The Nine Year Change

By: Lauri Pierce, Grade 4 Teacher

Grade 4 Animal Project DrawingsAt a recent parent meeting, I gave a picture of child development, starting with a John Steinbeck quote from East of Eden:

 “When a child first catches adults out – when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just – his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of the gods; they do not fall a little; they crash . . . And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”

I also shared an excerpt from “On Turning Ten”, a poem by Billy Collins. Then I gave a description of the nine year change and how it relates to the fourth grade curriculum, as well as a preview of the 5th grade curriculum.

This change is an inward awakening to one’s individuality and separateness. It is a serious event for most children, making them question and look at the world in a whole new way. While the change is inward, there are definite outward manifestations in behavior. And while some children seem to coast through, making parents and teachers wonder if it has happened yet, most tend to exhibit one or more of the following: questioning authority (talking back, arguing, belligerence), fearfulness including nightmares or difficulty sleeping, self-conscious or distant behavior, forgetting well-established habits, acting less responsibly.

As with most changes in consciousness, this one demands a lot of inner processing. The children have full plates, psychologically and emotionally, as they contemplate (both consciously and unconsciously) this new view of the world. Although they have discovered that adults are imperfect and separate, they still need and want to know that things are secure. Thus they are best supported by adults who are calm and understanding, as well as matter-of-factly consequential in responding to the testing of limits and misbehavior. Although this can be a trying time, both for children and adults, it is an important step towards independence and pursuing one’s individual path in life.