Adolescent Behavior In School Middle School is a large school and has students attending from six Putnam County towns and two Dutchess County towns. On the average, the graduating class has close to 500 students and the typical class has 32 students attending. The school has two cafeterias in order to accommodate it’s large student population, one cafeteria to provide for fifth and sixth graders, and another for seventh and eighth graders. Interesting enough, the different classes do not attend lunch together, in other words, seventh and eighth graders do not attend lunch together nor fifth and sixth graders. Again I assume this is strictly do to the large population of this school. I entered the school at the start of the day, I considered this to be to my advantage, therefor not standing out so much among the huddles of people gathered outside the school building. It can be said that the students appearances varied somewhat, but a whole it remained within a certain unspoken code.
The girls wore their hair long-shoulder length or longer, and had it tied back in a pony-tail or very straight. Some were in skirts (slightly above knee level)-all were either corduroy or floral material. Most of the girls though were in jeans and hip length sweaters and wore tennis-sneakers or the “clunky” type shoes which are all the fashion now. All the girls I saw wore earrings, mostly the small dangling type and often they had two holes pierced. Most of the girls wore make-up, mostly lipstick and eye-shadow, although it was not excessive.
The boys all seemed to be in clothes that were least five sizes too big. It consisted primarily of one of these two clothing options: extra-large sweater overlapping a thermal-type shirt, with jeans that were just short of slipping to the ground or extra-large flannel overlapping a thermal-type shirt, with jeans that were just short of slipping to the ground. A close second to this dressing trend for boys was the sweater and jeans/sweater and khakis style, although nowhere near as prominent. Nearly all of the boys wore their hair short, most frequently with the back cut close to the nape of the neck and the top “gelled.” Some had earrings (both hoop and stud types were observed) and many wore neclaces-either choker chain or “hemp” styles. All of the boys seemed to be wearing sneakers of endless varieties, and most in the one-hundred dollar range.
Aside from these primary gender fashions, there were those who differed. A few of the girls had short hair, a few of the boys grew the top of their hair long. Some of the kids were in clothing that seemed “out-dated” in comparison to their piers, and even had the appearance of being passed down from an older sibling. For example, not being in this seasons color or style. There were also those students, primarily boys, that were in football or basketball jerseys or jackets that sported the schools name or mascott.
I did note a few girls wearing a football jacket, incidentally with boys names on the front. It was easy to note from these observations that generally, clothing was an outward indicator to distinguish among the various social groups. The clothing the students wore was an immediate indication to various social groups, being that it is a visual observation. It can be said that this is a common factor even in the adult world, but not once did I note a “poorly” dressed student socializing with a student that was in an athletic jacket or a student that was “fashion-forward.” It was during the lunch period that I figured I could make distinctions among social groups most accurately At first entering the cafeteria, it was much as I remembered, even much like college. The “volume” was high and immediately I noticed the groups forming, again this is something which does extend into the later teens, and even into adulthood, but here I was observing a much more rigid standard.
There didn’t appear to be any casual socializing among different groups (except in one situation which I will mention). The first group I noticed was the “jock” group, I most likely noted them first because this was the group that I was part of during my teenage years. All of the boys were sporting either baseball, football, or basketball jersey and/or jacket. The girls were all of the “cheerleader” type, many of them also wearing athletic jackets. An interesting thing to note was that this group was tightly packed together, even when every apparent inch of the table was filled, if another one of “their-own” came over a chair was pulled up.
It almost appeared comical, especially since a near by table was almost vacant. I noted that this group was the most vocal, and drew the most attention. As I remarked earlier, there was one exception to “visual” social groups intermingling. It was with the “jock” group and a group that was fashoin-forward. Often I noted that the jock table and a near-by table (also tightly packed, but to a lesser extent) of fashion-forward kids mingling. I judged by appearance, that this group was probably considered the “good-looking” kids table (a standard set primarily due to having the latest haircut or wardrobe).
This table along with the jock table collectively formed the “popular” crowd. If a cafeteria aide had to yell a someone for throwing food, it was from one of these tables. If there was a sudden out bursts of laughter it was from one of these tables, and often from both together. Even one girl from the jock table got up during lunch to walk around and obtain signatures to nominate herself as a candidate for an up-comming student election. Far off in the back of the cafeteria was another group.
As a matter of fact, I even had to relocate my position somewhat in order to observe them better. This group was an all boy group. They were somewhat smaller in size than the jock group, and dressed in clothing that was neither horrible or forward. I suppose you could say that fashion didn’t seem to be as vital to this group as it did to the “popular” crowd. They were collectively talking about the “Star Wars” trilogy, and laughed amongst themselves, and at a much lesser volume than those mentioned earlier.
At one point one of them opened up a text book and motioned to his neighbor to do the same, and then compared answers. There was a table of girls that also appeared to fit within this groups criteria. They were not dressed in the fashion of the “now” and also were working on school work. They were seated in the rear of the cafeteria as well. Interesting enough, neither this group and it’s apparent male counterparts socialized with one another during the lunch period.
When I later returned to the cafeteria during another section of eighth grade lunch, I noted, much to my surprise, that groups with similar styles occupied the very spots where these groups chose. The rest of the cafeteria was inhabited by small groups of four or five, primarily consisting of the “average” student, without any outstanding characteristics. And of course, there were the kids that just sat alone. Observing the students that sat alone, it was quite hard to figure out exactly why this was. As a young adult, I know that I tend to choose friends that have similar values, interests and goals. And, it can be said that the early adolescents I observed were doing a similar action, but it appears that the level of discrimination is dramatically exaggerated.
A students interest goes past just “interest” and straight to a direct reflection as to who they are as a person. And the image of the group is more important than any single part. The students I observed that were alone were for the most part the ordinary kid. Some of the boys were small, some of the girls were awkward looking, a few of the students were overweight and a few students looked like maybe they had come from lower income households. I think the main reasons these students were excluded is because of low self-esteem.
During adolescence, teenagers are overwhelmed with feelings and most of them being confusion. Many are questioning their assets and flaws, and trying to sort out who they are as a person and where they stand in the world as a whole. There are endless pressures from parents, teachers, and piers. It is quite easy to see how a low self-esteem can be developed. I think that the excluded students felt either that they don’t quite “fit” with anyone or that they are not good enough to keep anyone’s company.
Early adolescents are particularly prone to conformity, Because of this necessity to “fit in,” many become subjected to various peer pressures. Pressures can be obvious, such as drinking or smoking in order to prove yourself as “cool,” or they can take a more subtle form. For example, while I was observing an eight grade lunch period, I noted two girls pushing another girl from the back. At first glance it almost appeared to be a fight, then I noticed that the two girls were laughing, and demanding the third girl (the one being pushed) to “just go talk to him, what’s the big deal, don’t be such a geek!!!” They were pushing her over to a boy standing outside of the cafeteria door. This boy was also standing with friends and looking equally unc …