High school – perhaps a time best remembered for the universal surprise of hair growing in funny places…and voice cracking. Oh, the voice cracking.
…Actually, that kind of maturation probably best fit the middle school years. So, what can be said about maturation during high school?
Although most people think about the physical changes that occur to students during middle school and high school (they are pretty noticeable, especially to the students themselves), when I look back through my years at school, I recognize that these weren’t major issues for me. I suppose it was always fun to hear about who was impregnating whom, but that certainly wasn’t the norm, nor was it the most noticeable part about high school.
However, that is not to say that we still didn’t mature. On the contrary, our maturation was more social and psychological. Unfortunately, the problem with this kind of maturation is that not everyone undergoes it during high school; some must first leave home to experience it, while others never escape childhood habits.
This type of maturation is what I believe is being an adult. But what was the kind of maturation that occurred and when did it occur?
In freshman year, students begin to hear the drone and chatter of pre-college preparation. After all, whereas colleges are blind to eighth grade and before, all of a sudden, starting with freshman year, all eyes are on students. What will they do? What will they make of their lives?
Of course, freshmen aren’t ready to begin thinking about this. So, even though ninth graders are gearing toward the next stage of their lives, they often are still in the past stage.
Generally, it’s only in sophomore year that students realize that they cannot just be living for the present, but they also must plan for the future. This, in my opinion, is the most important maturation for a high school student, because it begins to establish the lasting personality of the student. Sure, there is still petty drama over who is going out with whom, but it is within a social context that actually has an impact. For example, although the interplay of “jocks” and “nerds” and “stoners” seems like a frivolous thing, the simple fact is that “jocks” and “nerds” and “stoners” each have opportunities that can contribute to their future success as a result of their roles. For an easy example, to be a jock is to have the opportunity to strive for a state championship. If one is talented enough, then they can have a shot on collegiate sports.
Things don’t have to be so caricatured. The clubs that students begin to *seriously* join around sophomore year can shape the direction they take. Music? Community service? Sports? What will shape a student.
The junior year is when seriousness comes crashing in. It marks the end of the primacy of petty drama (but probably not the end of drama itself) over who is temporarily going out with whom (because, in the end, dating in school doesn’t matter except for a purely physical or social aspect). It marks the beginning of ‘adult’ thinking, which everyone needs. What could cause this change?
College admissions exams. Now, college is real and students will either move forward calmly or panic because of their lack of preparation. Are grades good enough? What college should one go to? What major? Are extracurriculars impressive?
Unfortunately, because every student does not experience this change, high school may not be its creator. However, the better students, whether they be involved in academics or athletics, seem to have that ability to look for the future, plan, and follow up: skills all necessary for life itself.
The senior year should wrap up in a culmination of everything prepared for way back in the ninth (or, more realistically, tenth) grade. Sports stars generally have the skill and training and sheer time commitment to *be* stars, and the same is true for many other organizations and commitments. College admissions go out, and acceptances (hopefully) come in senior year, and all that’s left is for the student to tie all loose ends.