I grew up in an average middle class family, whereby I attended a public primary school during early years of my life. Life was quite simple in primary school because almost all pupils were friendly and there were no social divisions both in class and outside. However, life was different when I went to high school, with the existence of a caste system that drew distinct boundaries between the middle class students who were well behaved and the lower class students associated with rudeness and truancy.
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Socialization in Relation to Self Identity
According to Styker (1980), sociological approach to self identity is based on assumption of an existence of a relationship between oneself and the society, whereby the self influences the society through individual actions thus creating groups, networks and institutions. Likewise, the society influences self through shared meanings and language that enable someone to engage in social interactions and reflect upon himself/herself as an object. My primary school life was greatly shaped by society within a conducive environment that never encouraged social divisions among pupils but embraced a unified community, where everyone seemed to conform to norms and regulations of the school. This is further supported by social identity theory that emphasizes on identity as being embedded in a social group or category rather than role behavior (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell 1987).
Life in high school was quite different from that of primary school as I had to identify with either the middle class students who conformed to school regulations or identify with the lower class students, who were truant, rude and cared less about school rules and regulations. This called for need to reflect, evaluate and plan accordingly in order to bring out my future state and achieve consciousness with respect to my own existence in school. Initially, I was torn between the two cliques of students because much as I desired to perform well in school, I also wanted to drink, smoke and do the crazy things that teenagers do. After critical self evaluation, I found myself striking a balance between the two sets of students and had two different sets of social lives. I could occasionally identify with the middle class students who were well behaved when I needed to study and equally strike a balance in being popular with the truant group, especially when I needed to smoke, drink and misbehave. Such decision came after some crisis (Mercia 2008). According to Marcia’s identity status theory, one’s sense of identity is largely determined by choices and commitments made in respect to personal and social traits. Focusing on adolescent development, Mercia (2008) points out that adolescent stage consists neither of identity resolution nor identity confusion, but rather the degree to which one has explored and committed to an identity in a variety of life domains from education, religion, relational choices and gender roles among others. Marcia’s theory of identity achievement argues that two distinct parts form an adolescent’s identity, namely; crisis and commitment. He defined a crisis as a time of upheaval where old values or choices are being reexamined and further argues that the end outcome of a crisis leads to a commitment made to a certain role or value.
Living comfortably with the two sets of students explains the notion that there are as many different selves as there are different positions that one holds in society as well as to different groups responding to self (James 1890). This brings out my overall self that has multiple identities, with each identity being tied to aspects of the social structure (Burke 1980). When associating with the truant group of students, the only things we did and discussed were those relevant to the group such as planning how to misbehave, where to drink, smoke and do other things that were against school rules. On the other hand, identifying with disciplined group of students restricted me to discuss and do things that were relevant to identity of the group such as class assignments and group discussions. This boosted my psychological well being as well as social skills that enabled me to fit well in school society as supported by Thoits (2001), who argues that greater psychological well- being allows individuals to actively acquire multiple role identities over time. Furthermore research has proved that making roles and accumulating role identities equally fosters greater psychological well being.
Being able to identify and associate with two sets of students in high school can be attributed to identity theory. Stryker (1980) describes identity theory as a micro- sociological theory that links self attitudes or identities to the role- related behavior of individuals. It takes into account individual role relationships and identity variability, motivation and differentiation. This implies that my behavior in any of the two groups was dependant on shared responses and behavioral expectations emerging from social interactions. Exchange theory further supports my interaction with two sets of students as it views commitment as being influenced by repeated exchange agreement, which generate emotional connection among group members in the form of satisfaction (Lawler & Yoon 1996).
Socialization in Relation to Academic Performance
Ability to identify with the disciplined set of students gave me satisfaction, both academically and psychologically as learning requires diligence and obedience, qualities that are widely associated with feminists. On the other hand, associating with truant group of students gave me the excitement and drive to enjoy my teenage life as well as performance of masculinity, which is associated with the highest social status in state schooling environment, a status that I could only achieve through identifying with truant group of students (Fine 2003 & Renold 2006).
I was an extrovert, popular with my peers and a high academic achiever. Friends were my most enjoyable aspect of school and I accentuated communication and relationships with friends, while maintaining good heterosexual relationships that invested more in emotional instead of physical aspects of the relationships within the two sets of friends. Research has shown that high achievement in class does not necessarily constitute classroom isolation and unpopularity, thus students identified as high achieving are equally popular. Based on this observation, it can be argued that high academic achievement is not impending the popularity of a student and the sociability of a student may indicate that strong social skills contribute to high academic achievement as was my case (Jackson, 2006).
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Francis, Skelton & Read (2010) indicate in their research that sociability of student’s results to increased levels of confidence for boys and girls regardless of their social class, pointing out that high performing students are often highly aware of their high academic achievement and this achievement awareness preoccupation delineates the notion of giftedness. I was able to excel academically because I was comfortable with my perceived high academic ability and I never underestimated my achievement in relation to my peers, unlike what most girls do.
Being vividly aware of my own authenticity, I managed to construct my popularity based on my intrinsic merit factors such as friendliness, sociability and kindness. I was actively engaged in class work and worked hard, completing all assignments even in challenging conditions. Furthermore, I was an enthusiastic participant in class and was always ready to execute given tasks during classes. I was in good terms with teachers and this added value to my performance of attitude. My talks and actions frequently dominated during my days in high school as I was loud, assertive and at the center of events, unlike my low achieving and less popular peers, who were more extrinsic and obsessed with factors such as good looks. I however considered myself good looking and fashionable in appearance during those days. My physical attractiveness and stylish clothing enhanced my classroom relationships and contributed greatly in bringing a balance between my popularity and academic achievement. This is in agreement with Butler (1993) and Kehily (2006) who indicate that physical appearance facilitates and contributes to sociability, confidence and sometimes academic excellence. My performance enhancing qualities are in agreement with self categorization theory that describes how people define themselves at group level as well as at an individual level, considering group and individual identities to be different levels of self categorization and more distinct from each other as opposed to social identity theory (Hogg and Terry 2000). Employing this theory gave me an opportunity to have unlimited range of identities based on context and convenience to achieve desired objectives based on targeted achievement with any particular kind of behavior.
In their contribution to social identity theories, Lucey and Reay (2002) observe that academic success and excellence cannot exist without failure, supporting the fact that some students must be marked as failures for others to be identified as successful. This explains my academic excellence and equally explains poor performance for some of my peers.
Human beings are social beings and need each other to coexist, a fact supported by the existence of social theories of identity, which explain personal, interpersonal as well as group relationships. As a teenager and a student, social theories of identity worked to my advantage as I managed to strike a balance between different categories of social groups in favor of my performance and social life. I lived well in high school because I could use social theories to manipulate situations for the sake of a peaceful and harmonious existence, while at the same time quenching my curiosity for exciting teenage experience. If well used, social theories can bring success to one’s academic performance and fruitful relationships that support peaceful coexistence within a given society.
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