The bridge from adolescence to adulthood is precarious, yet incredibly transformative. Most teenagers arrive at the threshold of adulthood unsure of who they are or what their next step should be. We spoke with Dr. Brian Daly, the Department Head of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Drexel University, about how our education system is monitoring the complexity of adolescence:
"Because there is accountability for schools at the state level, kids get taught to a certain performance metric. The current classroom is not [engaging] kids in learning that they're really going to love. [Kids] start to understand, 'I'm part of the system.' Each child has a special blend of unique talents, genius and skills, but we struggle to sometimes find out what that ingredient and that recipe is."
Unlocking and amplifying one’s identity is the cornerstone of well-being and foundational learning for teenagers, but large-scale standardization and an over-focus on testing and evaluation make it nearly impossible for schools to be a space for teens to unearth their passion. It is crucial for teenagers to graduate from high school not only with a solid academic foundation but also with a well-developed sense of self, equipped and skilled in engaging with the world around them.
There are three keys to discovering and developing that recipe that ensures future success: clarity, capacity, and confidence.
It all begins with the simple, yet profound, task of understanding the essence of who you are. Much like a Rubik’s cube, figuring out one’s identity requires exploring different angles and tinkering with potential solutions. Every twist and turn of the cube (ones’ life), reveals another little-known secret about what makes them truly unique. This blend of passions, talents, and aspirations is the core of their being. Once found, young adults feel more secure in themselves and their future career.
Some teens are lucky and start off with clarity. For those who do not, this is not always a simple task. It is one that takes time and support from teachers, parents, and mentors. While not easy, there are many ways to find clarity. Dr. Daly suggests exposing them to a variety of experiences:
"Exposure is what we know works — it's what we know engages these kids. It helps them to learn what they didn't know and it fosters a sense in them of 'what is it that I really love to do?'"
As defined by Webster, capacity is an individual’s mental or physical ability; further, it is the power to produce, perform, or deploy. Teens need to unearth their capability so they are confident exploring a greater range of career possibilities.
We do not suggest students narrow their career choices, but first broaden them. Students need to build strong mental habits and be reminded not to equate their worth to exam scores or common core standards. The rubric that matters most is one’s potential, which is quite vast and ever-growing.
It may sound cliché, but confidence is key. Students can’t have clarity or capacity without confidence in both themselves and their abilities. We spoke with Simone Narissa, a salon owner, about her experience with confidence:
"I think that self-acceptance is definitely a lifelong journey — we're constantly changing and evolving. Just as you start to accept yourself, a new version of yourself comes out. But I always make sure that I am rooting myself on and I am continuously developing my confidence so that shows in my career."
When teens build a mindset like that and find the momentum to show up bigger and bolder in the world, they begin to think everything is possible for them — and it is. The mojo, that is essential for teenagers, lives within. A deep knowing that they are being true to themselves and shaping their life to mesh with their unique genius.