Social / Emotional Elements of the Rhetoric Stage

Much of the rhetoric stage of the trivium centers around awareness, independence, and identity. In the high school years, students are essentially adults -- adults by other cultural or historical standards at the very least. Differences of specific maturity levels aside, the rhetoric stage is populated by students who are no longer children; and it is crucial that they are not treated as children.

A great teacher recognizes who each student is, not just what that student must learn. This is the gateway to engagement and learning, and it is a key goal for high school teachers. If a late teenager is treated the same way as a middle schooler, achieving learning objects will be like jamming a square peg into a round hole: it may produce results sometimes, but not smoothly or effectively.

ACA's upper school teachers and parents can partner effectively together by remembering the frame of our rhetoric stage students in these key ways:

  1. Engage with high school students in many of the same ways that we engage with other adults. While students are not our friends or peers, they still become respectable when we show them they are worthy of respect -- even if they are not immediately demonstrating respectable habits.

  2. Standards and conformity are still key, but we should win their hearts before we win the argument. High school students have thin skin, high levels of pride, and low levels of confidence. They need support and kindness through the difficult tasks they face.

  3. Tough love is still love. Students may be frustrated by a difficult standard or consequence, but they can still ultimately see that they are being loved through a consequence -- as long as that love and respect has been authentically built with them over time. 

  4. Teaching or parenting high schoolers should prepare them for independence. If they do not feel empowered toward independence from teachers or parents, they will always find that empowerment elsewhere.

  5. Grades and college admissions are important, but a student's faith during college is essential. As teachers and parents, are we more focused on our kids' robust report cards, or on their robust understanding of, and submission to, the whole counsels of God for life?

Above all, let's pray for ACA's older students, pray for our own kids, and thank God for his saving grace and plans for our good.