Problems that may Restrain Literacy in Adolescence

By Erica Campos

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Imagine sitting in a classroom and having to listen to a teacher teach a lesson on the water cycle, the square root of something, or symbolism and all you can think about is the beating you took from your drunken parent the night before, or the fact that you have no light nor running water at home, or remembering those unforgettable words, “We are getting a divorce”.  These are all real factors that affect student learning in the classroom.  Many times educators want to blame everything on laziness, but getting to know the students may help alleviate that bias. Divorce, socioeconomic status, abuse & neglect are factors that may restrain adolescent literacy.   

It is essential that teachers get to know his/her students.  Getting to students may aid understanding and patients in the development of literacy in adolescence.  Spotting the Captain of the football team, the head-cheerleader, or the President of the National Honor Society is not that difficult; but how about the rest of the student body, the in between, the sometimes forgotten.  How do we begin to build new knowledge and skills for these students so that they cans gain experience?  Is it possible to get those students to participate in the classrooms?  A well- produced teaching efficacy will help deliver that.  The quick solution would be to introduce them to extracurricular activities (i.e.  Sports, drama, music, etc…).  However, some of these students need guidance & motivations that may help boost that desire.  It may not be easy, but it can be possible.

Educators need to mentally prepare themselves and be ready to teach these groups of students.  Thus, they may find positive ways to motivate their learning and participation.  Although sometimes it is hard to spot the students with unfortunate circumstances it is essential for all educators to take the time to get to know their students.  In addition, being empathetic towards your students may assist in figuring out what the root of the problem is when it comes to learning. Showing the students that they are important and that their learning is important may promote literacy.

Hadar Dubowsky Ma’ayan wrote an article called “Erika’s Stories: Literacy Solutions for a Failing Middle School Student” in which he displayed the tough life this young girl endured.  It is a perfect example of students who live hardship lives.  Erika’s literacy consisted of events and a life of a gang family.  She found school uninteresting until she began telling her stories.  Erika did not have all the new technologies readily available to her, but she knew how to communicate with others through email, and knew how to search the web for free music downloads.  Erika’s struggle in school came from her living arrangement and socioeconomic status.  Her motivation in school was minimal and had very little interest.  A student like her would probably be seen as a “trouble maker” and a helpless case.  Interestingly, the man conducting her case study soon learned that Erika simply had other interests that coincided with her experiences and background knowledge.  Erika is a bright young lady who needed to be guided in the right direction.  

Teachers should not ignore the signs that may guide them to what maybe restraining students learning.  With the right motivation, building adolescent literacy can be a success with the right attitudes.  Keeping a positive outlook that all students can and will learn will help in the success for all.  Factors such as divorce, socioeconomic status, abuse & neglect can all contribute to the lack of literacy for some adolescents.  Ericka was becoming a product of her society.   But finding out what her interests were, illustrated that she wasn’t that far behind from the rest.  Instead, her educators needed to find things that she could relate to.  Plus, getting to know Erika and her situation helped build empathy towards her situation.  It is highly important that a teacher develop a high teaching efficacy in order to make cases like Erika’s easier to detect and furthermore, find meaning in there learning.

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