When I reflect about how long I have struggled to find myself, I cannot help it but wonder at how much I have grown since the time my mother left me in that scary kindergarten class years ago. It is true that I have learnt numerous things and I have grown and developed immensely, as each year I realize I am not the same person anymore. What contributes to this continuous change as I think about it now is more than just learning new things and growing older. No, this change has been contributed to by something else more intriguing than just learning and growing, and this something is development. It is the notion of active learning, growth, pursuit and overcoming challenges, all of which are facilitated by the idea that I have developed a lot from the time I was that little girl. I have gone through kindergarten, middle school and now I am currently studying at the university. My whole being is made up by all of the experiences I have had in all these levels of learning.
Each level of study has come with its own challenges, but the most difficult time of this journey is high school. I experienced most of the changes in my development in high school, events that proved to be exceedingly difficult to handle. At college, I have realized the experience is more pleasant, and easier as it is the time for me to refine those skills that I learned in the lower levels and pushing my limits, especially when it comes to my thoughts and intelligence. All these levels of my growth have been influenced by a number of developmental stages that we must all come by so as to develop into well- rounded individuals of some meaning to the society.
This paper, therefore, is a short history or an autobiography of specifically four experiences that have happened to me through my life stages. The paper will also relate these life experiences with a number of developmental theories proposed and developed by a number of scholars, with the main theorist being Kathleen Berger.
My very first significant experience as an individual was when I joined the kindergarten. This was my first step in the long journey of learning new things and gaining knowledge. Needless to say, the experience was extremely difficult for me because I had just been introduced to new environments filled with strangers and strange surroundings. I remember I was exceedingly scared and I clutched at my mother’s hand without wanting to let go. When she walked me to the door and gently pushed me inside my new class, I was scared and I started to scream hysterically. I looked around and I could not locate a single familiar face, except my mother’s, which was turning around a corner going the way we had come. The fact that I was going to be all alone with all these strangers distressed me immensely.
A number of theorists have carried numerous studies to explore and explain this behavior. Kathleen Berger in her books has explored different kinds of theories to try and explain why children (as I came to know later, a lot of kindergarten children behave like this when their parents or caretakers leave them alone in their new environments, one can only imagine the relief I felt when I found out I was not the only hysterical toddler in kindergarten) behave like this when left in unfamiliar environments. Kathleen’s book looks at a number of theories on development and assimilation of new schemas or knowledge that helps individuals create or form new behaviors.
According to one of the theorists the author looks at, Piaget, children have to undergo cognitive development, which involves changes in cognitive abilities and processes. In his view, early cognitive development has to do with processes based on progresses and actions into changes in operations of the mind. In his theory, Piaget addresses a number of issues which have to do with development including schemas and assimilation. A schema is both a physical and mental action that is involved in knowing and understanding. Schemas are knowledge categories that aid individuals understand and interpret the world. In the view of Piaget, a schema has to do with the process of attaining knowledge and a knowledge category. As experience increases, this new information or knowledge is used to change, add or modify previous schemas (Smith, 1993). For instance, when my mother left me in that class, the only knowledge I knew of the world was of my home and staying around familiar faces. With the new environment, I was bound to be frightened because I had been forced into a new schema without warning.
Assimilation, on the other hand, is the process of taking new information into schemas that existed before. The process is in most cases subjective because most individuals tend to modify information or experience somehow to fit in with beliefs that are preexisting (Smith, 1993). When my mother introduced me to the new environment I had not been allowed time to assimilate and accommodate the new information and knowledge about my new knowledge. As a result, I had to be scared, and, therefore, fight back the new experience until at least I became familiar with the new environment (Smith, 1993).
From the accounts above it is claer that I had to form new schemas first then accommodate within my mind and assimilate the new schemas with my preexisting knowledge for me to be comfortable with the new environment. The fact that I showed fear at my first day in school is just one way of showing that children and even adults need to be allowed some considerable amount of time for them to assimilate to new knowledge so as to be confortable with it.
Another significant experience in my life was starting high school. Many would know that high school is one of the most difficult and harsh environments any teenager can experience. It is in high school where we start to know whom we are, and whom we identify with. The transition from middle school to high school is also difficult, not to mention the adolescent issues that usually come at this stage. The reason why I put high school as one of the most significant experiences of my life is that it is during high school when I started to transition from a child to a young teenager. The transition was extremely difficult and I felt that at all times everyone was against me, and that no one ever understood me or my feelings, or my wants or needs. At this stage, it became easier for me to become isolated than to spend time with the family that was so dear to me only a few years back.
After school, I would stay in my room as I could be allowed and I just wanted to be left alone. According to a number of researchers, transitions from one stage to another can be extremely difficult, especially when one does not seek guidance and advice from experienced individuals in their lives. One of these researchers is Piaget who talked and believed in the ideology that all individuals and especially children have to try to strike a balance between accommodation and accommodation, which one can attain through a mechanism the theorist called equilibration. According to his studies, as children progress through different stages of cognitive development, it is crucial to maintain a proper balance between changing behavior to explain and account for knew information and knowledge or accommodation and applying past knowledge, which is assimilation. The idea of equilibration is one way to explain how children have the ability to move or progress from one stage of thought to another without challenges (Piaget, 1977). My experience of feeling marginalized began with my dressing and other petty things that matter to developing girls in high school like wearing bras and make up. Not having quite a number of what the popular girls had made me feel a lot more marginalized than I had ever felt before. I could not talk my parents to give me permission wear certain clothes or wear makeup, things that all the popular girls wore. The fact that I could not assimilate and accommodate the information that these things are not essential and that I did not need them is what made me behave the way I did prior to my understanding that I was fine even without these insignificant things.
This was tremendouslyintricate for me as all I wanted was to fit in and be more like the other girls at school. Most of the time I felt left out and there was no one to fit in with. I felt like a loner. With time, I found my place and I think I found my identity. Finding my identity was the most superlative thing to occur to me in high school. This is because I knew who I was, what I wanted, how I wanted to be seen, and how I wanted to see myself. Dressing in fancy clothes was soon a thing of the past and I stopped worrying about fitting in with certain groups of people. I became comfortable with whom I was and I instead started to focus my attention to my studies and my friends. This experience in a way identifies with the learning theory. In this case, the constructivism theory is one of the most essential ones among the three. The learning theories of Jerome Bruner, Jean Piaget, John Deweyy and Lev Vygotsky serve as a basis of constructivist learning theories. This theory sees learning as a process in which the student actively builds or constructs new concepts or ideas based on past and current experience or knowledge. Learning is an activity that involves building an individual’s own knowledge from his or her own experiences. This, therefore, is an extremely personal endeavor in which case internalized rules, concepts and general principles may be applied consequently in a practical context. This is also what is referred to as social constructivism. This ideology posits that knowledge is usually developed when people are introduced to new cultures. Constructivism on itself has numerous variations like discovery learning, active earning and building of knowledge(Devries and Zan, 2003). These are clearly some of the things that helped me come by my new experience or knowledge or being a more secure and confident person with myself.
Physical development was also another essential experience in my life. Physical development is usually difficult for all children, whether female or male, and it was to me too. Physical development came with a number of issues for me. I developed extremely low self esteem because I did not understand or like that my body was changing. According to the minitheories in development, children experience and show narrow behavior when developing physically like low self esteem and marginalization. These theories are usually based on the theories established by grand theories, but they do not look to explain and describe the whole of human growth and behavior (Santrock, 2008).
Another exceedingly significant experience or event in my life was learning to interact with people of the opposite sex, and having a close friend, who was a male. This is one of the most significant events in the lives of most girls. This event colludes with theories developed by Lev Vygotsy referred to as sociocultural theory. The theorist believed that caregivers, parents, culture and peers generally were responsible for the development of the higher functions of an individual. According to Lev, everyfunction in the cultural development of a child comes about twice on the individual level and on social level. The first development is between people (interpsychological). The sociocultural theory emphasizes on how attitudes and cultural beliefs affect how learning and instruction take place and also on how peers and adults influence individual learning (Vygotsky, 1986). The culture at the school was that everyone important had to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and this highly influenced the fact that I wanted one for myself.
The sociocultural developmental theory explains my other experience in life better. This experience is when I finally found myself, and understood myself better and when I finally came to understand who I am. Coming into this familiarity is among the most valuable things in my life because it is through self- discovery that I came to be secure in me and what I stand for. It is true that the adolescent and teenage stages can destroy one’s identity and confidence in themselves. However, after these stages were over, I was able to find the sense of self, and like it. An essential concept in the sociocultural theory is referred to as the proximal development zone. According to the theorist, the zone of proximal development is the spaceamid the level of potential development as developed through solving problems under the guidance of adults od in cahoots with peers that are more capable and the actual level of development as determined by independent solving of problems. As it follows, I was able to develop into an independent person with scarce help from my more experienced peers and parents.
One usually is obligated to accept voluntarily to lose or cut themselves from the support group and struggle for their goals in life and expressing their own views and opinions. One only is able to attain interdependence when they gain the ability to organize their activities and solve their own problems (Vygotsky, 1986). When I went to college, it was awfullytricky for me as I had to a different college from all my friends and my parents were miles away. There was no one I couldspeakwith, and I was still trying to find new friends. Before I could find a new support group, I had to learn how to depend on myself. This helped me to become independent.
Devries, B.& Zan, B. (2003). When children make rules. Educational Leadership 61 (1): 64–67.
Santrock, W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development. (4 ed.). New York City: McGraw-Hill.
Smith, L. (1993). Necessary knowledge: Piagetian perspectives on constructivism. Hove, UK: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Piaget, J. (1977). Gruber, H.E.; Voneche, J.J. eds. The essential Piaget. New York: Basic Books.
Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
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