Starting a new school can be a frightening prospect for any teenager. It can mean being in new and different situations, pressure to make new friends and a conscious drive to avoid being bullied. Of course all these factors are very difficult to control and we’ve all been there, some of us being more successful than others in this rather fake environment where to be ‘cool’ is king (whatever ‘cool’ actually really means).
At such a critical time where we are discovering who we are and what we want to be, the school is key in introducing a range of different structures and environments that force us to develop, re-negotiate and adapt how we present ourselves. This is also about the acceptance or resisting of labels given to us by others, usually as a way to help them ensure their own self-preservation.
In educational geographies, research has also considered external impacts that force down on young people’s identities. For example, it has looked at how they deal with the negative labels attached to them being in a ‘bad’ school or one that is failing academically – a situation which is usually no fault of their own and certainly not down to ‘choice’. What is interesting here is that they can choose to ‘normalise’ negative associations and goings on including fighting and bullying and reframe them as just part of everyday life, helping them to feel more comfortable with the spaces they inhabit. But how does that impact on these individuals in the longer-term? Does this move them away from who they really are? How can this phenomena best be tackled through research and through policy interventions?