AT the lower levels of education – preschool and elementary – teachers know, intuitively or explicitly that they are dealing with children who are developing. This development is far from merely academic. Some are still potty-training and developing emotional resources to deal with the outside world. By high school, it tends to be assumed that we are dealing with mini-adults, and their issues with being functional and serious are attributed to “immaturity,” which is seen almost as a character flaw. But developmental psychology shows that during the high school years, there is one discrete phase that young people go through. Some call it “fulcrum three” – the first fulcrum, or pivot point being around five months, and the second around the time of potty training (two-ish). In each of these phases a discrete sense of self is developed. First, the sense that the child is not the mother, and second, an individual ego sense develops.
It is not until about age fifteen that children begin to break out of this egoic phase, and realize that they are part of larger structures – nation, community, tribe. Hawaiian educators spend a lot of time teaching that “itʻs a kākou thing” – i.e., that there is a collective dimension to an individual’s existence, and as self-identified “Hawaiian educators” we view the Hawaiian nation as the primary structure of this emerging identity. But I doubt that most do this consciously, and hence attribute any failure to societal or familial disfunction, when in fact it is normal growth, not yet completed.
We need to begin thinking of the teaching of higher grades, and college, as a extension of the process begun in pre- and elementary school. We also need to realize that this growth is by its nature slow, and can continue well beyond fulcrum three. Models that look for quick growth – within a year or even a semester – are therefore very flawed and likely detrimental to healthy development.