Guest Author - Stephanie K. Ferguson
All too often in school, students are asked to put their emotions aside and focus on the cognitive task at hand. In the current atmosphere of accountability in education, many administrators and educators feel as though there arenít enough hours in the school day to address the academic standards set forth by local, state, and federal authorities. However, research suggests that there is a connection between cognitive and affective functioning (Goleman, 1995). Japanese folk culture does not make a clear distinction between the seat of emotion and the seat of intellect. The word kokoro translates as heart or mind and serves as an example of the inextricable link between the affective and the cognitive (Ferguson & Capper, 2005). Imagine the student who was ostracized during a game of kickball at recess. Is it any wonder that he or she brings a less than positive attitude into the classroom after recess? Everyone carries what amounts to their personal baggage with them, even in primarily cognitive arenas. This relationship has the potential to impact school performance on a variety of levels. Katz (1994) purports perceived social status, perception of teachers, perception of peers, participation in class discussions, and self-direction in learning can be linked to either a positive or negative self-concept depending upon how those impressions are internalized and processed. Frey and Sylvester (1997) contend that successful exposure to affective education strategies can aid in the development of a positive self-concept.
Challenges for Males
The issue of image maintenance looms large for males. Image management issues may result in academic underachievement for males when their immediate adolescent culture does not place value on academic success (Hebert, 2001; Kerr & Cohn, 2001). When peer group status is more important than school achievement, males may opt to mask their true identities (Pollack, 2000). The topic of image lends itself to several types of strategies that could be implemented within a classroom, small group, or individual setting across curricular areas. Hebert (1995) recommends the use of biographies of men who faced similar challenges. Discussion of these biographies could provide insight and promote the use of appropriate coping mechanisms to diffuse the alternate message stemming from the peer group. Similarly, the use of fictional stories or films that involve characters with whom males can identify may facilitate discussion and provide ideas for behavior modification and self-acceptance.
Challenges for Females
Trends in research with females have revealed multiple contributing factors that affect the realization of their potential including: dilemmas surrounding their abilities and talents, personal decisions about family, ambivalence of parents and teachers toward reaching potential, and decisions about caring and duty (Reis, 2002). One aspect that teachers and parents can affect is their own personal ambivalence. Being aware of personal bias and contributing factors that may color their perceptions. Resist the urge to profile adolescents by gender.