George Fischer 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 uncomfortable.
The girl who was being pushed was blatently against the idea, her face was red, and I even headed her say several times, I really don’t want to do this, I feel like a jerk. Then she tried to bargain with her friends by saying, I’ll talk to him after Social class, I swear. But still the girls continued to drag her over to this boy. Then came the words I was waiting to hear, You don’t want to be the only one at this dance without a date, only the dorky girls go to the spring dance dateless! Eventually this girl did end up going over to the boy outside.
Another example of peer pressure I observed was within a group of boys. About five or six boys were daring one boy to throw an apple at a wall, incidentally, a cafeteria aide was sitting on a stool near-by the alleged wall. The boy who was to be doing the throwing swore that, he would get caught, but after a small desput he went along with the idea. About one second after the apple hit the wall, the cafeteria aide pulled him by the arm screaming that she’d really had enough of this table’s crap this year! , and that he’d be lucky if he’d get to have lunch in the cafeteria for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, just about all the cafeteria was cheering for him, but he did not seem so happy. There are adolescents that act out with such behavior without apparent pier pressure. Teenagers may act out rebelliously for a number of reasons, but mainly it’s an act of attention. A student I noticed rebelling against authority was in the classroom. It was during an English class, the teacher asked students to hand in the homework assignment, then gave students an in-class reading assignment. A student I’ll call Tom, began to start conversation with the student next to him.
The teacher asked him to be quiet and start the reading. Tom then told the teacher that he forgot his text book. The teacher looked at him in a way that made me think that this wasn’t the first time Tom forgot his book. The teacher then asked him if he turned in his assignment, and Tom replied no. Then the teacher asked him if he speak to him outside. A couple of minuets later they returned, and the teacher handed him a textbook. Tom then began to rap a song and keep beat to the music by playing his desk. The teacher once more asked to see Tom outside, only this time in a lot more serious tone.
Tom then muttered, This is bullcensored, and pushed his borrowed textbook from the desk, pushed his desk and several others desks on his way out. I herd the teacher and Tom arguing then Tom came in, grabbed his notebook and was sent off to the principle. Adolescent egocentrisim is defined as the inability for teenagers to differentiate between what is important to themselves and what is important to others. Two boys sitting in front of me were preparing to take a test. The one boy said Damn, I died on that last test, if I fail this one I swear my father is going to beat my ass.
The other boy said, God, don’t I know it, I bombed the last one The first boy then said, No dude, you don’t know. What are you sayin’, I did just as bad on that test. The first boy then raised his voice and said, No man, you just don’t get it- I can’t fail. I chose one girl and one boy to observe closely for thirty minutes. The girl I chose I noticed right away. She was sitting in the cafeteria alone. She had long brown hair and was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She was an average looking girl and looked as if she may felt a little awkward.
For the first fifteen minuets of lunch she flipped endlessly through her binder, and occasionally took out a piece of paper to read, or to draw on. She never lifted her head up to look around the cafeteria, or to make any eye contact with anyone for that matter. It was at this point that I noticed that this girl didn’t have a lunch with her and never even got up to go get a lunch. I really felt bad for her, she didn’t seem to be very happy or comfortable so I don’t think that she was alone by choice. I wanted to go over and say hi to her by the end of the period, but I never did.
About five minutes before the end of lunch this girl got up from her seat and went to wait by the cafeteria door, and as soon as the cafeteria aide would let her, she left. Many of the other kids were slow to leave and often had to be told a few times to get up from their tables. The boy I observed was recommended to me by the principle himself. This being because the principle felt this student reminded him of me when I was fourteen. I arrived to the classroom before any of the students had and the principle re-introduced to an English teacher I once had. He told me the students name and where he sat in the class.
When the students finally entered, the teacher told them that I was a student aide and not to mind me. Within seconds of seeing this boy I realized why he was recommended. He was in the obvious popular crowd, although he did have a certain identity of his own. While his friends were talking aimlessly among their own clicuqe, he talked to not only his clicque but outsiders as well. Another key observation was that he made eye contact with everyone he spoke with whereas his peers were much more easily distracted in conversation. He carried himself in a maturelike fashion as well.
He wasn’t loud, or needing to be the center of attention, although conversation was often directed his was. But despite this mature demeanor, he still had the Notorious adolescent vocabulary. When the teacher asked for silence, he responded, whereas a few of his friends still wanted to continue conversation. One situation that was particularly notable was when the students were assigned to depict parts of the sentence structure on the board. Many of his friends joked around when they were in front of the class and had to be told to focus on the task, whereas he went straight to work when his turn was called.
Another thing worth mentioning was that when a not-so-popular student was called to the board, many of my subjects friends were quick to make fun, and he didn’t take part. I am not going to say that he told them to shut-up, or anything near as admirable, but during a time when conformity is very important, this boy took a very passive approach. Of the two subjects that I studied I noted that both had characteristics of the normal adolescent, although in very different ways. The girl displayed behavior that is associated with the imaginary audience.
She was very self-conscious, afraid to look around in fear that others might note that she was alone and be the target of their ridicule. I also believe that she is currently in the stage of role confusion, she seems to have doubts about identity and is withdrawn from others almost completly. The boy on the other hand, seemed to be very well adjusted, even more than the average student. I believe that he is at a point of identity achievement, he defiantly appeared to have a higher self-esteem, he had a balance of relationships with his peers and was able to committ himself to tasks that were required of him.
I think the George Fischer school is providing a positive learning environment. The two classrooms both used various techniques to encourage self-development. For example, the teacher at one point had the students work in groups that were formed by him. This not only eliminated students from being left out, but it also encouraged students to get to know one another. Along with this, the value of working with each other towards a common goal was also enforced.
Another advantage is that the students attend this school from fifth to eighth grade, therefor eliminating a transition into a junior high school at a time when adolescents are most awkward and insecure with themselves The school also offered various different classes depending on students needs, for example a student that may not have been in a stage of formal operations had different class options then say that of a student in post formal operations. This students were not required to remain within this tract, but instead could be reassigned the next year.