by Anne Peacock
Social Psychology is a discovery course that fosters the development of the teenage mind to arrive at informed decisions about how to understand and take responsibility for their health and behavior. This course covers the following topics for sophomore students: health and wellness, stress, peer pressure, communication skills, eating disorders, interpersonal relationships, human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, death and dying, diversity, drug and alcohol use and abuse, sexual harassment, mental health and certain principles of positive psychology. The course also addresses some of the California Health Standards that include analysis of valid health information, goal setting, analyzing perspectives and influences and informed decision making.
It’s January, I have just finished one semester of teaching four sections of Social Psychology to half of the sophomore class and I am just beginning to get to know another 98 students.
Today, as an introduction to the exercise of checking-in with each other, I mentioned the fact that there are multiple kinds of intelligences and that most of the time in school we focus on, evaluate and learn content related to academic subjects. I then highlight that some of the social-emotional skills we will practice in this class include listening to one another, understanding or being aware of how our actions impact the group, figuring out how to say what we need to say in a way that can be heard, figuring out how to challenge something we disagree with in a way that maintains our and the others’ dignity, and that not only do we have relationships with others but we also have one with ourselves. And that these skills may have just as much to do with whether we attain our goals than the more obvious and academic skills we practice everyday. This class is just beginning.
Hopefully, at the end of the course, students feel some of what a sophomore boy wrote about in his final paper in which he had explored a difficult relationship with someone in his family and concluded by saying:
In many ways, I believe that this is the lesson Social Psychology has tried to impart on us this year. Humans are complex. There is no easy way to describe or quantify people, so we must dedicate whole fields of study to the matter. We could spend our whole lives trying to figure someone out, but at a certain point we must accept the imperfections and flaws which everyone possesses. In this way only can we form healthy relationships with our family, friends, peers, and selves.
When I was young, I only saw the white, for those six years I saw just the black, and now I see the grey. It is the most bittersweet color of all.
Being able to accept and appreciate our own complexity, as well as that of others, allows us to acknowledge and evaluate multiple perspectives and bring critical thinking as well as empathy to every issues and discussion which seems to be something that we, as a society, could certainly use more of.