Ever had a high schooler try to persuade you that homework doesn’t really matter? Yes? Keep reading.
“Read their mind” is just another way of saying: Every leader needs to understand what’s changing mentally and physically.
When you know what can be expected of a phase, you are able to give kids the right amount of success.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses addressed the nation of Israel and made a passionate plea to “impress” on the hearts of children core truths that relate to God’s character. Some translations use the phrase “teach diligently.” The phrase can also be translated to mean “to cause to learn.” He wasn’t advocating a lecture-based, Torah literacy program where a teacher’s responsibility ended once the teacher presented the content.
What Moses knew was this: The role of a leader is not to simply present accurate information. The role of a leader is to keep presenting, to keep translating, to keep creating experiences until someone has learned what they need to know.
So, your job is simple.
Know what can be expected of them, and know how they think, so they will hear what you say and know what to do. Teenagers don’t think like adults quite yet.
High schoolers think like philosophers.
Philosophers seek to understand what is unseen and what cannot be measured. High schoolers want to discover meaning and learn best by processing out loud.
A high schooler loses approximately one percent of the grey matter of their brain every year through a process called “pruning.” Pruning allows the brain to prioritize information to become flexible and efficient. With this new efficiency comes an increase in analytical thinking. But the limbic system (risk-taking) is developing at a faster rate than the prefrontal cortex (regulating behavior). So, risk and personal experience still govern behavior. Like a philosopher, they learn best through open debate, multiple perspectives, and applied reasoning. That’s why self-expression and community are essential for learning in this phase.
Just remember, when you understand the way a kid’s mind is changing, you stand a far better chance of identifying clues that help you know what they are thinking—conveying a message they can understand and laying a foundation for later learning.