A universal physical development in students is puberty, which is the set of changes in early adolescence that bring about sexual maturity.
The changes include:
• Internal changes in reproductive organs
• Outward changes such as growth of breasts in girls and the penis in boys
• Increases in height and weight
By about age 10 or 11, most children experience increased sexual attraction to others (usually heterosexual, though not always) that affects social life both in school and out (McClintock & Herdt, 1996).
By the end of second level school, more than half of boys and girls report having experienced sexual intercourse at least once, though it is hard to be certain of the proportion because of the sensitivity and privacy of the information. (Center for Disease Control, 2004b; Rosenbaum, 2006).
At about the same time that puberty accentuates gender, role differences also accentuate for at least some teenagers. Some girls who excelled at math or science in first level schooling may curb their enthusiasm and displays of success at these subjects for fear of limiting their popularity or attractiveness as girls (Taylor & Gilligan, 1995; Sadker, 2004).
Some boys who were not especially interested in sports previously may begin dedicating themselves to athletics to affirm their masculinity in the eyes of others. Some boys and girls who once worked together successfully on class projects may no longer feel comfortable doing so – or alternatively may now seek to be working partners, but for social rather than academic reasons.
Such changes do not affect all youngsters equally, nor affect any one youngster equally on all occasions. An individual student may act like a young adult on one day, but more like a child the next. When teaching children who are experiencing puberty, teachers need to respond flexibly and supportively.
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