They write, “much of adolescent risk taking is an effort toward creative expression, an effort to create an interesting and unique self” (42). They also explain that “adolescents are in a near-constant state of constructing their lives” (5), meaning that teenagers define their reality and in so doing they also define their own systems of language and labels. These labels are indicators of a complex social strata and, yes, Nerds fall somewhere toward the bottom if you’re using prestige as a ruler. However, I believe that the power of perspective lies within the self. Nakkula and Toshalis agree, stating that, “We take authority over the interpretation of what we have experienced and who we are as a result” (6). By authoring our own lives and interpreting the events which unfold, we accept the responsibility of our own development and can make meaning of our lives in any way that we choose. If Nerds choose to embrace that label and flaunt their intelligence, they cast off the traditionally negative connotation imposed by others and imbue that label with their own meaning and significance. By openly being Nerds we choose to disregard the value systems laid out by our peers and instead create our own. Kinney, D. (1993). From nerds to normals: The recovery of identity among adolescents from middle school to high school. American Sociological Association, 66(1), 21-40. Nakkula, M., and Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth: adolescent development for educators. Cambridge MA: Harvard Education Press.
Picture this: you are standing alone in the middle of a stage. Even with the bright spotlight shining towards you, you are able to make out the directors body in the empty auditorium. The lone figure is a recognizable face; it is you. You look down at the writer of the script you are holding; it is yours. The context of the monologue you begin to read slowly evolves into an ever so familiar memory you had experienced. Everything about this play, from the producer to the actors to the backdrop on the set, has originated from some part of you. Viewing adolescence as a theatrical play offers a unique opportunity to deconstruct identity as a series of performances.
By engaging in different social
interactions, relationships, and activities, adolescents perform different roles to shape their identities. Thus, performance can be described as a role representing who we are at that moment in a particular setting (Nakkula et. al. 2008). Each chosen role acts as a prompt during the process of understanding “being in the world.” Adolescence is a time of exploration and of creativity. As adolescents evolve they question and test societal limits. Meaning is sought through experimentation and interpretations (Waddell 1998). On the other hand, by using their bodies, behaviors, and actions, adolescents venture through the world by asking, “How is the audience interpreting me?” Like an audition for a character in a play, adolescents communicate their identities by trying out different approaches to different roles. Whether we conform to these roles or not, it is our participation in these performances that construct our identity.
Nakkula, M. J. (2006). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of the Personality. Tavistock Clinic series. New York: Routledge.
Adolescents demonstrate an increasing ability to see the way the world works as one reality among many possibilities. They can see how it is, but also that ‘how it is’ is not the only way that it could be. Adolescents also understand that their roles in the world help to create reality and their behaviors have the potential to shape different realities. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) propose that adults and educators consider how “risk taking has become the contemporary equivalent, in many respects, of the classic notion of adolescent experimentation” (p.41). Adolescents take calculated risks as a method of observing and understanding reality through testing different possible realities. Risk-taking is a method of research used by adolescents in an attempt to understand the world that exists around them and the world that could exist around them. This research has two sides. For the adolescent, there is the experience of observing reality, but there is also possibility of imagining other realities. Joe Kincheloe and Shirley Steinberg (1998) write that “Students as researchers…possess a vision of ‘what could be’ and a set of skills to uncover ‘what actually is’” (p. 2). Potential realities are the ‘what could be’ part of this assertion. They are hopes, wishes and dreams—objects of imagination. Adolescents as researchers experiment with how the world is and how it could be, and begin to understand how they can be not only observers of reality, but creators of it as well. Potential realities are derived through theoretical thinking. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) write that theoretical thinking “is about moving from the concrete realities of the here and now to the possible realities of the there and then” (p. 49). The key here is that potential realities originate in concrete realities. They are productions of the imagination, but they are not unrealizable schemes and dreams. Potential realities are still rooted in what is—lying within the parameters of the adolescent’s observed reality. Potential realities are these new could be’s that adolescents conceive and just might create.
Kincheloe, J., & Steinberg, S. (1998). Students as Researchers: Creating Classrooms that Matter (1st ed.). Routledge. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Harvard Education Press.
Precocious: Function: adjective Etymology 1: exceptionally early in development or occurrence 2: exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age. My adolescence was a time of identity experimentation. Through role-play, I attempted to replicate the personalities of popular culture icons that I admired, was confused by, or even feared. Most of all, however, I experimented with my identity by assuming the personalities of my peers. As typical for many adolescents, I was labeled precocious. Nakkula & Toshalis (2008) locate my behavior within a period when, “the adolescent attempts to find “the real me” by playing many roles, by experimenting with possible selves, and by shifting back and forth between potential identities in different contexts” (pp. 20-21). Although adolescents may have yet to comprehend the maturity that precocious role-play requires, teens do indeed understand the reactions such behaviors incite in others. It is these very reactions that truly help adolescents further develop a confident sense of self. Through the perceptions of others, teens come to understand, as I have, how their portrayed identities may be accepted or rejected. These reactions help adolescents navigate their feelings of belonging and of peer acceptance. As educators, “our work in schools is identity work” (Nakkula & Toshalis 2008, p.18). Our role is to creatively shape the “containers” (Waddell 2002, p. 34) in which adolescent students process emotional experiences. I define the precocious adolescent as creative, brave, honest, and vulnerable. Aaron Stevens (2009) exemplifies my definition as he describes his transition to high school. The final lines of his poem, Life, read, “And which way did I go? Which way you say? I dug a tunnel, and I went my own way.” I also define adolescence as a time “to go one’s own way.” Merriam-Webster collegiate dictionary (2005). (11th ed.) Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. Nakkula, M., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Press. Stevens, A. (2009). Life. Retrieved from http://www.teensnowtalk.com/tnt/writing_corner/poetry_ corner/writing_corner.html. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. London: Karnac Books.
Rachel Harper My copy of the American Heritage Dictionary (2004) lists the first definition of
“risk” as “the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger,” and further definitions deviate little from this meaning (p.702). This definition relates to the term “at-risk youth” which, as it’s commonly used, seems to refer to adolescents who may suffer a range of harms or losses as a result of their own risky behavior. Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) position the term “risk” in a more constructive context. Drawing mostly on the work of psychologist Cynthia Lightfoot, risk here is a self-designed and self-initiated test of one’s own identity. This “risk” still involves the possibility of harm or loss, but for the necessary purpose of learning about one’s “self-in-the-world” (p.49). More than merely the important work of locating oneself in the wider world, Lightfoot contends that risk-taking allows adolescents to create a valuable world of their own by pushing and rejecting the perceived rules and limits of the adult world. Waddell (1998) discusses the inner dimension of “acting out” when she describes risk taking behavior as a “projective mechanism” meant to help the adolescent avoid thinking about difficult or painful feelings (p.131). At the same time, the internal act of tolerating difficult feelings or facing other fears is another valuable form of risk for the adolescent. Waddell writes that “the constant tension between the two could be said to typify the adolescent’s approach to his difficulties,” as he moves between risking the pain of new understanding and using behaviors (including risk-taking) to avoid those conflicts of the inner world (p.131). Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) assert that the adolescent’s teacher must also engage in risk taking of her own. I interpret this to mean that the teacher must be prepared to empathize with the risks of her students. In doing so, I think the teacher may risk losing any perceived control over interactions and may suffer painful engagements with students who reject her and complicate their relationship through risky behavior. American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.). (2004). New York: Bantam Dell. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.
swag·ger [swag-er] : For adolescents, someone who has swagger is worthy of admiration. And if you are believed to have swagger, others want to imitate you. Music artists claim to have swagger. For example, in the Black Eyed Peas’ song, “Boom Boom Pow”, Fergie’s verse goes, I like that boom boom pow; Them chicken jackin' my style; They try copy my swagger; I'm on that next sh-t now; I'm so three thousand and eight; You so two thousand and late; I got that boom boom boom; That future boom boom boom; Let me get it now. Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are, or, it might be more accurate to say they are discovering who they want to be. Waddell (1998) claims that “projective mechanisms [rather than] introjective ones” typify the adolescent’s behavior (p.131). It is a time of experimentation and finding your own ‘swagger’. One manifestation of a projective tendency might be frequent changes in dress, style, and music taste to satisfy the need to be someone else temporarily, “in order to sort out ‘whether the cap fits’” (Waddell 1998, p.132). These mechanisms in moderation are good and necessary in the growing process for the adolescent. It is extremely important for educators to understand the process of adolescence, since it is a crucial time that can determine and shape the way young people view and handle their future endeavors. Nakkula & Toshalis (2006) recognize the potential that resides in the adolescent when they stress that educators have the opportunity to witness, “some of the richest, most critical, and deeply hopeful worldviews we might find” (p. 3). Copying Fergie’s swagger is just a tiny step in the journey. Nakkula, M.J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.
This Lexicon of Adolescence was created by graduate students in the Art Education Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), in the context of the course ARTED 5220: Psychological, Sociological and Phenomenological Approaches to Teaching. This course is taught by professor Karyn Sandlos firstname.lastname@example.org To visit the website for Professor Karyn Sandlos, please follow this link: https://sites.google.com/site/karynsandlos/ To visit the SAIC Art Education Departmentâ€™s website, please follow this link: http://www.saic.edu/degrees_resources/departments/arted/index.html