Act your age! Ever heard that phrase before? The problem with this statement is that behaviors are more influenced by development than a person’s physical age. This point was illustrated beautifully, and sadly, by an unfortunate scene that played out at the end of a long plane ride I took earlier this week.
We hadn’t been waiting long to disembark, but apparently the passenger sitting next to me could no longer tolerate his personal space being compromised by the person standing in the aisle. “Get you big large bottom out of my face, female dog!” [Comment edited for family viewing] As everyone on the plane gasped and waited to see what would happen next, the response came quickly. “Shut your trap.”
The story continued to unfold as one might expect, with playground inflammatory comments like “make me,” and “you and who else?” Eventually, after a long period of verbal escalation, silence followed, and the two passengers stormed off the plane, ready to take out their frustrations on the next individuals they encountered.
Reading this, you might have conjured up an image of two male teens in the height of pubescence… but you would be wrong. If I had to guess, I would say my seatmate was 40ish, and the standing man about 60. Age is relative when it comes to brain maturation. I believe both men suffered from under-developed pre-frontal cortices, which are needed to inhibit extreme reactions.
Teachers, I feel certain you will encounter the same type of “smackdown on aisle seven” behaviors from your students this year, no matter their ages. The pandemic denied kids peer interactions needed to shape and strengthen key areas in their brains. Accordingly, they will have a difficult time “acting their age”.
So, be patient. We can’t force development. The best we can do is coach and support while they try to figure things out socially and emotionally. Our kids will grow up, but as we discovered last school year – it’s going to take a lot longer than we originally anticipated for that to happen.