adolescent peer relationships

by Zoë

How can a school environment change or influence the way people act? Middle and high school students are affected by many cliques and stereotypes, and sometimes adopt the habits and personality traits of the people they hang out with. This happens across a variety of school environments, ranging from small to large, public to private. The schools can be densely populated with thousands of students, or they can be intimate and quiet.

May is a girl who just started high school, has no friends yet, and is hoping to make some. She discovers the geeks, the populars, the jocks, and other cliques. Not knowing it, she sits with the popular kids at lunch, and begins to develop different personality traits to fit into the group. She goes from shy and insecure to overly confident and rude. May also develops bad habits: she sneaks out after curfew and steals things from the local convenience store. She follows the other girls and puts graffiti on the school bathroom walls, and disrespects her teachers. Her grades began to slip. May didn’t see anything was wrong with her behavior or the sudden change in her choices because she was fitting into the group.

What are some solutions? May could leave the popular group when she feels she is changing herself just to fit in. She also could try to steer the group in the right direction; for example, she could tell her friends that stealing is wrong. Peers, teachers and parents could reach out to May to help her see the problems and find solutions. There are many people who could talk to her about her experiences at school, and suggest ways to make new friends.

After talking with her family, friends and teachers once more, and thinking it out on her own, May made her decision. On the next Monday at lunch, she sat down with a new group, all the way across the dining hall from the popular kids. The group was a mix of mostly girls and a few boys, all from different grades and backgrounds. There didn’t seem to be a leader, or a particular “type” that she felt she needed to be. They were welcoming and friendly, which was especially nice since May felt shy all over again. After a week or two, her personality became warmer and gentler. She realized her new friends made her feel safe, helped her make the right decisions, and she felt herself becoming a nicer and better person. She was officially in her comfort zone, and not only did she feel better, but her new friends, teachers and parents were no longer worried about her.

A person can be influenced positively or negatively by their environment, and it affects all aspects of their health. There are six different types of health: mental, physical, spiritual, social, academic and emotional. It’s a good idea to reach out to someone if you notice they may be going along with the crowd and participating in negative behavior. By helping them to see there are options, it could change their whole perspective.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words;

Watch your words, for they become actions;

Watch your actions, for they become habits;

Watch your habits, for they become character;

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” —Lao Tzu


Lunar dream

by Lily

Everyone is exposed to many stereotypes every day. For example, it is a popular belief that because a lot of terrorists are Muslim, all of them are terrorists, which is absolutely ridiculous. Another example is Donald Trump. He once stated that if he becomes president, he will make sure that no one of Muslim descent will enter the country. Once again, absolutely ridiculous. He also said that he would definitely build a wall to keep ‘the wrong’ people out. Why discriminate someone based on how they look or their race? It just makes no sense.

The Holocaust was also a big example of mass stereotypes. Hitler made a huge decision to try to kill anyone who didn’t have blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes, which was considered ‘holy’ at the time, even though Hitler himself didn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes. People  with any other combination of hair, eyes, or even skin tone, which were most commonly Jews (brown hair and brown eyes most likely), would have been considered ‘not normal’ or ‘subhuman.’

And there are stereotypes that don’t have to do with race, ethnicity or religion. Such as the joke that goes way back that police officers are immediately associated with donuts and coffee, or that people who wear glasses are smart or ‘nerds.’ Making a judgement about someone has a very close side effect that leads to stereotyping people, and stereotyping can lead to prejudice or negative judgements about people, but all in all, we just shouldn’t judge people from the beginning. We usually make judgements about a person because we haven’t met them before, and our mind is deciding whether you should be their friend or not, according to a 2012 study by UCLA.

The media makes a very big imprint on us in terms of what we’re supposed to look like, how much money we need to make, or who to vote for when we get older. For example, the newest trend in the media is that women should have a ‘thigh gap.’ According to google a thigh gap is a space between the inner thighs of some women when standing upright with knees touching. A thigh gap has become an aspect of physical attractiveness that has been associated with fragility and femininity. It is added to the mass stereotype about what women’s bodies should look like. That’s RIDICULOUS. Why should the media have the right to tell us what looks good and what doesn’t especially when it comes to a person’s body? If having a ‘thigh gap’ is natural for you, that’s great! Embrace your body. But if it’s not, don’t beat yourself up about it just because the media is saying that’s not pretty, because believe me, as long as you’re healthy, it’s all good. Don’t let stereotypes affect the way you think about yourself . . . or about other people.

However, we have come so far in stereotypes since even the fifties. Sexism and racism stereotypes were even more common in public back then: for example posters featuring men hitting women, directly saying that men are better than women, saying that it’s a man’s world—and even posters featuring a photo of a woman down on her knees serving a man. I wonder what they would have said if they had known that our generation would experience what we are today: that we might have a women president next in line? As for the racist ads, there were many for the movie Song of the South, a product called skin whitener, and others littered with tons of racial slurs, making fun of how various races supposedly talked, and other equally inappropriate things. It’s really, really scary to think that this was the normal thing to be around and hear back then. Basically, only white privileged males can go back in time and actually enjoy themselves from what I’ve seen so far, otherwise, almost anyone that was a woman or of a different race would have been faced with these advertisements in the media all around them. And the schools and drinking fountains that only white people can use?

If we could all stop judging each other for no reason, everyone would just all around (a) be better people and (b) be nicer not just to one or two specific people in our lives, but just have a better attitude about everyone. The main three things I try to live by in life is (1) have fun in life (2) be nice (3) make friends. I feel like making friends and being nice is always a good place to start, and having fun in life is a really good way to think about everyday life. I believe that by doing as many fun things in life and to be busy every day until the day I die helps put a positive outlook on everything that is to come, and just everything in general. But in the end, if we all just stop judging each other and giving in the stereotypes being put out by the past and the media, we would all just be better people and make more friends.




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