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"A slushy time" : the transitional experiences and changing images of adolescents crossing the bridge… Nicol, Jo-Ann Ellen Maynard 2001

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"A SLUSHY TIME": THE TRANSITIONAL EXPERIENCES AND CHANGING IMAGES OF ADOLESCENTS CROSSING THE BRIDGE TO ADULTHOOD by JO-ANN (JAN) ELLEN MAYNARD NICOL B.G.S., Simon Fraser University, 1990 M.A. (Educ), Simon Fraser University, 1994 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Centre for the Study of Curriculum and Instruction) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 2001 © Jo-Ann Elle n Maynard Nicol, 2001 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Departments "H^e- Sj-u^ly o-p CumcuJixm f Xn-ST" ru.c"bor\ The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date . IQ , <s>v-v ( DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT This study focuses on the liminal experiences of a group of grade twelve students. Their narratives describe th e i r experiences as they prepare to leave the structure that has framed their l i v e s for thirteen years and move into the adult world. The study begins with an overview of the l i t e r a t u r e i n which the notion of adoles-cent t r a n s i t i o n into adulthood has shifted over the decades from an emphasis on tran s i t i o n as a r i t e of passage to tr a n s i t i o n as a societal economic concern and the more recent regard for the personal experience of transition. Interviews, f i e l d notes of group discussions and s i t e observations, as well as student surveys and their own narratives form the body of the work. Structured as a narrative, the study presents a co-construction of how these students talked about their pressures and concerns, and the i r hopes and fears of moving into the adult world. While looking forward with varying degrees of anticipation to graduation celebrations, the students, l i k e Janus, the Roman god of the doorway, reflected on past events that have brought them to this place. The study also describes various influences on students' experiences and raises questions about how students might be guided toward adulthood so they have greater confidence i n themselves and their future. Students' evocative stories reveal that grade twelve i s a time of uncertain i d e n t i t i e s and of personal transformation. Their narratives reveal that there i s a need for more sensitive pedagogy for senior secondary students, one that acknowledges t h e i r personal transformations as well as the importance of supportive r e l a t i o n -ships during this time of uncertainty. The f i n a l chapter describes how a number of the students i n the study have fared since their graduation. The Epilogue r e f l e c t s on how the "Subjective-I" (Peshkin, 1988a, p. 18) shaped the study and the resulting text, then b r i e f l y re-examines the value of Turner's (1967) notion of l i m i n a l i t y i n the study of present-day adolescent tra n s i t i o n . V TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents i v Acknowledgments v i i Dedication ix INTRODUCTION: TRANSITIONS AND CHANGING IMAGES 1 Purpose of this study 6 Overview of the study 8 I CHAPTER 2: TRANSITION: AT LITERATURE REVIEW 11 Investigating the transition to adulthood. 12 Shifting the focus 24 Observing l i f e ' s passages 24 Being ^Betwixt and between': the liminal period 29 Uncovering assumptions i n t r i n s i c to the liminal phase 32 Acknowledging limitations of r i t e s of passage for present study 34 Using the notion of l i m i n a l i t y as a heuri s t i c 37 Questioning the use of the framework 42 CHAPTER 3: ENTRY INTO THE LANDSCAPE 45 Choosing a constructivist paradigm 46 Revealing the presence of s e l f i n the research process 50 Appreciating subjectivity as a virtue 56 i v Choosing the s i t e 60 Seeking co-constructed understandings 66 Re-presenting the co-constructed understandings 77 CH7APTER 4: IN THE MIDST OF LIMINALITY: BETWIXT AND BETWEEN THE ENDING AND THE BEGINNING 82 Arriving: "I made i t ! " 84 Waiting: "a slushy area, l i k e getting ready for Something" 94 Being pressed: "Why i s there so much pressure?" 99 Reflecting: "After a while you realize . . ." 108 Hoping: "a setback . . means you do i n a different d i r e c t i o n " . . . . 117 Leaving: "It's not my place . . . any more" 128 Celebrating: "sort of l i k e the f i n a l goodbye" 134 CHAPTER 5: FROM THE OUTSIDE IN: INFLUENCING THE BETWIXT AND BETWEEN . .. 152 Spheres of influence 153 Developing an explorative framework 156 Exploring how expectations influence liminal experiences 160 Exploring how the i n s t i t u t i o n influences liminal experiences 173 Exploring how sacra influences liminal experiences 199 Exploring how communitas and flow influence liminal experiences 205 Reflecting on the spheres of influence 211 v CHAPTER 6: CROSSING THE BRIDGE: THE MYTHS AND REALITY GRADUATION AND ENDINGS 214 CHAPTER 7: BEYOND LIMINALITY: NEW BEGINNINGS 237 EPILOGUE 248 REFERENCES 254 APPENDICES 2 61 Informed consent forms 2 62 January survey form -. 2 64 May survey form 266 Application for copyright permission 268 Copyright permission 2 69 v i ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This has been a long journey that began with a different destination i n mind. As well, there were many stops along the way -- some more unexpected than others. Without the love and support a great many people, some of those stops would l i k e l y have become permanent. I am grateful for a l l of the people who walked with me on this journey. I am especially grateful for the support of my committee who, I am thankful to say, never gave up on me. I p a r t i c u l a r l y thank my co-chair, Walter Werner, who challenged, prodded, and encouraged me through good times and bad. Walt, I know that I grew as a researcher and became more precise i n my writing under your careful guidance and I thank you. In addition, I feel t r u l y fortunate to have had the support and guidance of my other co-chair, Carl Leggo, who encouraged me to think narratively and who, with understanding, guided me toward c l a r i t y when I saw the world metaphorically. Carl, your support helped me t e l l the stories of the students i n this study i n a way that, hopefully, honoured them as people rather than subjects and, for that, I am grateful. As well, I am grateful for the encouragement and support of Carolyn Shields who guided me i n my growth as a researcher. Carolyn, I thank you, not only for your guidance but also for your support and friendship over the past several years. The fourth member of my committee, Stephen Smith, began v i i walking pedagogically beside me many years ago when I started out along the path toward my Masters Degree. For more than ten years, he has encouraged, listened to, and guided me with pedagogical thoughtfulness. Stephen, I am grateful for your support, your understanding, your wisdom, and your friendship. I would also l i k e to acknowledge, with appreciation, the contributions of the students and st a f f at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School. Your participation made this study possible but, even more importantly, you gave me an enormous g i f t — a g i f t of your trust, your support, and your friendship. It was a g i f t that was beyond expectations and I was honoured by i t . Finally, there are a number of people i n my personal l i f e to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude. To my three children, Tad, Susan, and Janice, thank you for your continued love and encouragement, for never giving up on me, and for your patience during a l l the years I have been following this path. As well, I thank my seven grandchildren (five of whom have never known a time when their Nana was not a student) for their understanding when my studies kept me from fun times. And f i n a l l y , I am grateful to my ea r l i e r mentor, George Dixon, who never stopped believing i n me and who, i n another time and place, provided the love and support to give me the courage to travel this road. It has been a road of discovery and recovery. I wish I could promise my family that I w i l l not fin d other roads to travel but already new destinations beckon. v i i i DEDICATION This thesis i s lovingly dedicated to my grandchildren: Christie, Brandon, Kareline, Lauren, Cameron, Zoe, and Aidan with the hope that, as each of you travel l i f e ' s journey, you w i l l always receive the love and support you need during your times of t r a n s i -tion. s ix INTRODUCTION: TRANSITIONS AND CHANGING IMAGES It is precisely in the change of self-image and the changing of one's image of the world and how one thinks one should relate to the world that a rite of passage takes place. (Oldfield, 1996 i n Mahadi, 1996, p.151 [ i t a l i c s i n o r i g i n a l ] ) As we enter the t h i r d millennium, many might argue that r i t e s of passage are merely a r i t u a l of e a r l i e r times. How-ever, no one would argue that t r a n s i t i o n i t s e l f , whether marked by r i t u a l or not, i s a part of the human condition. As Belgian f o l k l o r i s t Arnold van Gennep (1960, pp.2-3) pointed out, The l i f e of an i n d i v i d u a l i n any society i s a series of passages from one stage to another and from one occupation to another. Transitions from group to group and from one s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n to the next are looked on as i m p l i c i t i n the very fact of existence. Some of l i f e ' s t r a n s i t i o n s are gradual, others celebrated or r i t u a l i z e d as momentous occasions. Whether i t i s the infant taking those f i r s t steps to become a toddler, the five-year-old going o f f to school for the f i r s t time, the birthday f i n a l l y turning a c h i l d into a ^teenager,' the high school graduate moving o f f into the adult world, relationships and marriages beginning or ending, adults adjusting to parenthood, or even dealing with ^mid-life c r i s i s , ' every passage begins a new phase i n the l i f e journey. 1 The many new beginnings along t h i s l i f e journey cannot begin without an ending. But what of the in-between? Is i t possible to i d e n t i f y a space between the ending and the begin-ning? Van Gennep (1960, p.11), studying s o c i e t i e s where s i g n i f i c a n t passages were marked by what he termed rites de passage, pointed out that when the a c t i v i t i e s associated with such ceremonies were examined, i t was possible to d i s t i n g u i s h phases he l a b e l l e d separation, t r a n s i t i o n , and incorporation. Although the structure of r i t e s of passage t h e o r e t i c a l l y includes the three phases, van Gennep noted that i n s p e c i f i c instances the three phases are not equally important or equally elaborated. Drawing on van Gennep's model, V i c t o r Turner (1967, p.94) also concluded that a l l tr a n s i t i o n s are marked by three phases: separation, margin or limen, and aggregation. The separation phase comprises a detachment (symbolic or otherwise) from an e a r l i e r state i n the s o c i a l structure. In the t h i r d phase an in d i v i d u a l i s accepted into the new state with c l e a r l y defined rights, obligations, and e t h i c a l standards. Transition from one state to another i s "a process, a becoming, . . . even a transformation"(p.94). It is like being a butterfly no.... being in the cocoon before you become a butterfly (Sandi, student Interview ,#11 J 1 1 Student quotes from interviews and questionnaires used i n this chapter are from the data collected i n this study. Informa-2 Turner further argued that at the mid-point of the t r a n s i t i o n process a l l " t r a n s i t i o n a l beings" are "betwixt and between" a l l the recognized fixed points i n space and time (p.97). This mid-point i s a time of l i m i n a l i t y . L i m i n a l i t y , a concept Turner (1977, p.36) "borrowed" from van Gennep, comes from the term limen -- a threshold -- which van Gennep used to denote the midpoint of the t r a n s i t i o n process. 2 Although Turner's study focused on r i t e s of passage i n pre- i n d u s t r i a l t r i b a l s o c i e t i e s , Bridges (1980, p.117) 3 exam-ined the notion of the l i m i n a l phase of t r a n s i t i o n i n the context of our urban p o s t - i n d u s t r i a l i z e d society. Referring to van Gennep's model, he suggested that the consciousness-tion about data co l l e c t i o n i s found i n Chapter 3. 2Turner (1977, p.37) contended that i n the case of protracted r i t e s of passage the limen or threshold i s a very long threshold, almost a corridor. 3 To date there has been very l i t t l e interest i n the notion of t r a n s i t i o n . Other than an anthropological interest i n r i t e s of passage i n t r i b a l societies, investigations appear to have been limited to adolescents successfully entering the work force or completing f i r s t year of postsecondary schooling. There has been some interest i n exploring, from a sociological perspective, the transition of seniors as they cope with "old age" (e.g., Hamburg, 1981 in Eurich, 1981). The focus of previous studies appears to have been from a p o s i t i v i s t or post p o s i t i v i s t perspective. One exception i s the work of William Bridges (1980) who explored with groups of people the d i f f i c u l t i e s they encountered as they worked through transitions in their l i v e s . A second, more recent, exception to the t r a d i -tional interest i n adolescent transition i s the c o l l e c t i o n of a r t i c l e s edited by L.C. Mahadi (1996), Crossroads: The quest for contemporary r i t e s of passage. Both of these w i l l be reviewed i n Chapter II. 3 a l t e r i n g techniques used i n the t r a d i t i o n a l r i t e s of passage "enhanced the natural tendency to see and understand the world d i f f e r e n t l y i n the gap between one l i f e phase and the next" — something that i s missing i n modern society. Because they were highly r i t u a l i z e d and sanctioned by society, the r i t u a l s not only marked the passage but provided support for i n d i v i d u a l s . Bridges (p.112) further pointed out that one of the d i f f i -c u l t i e s of being i n t r a n s i t i o n i n the modern world i s that we have " l o s t our appreciation for the gap i n t h i s continuity of existence" — t h i s in-between, t h i s being Ain-passage,' t h i s " l i m i n a l " phase (Turner, 1967). One of the s i g n i f i c a n t t r a n s i t i o n s i n our present society where ceremony and r i t u a l place emphasis on the ending and great expectations on the new beginning i s the progression from secondary schooling to l i f e i n the adult world. Although the ceremonial aspect of the progression i s absent for those who do not reach the magical Graduation Day, i n the end i t makes l i t t l e difference to how the t r a n s i t i o n a l experience i s perceived. The emphasis i s on the t r a n s i t i o n to post-secondary education or the work force with l i t t l e consideration paid to how students experience the passage. Yet, by i t s very nature, grade twelve i s a time of l i m i n a l i t y , a time of being "betwixt and between" a high school student and a young adult. Secondary schooling ends with the completion of grade twelve 4 4 Although the Graduation ceremonies mark the formal ending 4 and, ready or not, students must make the t r a n s i t i o n into the next phase of t h e i r l i f e journey. I f e e l that I'm not that well prepared. I'm a c t u a l l y quite worried about my future. (Questionnaire #081) . . . everyone always says that when you get out of high school your whole world i s back i n high school and I see i t as the whole world i s out there and you're stuck i n high school. I f e e l l i k e I'm stuck here and there's no point to what I'm doing. (Sophie, who i s not going to graduate, Student Interview #31) In keeping with the perspective that the passage i t s e l f i s of lesser importance, many educational researchers focus t h e i r attention on the new beginning phase of the adolescent t r a n s i t i o n process. To date much of the research has examined t r a n s i t i o n into something rather than the t r a n s i t i o n process from secondary schooling. In p a r t i c u l a r , researchers have shown increased inte r e s t i n the economic implications of youth t r a n s i t i o n (Bettis, 1996; Brown, 1980; Coleman & Husen, 1985; Hamburg & Takanishi, 1989; Holmes, 1995; Irwin, 1995; Kerkho-f f , 1990; Merganhagan, 1995; Rosenbaum, 1996; Wyn & White, 1997; and others) with an emphasis on youth t r a n s i t i o n as a labour related issue. Rather than examining youth t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood as a process involving in d i v i d u a l s on t h e i r l i f e courses, researchers seek to i d e n t i f y problems i n the school-to-work t r a n s i t i o n . The experiences of the individ u a l s most fundamentally concerned are not of primary i n t e r e s t . of secondary schooling, emotional and mental endings occur e a r l i e r thereby opening the way for liminal experiences. 5 The exception to the emphasis on "new beginnings" are studies that focus on high school drop-outs (Fine, 1991; K e l l y & Gaskell, 1996). 5 While the stories of these students o f f e r insight into the experience of school leaving, they are not meant to uncover the t r a n s i t i o n experience — being i n the i n -between space — as students move into the post-secondary phase of t h e i r l i v e s . But what are the experiences which appear to represent the t r a n s i t i o n process from secondary schooling to the adult world? What meanings does t h i s passage hold for adolescents? And how could I, as an adult outsider, gain some understanding of the " l i m i n a l experiences" of grade twelve students? Are there aspects of the various notions of t r a n s i t i o n that might be useful i n understanding these adolescent " l i m i n a l experi-ences"? P u r p o s e o f t h i s s t u d y The purpose of t h i s study was to explore the experiences of the ^in-between' phase of the t r a n s i t i o n — the l i m i n a l experiences — of grade twelve students. It endeavoured to determine the various aspects of the l i m i n a l experience for grade twelve students and what events or situations 5 Generally these studies look at the phenomenon of dropping out as a f a i l u r e of the system or the student but seldom examine the range of experiences themselves. 6 p r e c i p i t a t e these l i m i n a l experiences. In the exploration, several related questions arose. What meanings do grade twelve students give to t h e i r l i m i n a l experiences? What part do relationships play i n l i m i n a l experiences? What part does the curriculum play i n li m i n a l experiences? Of primary concern was how best to uncover the l i m i n a l experiences of grade twelve students and understand the constructed meanings of those experiences. Therefore, a conceptual framework gathered from anthropologists studying r i t u a l s of p r e - l i t e r a t e s o c i e t i e s and soc i o l o g i s t s investigating youth labour market trends might suggest an epistemology which i s a n t i t h e t i c a l to a co n s t r u c t i v i s t p o s i t i o n where methodological assumptions focus on constructed r e a l i t i e s . Although the notion of l i m i n a l i t y has l a r g e l y r e f l e c t e d a s t r u c t u r a l i s t perspective of how we move along our l i f e journey (hardly a p o s i t i o n conducive to understanding how adolescents make sense of t h e i r own t r a n s i -t i o n a l experiences), elements of that notion can provide a h e u r i s t i c i n our attempts to understand the passage from secondary schooling. I believe that the significance i n t r y i n g to understand how young people experience t h i s important passage cannot be understated. As Eisner (1979, p.156) pointed out, our t a c i t b e l i e f s about factors that motivate students and the conditions that foster learning influence the educational decisions we make. Uncovering how students experience various 7 aspects of the t r a n s i t i o n process can enhance our c u r r i c u l a r and pedagogical decisions as we work with adolescents progressing through the l i m i n a l phase of the t r a n s i t i o n from secondary schooling. Overview of the study Chapter 2 of t h i s work6 explores the notion of t r a n s i t i o n as described by various authors. Research on youth t r a n s i t i o n has, i t s e l f , undergone a t r a n s i t i o n . Early i n t e r e s t i n youth t r a n s i t i o n emerged from anthropological studies of r i t e s of passage i n t r a d i t i o n a l s o c i e t i e s , i n p a r t i c u l a r , passage into womanhood or manhood. In recent decades, as western society continues to s h i f t to a p o s t i n d u s t r i a l society and the e f f e c t s of d e i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n become evident, i n t e r e s t i n the economic implications of youth t r a n s i t i o n has increased as has an emphasis on youth t r a n s i t i o n as a labour related issue. More recently some authors (e.g., Bridges, 1980; Mahadi, 1996; Wynn and White, 1997) have explored t r a n s i t i o n as a personal experience. From th i s l a t t e r body of l i t e r a t u r e , an under-standing of t r a n s i t i o n as transformation began to emerge. 6 Throughout this work, two different styles of type have been used to distinguish the various voices re-presented. The main narrative i s written i n regular type, including background information and direct quotes from the students, whether from survey comments or individual interviews. I t a l i c s are used to s i g n i f y my personal reflections and f i e l d notes. 8 Coming to an understanding of t r a n s i t i o n as part of the l i f e journey, I began my exploration of the l i m i n a l experiences of grade twelve students. That exploration i s described i n Chapter 3 where my journey into the world of grade twelve i s described. This chapter outlines how the study gradually took shape as I r e f l e c t e d on previous conversations with grade twelve students as well as my own approaching graduation. Although an adult outsider s i g n i f i c a n t l y separated by age7 from grade twelve students, those r e f l e c t i o n s often enhanced the conversations with students i n the study as we sought to co-construct an understanding of t h e i r l i m i n a l experiences. 8 The students' stories, and the themes that emerged, are related i n Chapter 4, while Chapter 5 examines some of the factors that contributed to the l i m i n a l experiences of these grade twelve students. Chapter 6 seeks to recapitulate how a group of grade twelve students experience the l i m i n a l phase of the t r a n s i t i o n from secondary schooling. The chapter begins with my re f l e c t i o n s on my year at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary and raises 7 The term xage' i s used here as a surrogate measure for a number of soci a l , psychological, and physical characteristics. 8 Since t h i s study focused on the co-construction of an understanding of the li m i n a l experiences of t h i s group of grade twelve students, my own extensive r e f l e c t i o n s and questions have been included i n the text. Some of these r e f l e c t i o n s are i n response to observations of or conversations with the students. Others are personal r e f l e c t i o n s about what i t means to be i n t r a n s i t i o n and how we support those involved i n the process. 9 questions .about how we might better support adolescents i n t r a n s i t i o n . As well, i t suggests implications of the findings and proposes questions for further study of the l i m i n a l phase of adolescent t r a n s i t i o n . Chapter 7 presents b r i e f glimpses of how a number of stu-dents i n the study have fared i n the two and a h a l f years since graduation. It i l l u s t r a t e s how changing self-images altered the way they are choosing to make t h e i r way i n the world. The Epilogue b r i e f l y r e f l e c t s on how my "Subjective-I" (Peshkin, 1988a, p.18) shaped the study. As well, i t b r i e f l y re-examines the value of the notion of l i m i n a l i t y as presented by Turner (1967) i n an exploration of the "in-between" stage of t r a n s i t i o n from secondary schooling and the adolescent world to the adult world i n 1999-2000. This, then, i s an exploration of the l i m i n a l experiences of a group of grade twelve students. 10 CHAPTER 2 TRANSITION: A LITERATURE REVIEW The term 'youth transition' i s used i n a variety of contexts to describe a range of events and experiences involving adolescents. Different scholars focus on often very different notions of what l i f e transitions are a l l about. As a result, much of the l i t e r a t u r e could be arrayed on a spectrum that ranged from 'youth transition to adulthood as a societal concern' to 'youth transition to adulthood as personal transformation.' It should be noted, however, that the concepts 'youth' and 'adulthood' are vague and often not well developed i n the youth l i t e r a t u r e (Irwin, 1995, p.27). Irwin (p.3) contends that 'youth' i s an h i s t o r i c a l construct which gives certain aspects of the b i o l o g i c a l and social experience of growing up their meaning. Wyn and White (1997) suggest that, for i n s t i t u t i o n a l and policy purposes, 'youth' as an age category generally starts around 13 and con-tinues u n t i l age 25. They also suggest that i n future this " s h i f t i n g category" (p.l) w i l l extend even further, at both ends. Coleman and Husen (1985) submit that, i n the post World War II period i n the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, a stage of development known as 'youth' emerged. This i s a stage between adolescence and adult-11 hood. However, recently a "rather blurred borderline between youth and adulthood" (p.11) has arisen because age corresponds less to l i f e s t y l e than i n the past. Although Hutson and Jenkins maintain the concept of adulthood i s not very developed i n the youth l i t e r a t u r e (1989, in Irwin, 1995, p.27), i n much of the current youth research l i t e r a t u r e i t appears to be closely linked to financial independence. Investigating the transition to adulthood In recent decades, as western society continues to s h i f t to a postindustrial society and the effects of deindustrialization become evident, the predominant focus of research on youth tran s i t i o n has been on the outcomes of youth t r a n s i t i o n and the consequences of these l i f e course transitions within the broader society. In particular, researchers, as noted e a r l i e r , have shown increased interest i n the economic' implications of youth tran s i t i o n with an emphasis on youth t r a n s i t i o n as a labour related issue. Rather than examining youth tra n s i t i o n to adulthood as a process involving individuals on their l i f e courses, researchers have sought to identi f y such things as problems i n the school-to-work transition. This i s certainly true for such authors as Glover and Marshall (1993). While their a r t i c l e examined the tran s i t i o n of students from secondary schooling, the focus was on the preparation of students for the workforce. According to 12 the authors, "the lack of a systematic bridge between school and work"(p.593), while most adversely affecting poor and minority students, also affects others who choose not to pursue a bacca-laureate degree. The authors called on a l l levels of government as well as labour and business to be active participants i n developing a process to f a c i l i t a t e the t r a n s i t i o n from school to work for young people. Other authors, examining the school-to-work transition, have also argued for the need to develop appropriate education and training p o l i c i e s to f a c i l i t a t e the t r a n s i t i o n from school to employment. In a study designed to examine the attitude toward training for new technology, economic locus of control, s e l f - e f f i c a c y , and self-estrangement i n a group of Canadian adolescents, Taylor, Boss, Bedard, Thibault, and Evans (1990) found that students who had been out of the educational system for more than a year (and l i k e l y been unable to f i n d employment in that time) had a different attitude toward training for new technology than did their secondary counterparts. While this study did not examine the transition experience for students leaving secondary school, i t did reveal the importance of having students describe their level of confidence i n the t r a n s i t i o n experience. Rosenbaum (1996) , after a review of the research on high school-to-work transition, suggests that the school-work t r a n s i -tion may be improved i f schools made academic instruction voca-t i o n a l l y relevant, i f employers based h i r i n g on applicants' achievement i n school, and school-employer linkages were created and appropriately designed. Further, he argues that the view of vocational education as a form of tracking which precludes opportunity i s an oversimplification. Rosenbaum contends that tracking i s a more complex issue than so c i a l critiques have suggested. Preoccupation with the relationship between the labour, market and youth transition appears rooted i n the b e l i e f that employment underwrites the a b i l i t y to secure independence and an adult l i f e s t y l e . However, Wallace (1987, In Irwin, 1995, p.21) argues that these "'normal' paths to adulthood" that were estab-lished during f u l l employment i n the 1950s and 1960s are no longer possible. In fact, the weakening of the youth labour market has prolonged transition into adulthood. Williamson (1985, in Irwin, 1995, p.20) describes these underemployed young adults as "trapped as teenagers" while W i l l i s (1985, in Irwin, 1995, p.20) suggests they "experience an extended youth as a period of suspended animation, and [are] caught i n a 'frozen t r a n s i t i o n ' . " Brown (1980) also wrote of this extended t r a n s i t i o n and noted that the transition into adulthood has never been easy. In his report of the National Commission on Youth, he pointed out, however, that Contemporary youth move i n a society far different from that of their peers several centuries ago. The pace of learning i s quicker. Sexual maturity arrives e a r l i e r . And yet, through a combination of many factors, youth are held back and shielded from the adult world. The bridge of time between youth and 14 adulthood has become a bridge too long. (p.9) Brown supported his argument by outlining how society has altered the way i t transforms i t s youth into productive adults. He i d e n t i f i e d two d i s t i n c t evolutionary periods: a work phase (a time when young people were rushed into work roles as soon as they were able to do the job they were expected to perform) and an extended schooling phase (brought about by the change from an agrarian society to an ind u s t r i a l society and designed to produce increased economic opportunity for youth). With compulsory schooling, direct access to economic productivity was postponed i n the name of economic opportunity. Brown maintained that "the emergence of the school as the dominant i n s t i t u t i o n a l force i n the li v e s of youth led to a diminution of the home, the church, and the community as settings where youth learned about the tra n s i t i o n to adulthood"(p.13). The Commission's Report, presented to educators, sociologists, l e g i s l a t o r s , and youth policy making bodies recommended, among other things, that schools "break down the barriers to r e a l i t y and spearhead the transition of the young into the adult world" (p.16). Use of the metaphors "frozen t r a n s i t i o n " and "bridge too long" when referring to underemployed young adults supports the contention by some authors that f i n a n c i a l independence equates to adulthood. Irwin's (1995) study of youth t r a n s i t i o n i s based on this notion. Noting the pattern of deferral i n the timing of transitions from the p a r t i a l dependence of youth to the indepen-dence associated with adult status, Irwin (p.2) began her study with the question: what are the consequences of economic change, i n particular changing structures of employment and labour demand, for the transition from youth to adulthood? In her study, she explored the relationship between employment opportunities and changes i n the timing of making the t r a n s i t i o n into taking on roles t r a d i t i o n a l l y associated with adulthood, i n particular, family formation. Irwin argued that changes i n the earning power of young people, p a r t i c u l a r l y women, as well as increased economic status of parents who provide the means for youth to stay i n school longer are two factors that have affected the age of transition into adult status. While Irwin examined the reasons young people gave for their decisions, she did not explore how young people experience the t r a n s i t i o n . In Coleman and Husen's (1985) view, too much attention has been focused "too exclusively" on the employment problem. In their findings for the Transition to Adulthood project for the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 1 they noted that "there i s a growing suspicion that the troubled t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood depends upon the f a i l u r e of existing i n s t i t u t i o n s , p a r t i c u l a r l y the regular school, to cope adequately with their s o c i a l i z a t i o n task, either singularly or i n their mutual r e l a -tionships" (p. 7) . The *troubled t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood' may be related to what Coleman and Husen termed vthe discrepancy between aspirations inculcated by prolonged schooling and what 1 The Centre i s connected to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international body of which Canada i s a member nation. The report was written i n close consultation with the Secretariat. 16 [young people] are l i k e l y to achieve i n terms of status and economic remuneration"(p.9). In their report which embodied the results of a conceptual and research-oriented analysis of the broader issues related to the transition to adulthood, the authors concluded that there i s a strong need to rethink the place of the family, the school and the workplace i n s o c i a l i z i n g young people into adult society, and to f i n d appropriate links between them. Hutson and Jenkins (1987a, p.94, in Irwin, 1995, p.25) vigorously opposed suggestions that youth unemployment undermines the process of "becoming adult." They approached the d e f i n i t i o n of adulthood and the structuring of transitions from two directions: 1) stressing the social psychological aspects of attaining adult status, and 2) developing an understanding of transitions i n relation to a general concept of citizenship. The authors argued that "the transition from childhood to adulthood i s i n large part a moral tra n s i t i o n - a change i n the individual's a b i l i t y to make certain kinds of decisions - and that a bargain, and an agreed d e f i n i t i o n of adulthood, i s struck between parents and children" (p.25). While Hutson and Jenkins opposed the view that transition into adulthood i s d i r e c t l y related to fin a n c i a l independence, they did not speak of transition as a personal transformation. However, their contention that moving into adulthood i s a moral t r a n s i t i o n locates their work within the small body of l i t e r a t u r e that acts as a bridge between the views of transition as transformation 17 and transition as a societal concern. Although not focusing s p e c i f i c a l l y on youth transition, Greene (1990) sought to investigate what informs adolescent expectations of the future. She, too, pointed out that the l i f e course, 2 with i t s composite stages, i s a construction of so c i a l i n s t i t u t i o n s (e.g., cultural ideology, educational systems) (p.291). In her e a r l i e r (1986) study, she concluded that adoles-cents construct a narrative of the future that i s largely informed by the events and experiences encountered i n the past and that they encounter i n the present (1990, p.290). Results of her l a t e r study showed that cumulative exposure to c u l t u r a l i n s t i t u t i o n s , such as formal education, provides an important means by which the individual's narratives of future l i f e course are informed (p.303). While the focus of her work was on the individual and not s p e c i f i c a l l y on outcomes (e.g., success i n the labour market or post-secondary education), Greene's study examined youth transition to adulthood within the so c i a l context rather than youth tra n s i t i o n a l experiences thereby placing her work between transition as transformation and t r a n s i t i o n as a societal concern l i t e r a t u r e s . Bellamy's (1992) unpublished doctoral dissertation could also be c l a s s i f i e d as part of this "bridging" l i t e r a t u r e . In her study of grade twelve students making the t r a n s i t i o n to adult 2 L i f e course refers to the interlocking pathways across the l i f e span within which a l l transitions are embedded. It favours a process view of transition, from a c t i v i t i e s leading up to the event to the post-transition i t s e l f . 18 l i f e , she investigated how and why individuals choose various post-secondary destinations. While the study examined such things as factors that influenced students' decisions, the processes that underlaid those decisions, and how students perceived those processes, which are a l l individual considerations, the focus of the inquiry was grounded i n a societal concern rather than the concept of t r a n s i t i o n as transformation. However, the students' narratives, used i n the study to i l l u s t r a t e students' decisions about post-secondary destinations, reveal some of the uncertainties authors such as Turner (1967, 1977) and Bridges (1980) claim are part of the l i m i n a l i t y of transition as transformation. Also exploring youth transition as a societal concern, Marlis Buchmann (1989), i n The script of life in modern society: Entry into adulthood in a changing society, argued that a person's l i f e course i s i n s t i t u -tionalized, that society organizes and defines individual l i f e courses. She contended that progression i s governed by a set of formal rules that, among other things, orders l i f e as a sequence of l i f e stages and regulates transitions between them. Buchmann also described (84) a new l i f e stage discussed within the social sciences: postadolescence (Keniston, 1989, 1971; G i l l i s , 1974; Jugendwerk der Deutschen Shell, 1982; a l l in Buchmann, 1989, p. 84) which represents a new type of t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood. Postadolescents are adults except for the fact that they are economically dependent on others. The extension of schooling i s seen as the major factor contributing to the establishment of 19 this new l i f e stage. Young people with higher so c i a l class background are more l i k e l y to participate i n i t . However, Buchmann (p.84) contended that the concept of postadolescence as a l i f e stage overlooks the fact that, from a sociological standpoint, the condition of schooling and/or professional training has always been the discriminatory feature of the youth status. Buchmann (p.85) argued that "the rapidly increasing temporal disconnection of different events i n the t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood helps to extend, to diversify, and to individualize the l i f e period of becoming an adult—both i n structural and cult u r a l respects." Further, she argued, stable integration into the labour force has been replaced by repeated cycles of retraining and interrupted labour-force p a r t i c i p a t i o n . As a result, "retrained (or unemployed) youths and retrained (or unemployed) adults become, structurally speaking, a l i k e " (p.85). The tra n s i t i o n to adulthood becomes blurred although the focus i s no less economic. Like Buchmann, Kerkhoff (1990) focused on a l i f e course approach to analysis of the transition from adolescence to adulthood. He argued that an analysis of l i f e course patterns must consider the social context within which the l i v e s are being l i v e d (p.l) as l i f e courses are s o c i a l l y constructed (Meyer, 1988, in Kerckhoff, 1990, p.3). Kerckhoffs study of adolescent to adult transition concentrated on s i m i l a r i t i e s and differences i n educational systems i n Great B r i t a i n and the United States and ways i n which those s i m i l a r i t i e s and d i f f e r -20 ences appear to contribute to post-school pathways. Kerckhoff found that "the central element of the difference between the two societies' social mobility regimes i s the school-to-work transition"(p.13). The author notes that full-time schooling continues much longer i n the United States and the school-to-work transition i s "closer to a one-time event" (p. 13) . On the other hand, the school-to-work transition i n Great B r i t a i n can be seen more as a process that continues over a number of years given the significance of part-time further education (p.13). According to Kerckhoff, although some have received more attention than others, there are at least f i v e t r a n s i t i o n a l events involved i n becoming an adult: leaving full-time school, entering the labour force f u l l time, establishing a residence independent of one's family orientation, marrying, and becoming a parent (p.14). While Kerckhoff did not claim a young person was required to experience a l l five events i n order to become an adult, many would argue that, given the complexities of present day society, Kerckhoffs notion of tr a n s i t i o n into adulthood i s , indeed, a bridge too long! In Rethinking youth, Wyn and White (1997) offer a perspec-tive on youth that takes the complexities of present day society into account. Discussing the notion of 'youth transition', the authors point out that, while the term "has the imagery of process, f l u i d i t y and change, [it] has been harnessed to a st a t i c , categorical notion of youth"(p.95). Further, they point out, "the term 'transition to adulthood' draws on the idea that 21 young people make one transition to adulthood, and that adulthood i s a cl e a r l y defined s t a t u s — a destination at which one arrives"(p.96). According to the authors, when the r e a l i t i e s of the transition to adulthood are examined, i t becomes clear that the process i s f u l l of complexities. The very processes that have added to the complexity of the experience of growing up have also undermined the taken-for-granted meaning of adulthood (p.148). Wyn and White also point out that although some form of education and training i s an accepted ^pathway' to adulthood for a l l youth and the marketing of ^youth' through products such as music and clothing creates a sameness based on age, the appear-ance of commonality among youth i s s u p e r f i c i a l only. Arguing that there i s a "tension between the apparent uni v e r s a l i t y of youth and the highly sp e c i f i c , differentiated and s o c i a l l y divided nature of youth"(1997, p.3), the authors suggest that "youth i s most productively conceptualized as a social process i n which the meaning and experience of becoming an adult are s o c i a l l y mediated"(p.4) . It i s a sp e c i f i c process i n which young people engage with institutions such as family, schools, the police, welfare, and others. The process of tr a n s i t i o n to adult l i f e — f o r each i n d i v i d u a l — r e f l e c t s both an individual and a col l e c t i v e process (p.5). The authors argue that "there are now wide gaps between the experiences of young people, especially some groups, and the p o l i c i e s that inform the i n s t i t u t i o n a l structuring of pathways and transitions into adulthood"(p.94). 22 This work focuses less on the youth labour market and places more emphasis on the social construction of the t r a n s i t i o n process. Most research appears to investigate the d i f f i c u l t i e s adolescent encounter when they make the t r a n s i t i o n to an adult l i f e style (e.g., seeking employment, forming families, etc.) - the tr a n s i t i o n into something rather than the t r a n s i t i o n process from secondary schooling. 3 The exceptions are studies that focus on high school drop-outs (Fine, 1991; Kelly & Gas-k e l l , 1996). Fine's 1991 study examined the i n s t i t u t i o n a l p o l i c i e s and practices that enable, obscure, and legitimate the low-income urban students of colour who drop out of secondary school at a disproportionate rate. While the stories of these students offer insight into the experience of school leaving, they are not meant to uncover the t r a n s i t i o n experience. Instead, Fine asked: Who i s served by this seamless rhetoric of dropouts as losers? What i s obscured by a portrayal of dropouts as deficient i n a f a i r system? If youths who drop out are portrayed as unreasonable or academically i n f e r i o r , then the structures, ideologies, and practices that exile them systematically are rendered i n v i s i b l e , and the critique they voice i s i n s t i t u t i o n a l l y silenced, (p.5) Undoubtedly Fine raised some important issues that may play a part i n the transition experience of grade 12 students i n a 3 Other studies explore effective curriculum offerings to ensure post-secondary success, successful entry of adolescents into the job market (Gaskell & Lazerson, 1980; Glover & Marshall, 1993; Petersen, Leffert, & Hurrelmann, 1993), or the f a i l u r e rate of fi r s t - y e a r post-secondary students. 23 system "constantly negotiating inclusion and exclusion"(p.6). S h i f t i n g t h e f o c u s Research on youth transition has, i t s e l f , undergone a tra n s i t i o n i n recent decades. Prior to the more recent focus on adolescent t r a n s i t i o n as a societal concern, interest focused on anthropological exploration of rites of passage i n t r i b a l societies. Belgian f o l k l o r i s t , Arnold van Gennep (1908, 1960), claimed that the l i f e of any individual i s a series of passages and argued that these transitions, whether from one l i f e stage to another or from one occupation to another, are " i m p l i c i t i n the very fact of existence." In an attempt to c l a s s i f y r i t u a l s associated with changes i n status within a society, van Gennep studied the r i t u a l s associated with the passages at s i g n i f i c a n t times of t r a n s i t i o n i n the l i f e of individuals, i n particular, passage into womanhood or manhood. From these studies, van Gennep theorized that there were three phases to a l l r i t u a l s accompanying l i f e transitions: separation, transition, and incorporation (Kimball, in van Gennep, 1960, p . v i i ) . O b s e r v i n g l i f e ' s p a s s a g e s The notion that l i f e ' s transitions are a three phase process originated with van Gennep's early analysis of ceremonies that accompany the decisive times or " l i f e c r i s e s " i n 24 an individual's l i f e . He pointed out that when the a c t i v i t i e s associated with such ceremonies were examined, i t was possible to distinguish the three phases he labelled separation, transition, and incorporation. According to van Gennep, although the structure of r i t e s of passage theo r e t i c a l l y includes the three phases, i n s p e c i f i c instances the three phases are not equally important or equally elaborated (p.11). Basing his own work on van Gennep's model, Victor Turner (1967, p.94) stated that a l l transitions are marked by three phases: separation, margin or limen,A and aggregation. The separation phase comprises a detachment (symbolic or otherwise) from an e a r l i e r state i n the social structure. In the t h i r d phase an individual i s accepted into the new state with c l e a r l y defined rights, obligations, and ethical standards. Turner also suggested that at the mid-point of the t r a n s i t i o n process a l l "tr a n s i t i o n a l beings" are "betwixt and between" a l l the recognized fixed points i n space and time (p.97). 5 While Turner's study focused on r i t e s of passage i n pre-in d u s t r i a l t r i b a l societies, Bridges (1980, p.117) brought the 4 from the Latin, limen — threshold 5 Terence Turner (1977, p.53) pointed out that while the v a l i d i t y of van Gennep's descriptive framework for the structure of r i t e s of passage has been confirmed by subsequent research, the pattern which he i d e n t i f i e d has never been successfully accounted for i n theoretical terms. Turner contended that with one or two exceptions, neither van Gennep nor subsequent investigators questioned "why the liminal r i t e s should exhibit their peculiar characteristics"(1977, p.54). According to Turner, Victor Turner's work that focused on " r i t e s of the liminal period and a l l i e d phenomena, constitutes the major exception." 25 notion of the liminal phase of transition forward to our urban post-industrialized society. Also referring to van Gennep's model, he suggested that the consciousness-altering techniques used i n r i t e s of passage "enhanced the natural tendency to see and understand the world d i f f e r e n t l y i n the gap between one l i f e phase and the next" — something that i s missing i n modern society. While there are limitations to both Turner's and Brid-ges' perspectives 6 as descriptive frameworks for researching the "liminal experiences" of grade twelve students, there are a number of aspects of the notion of l i m i n a l i t y as characterized by them that are relevant for understanding how adolescents experience the passage from secondary schooling to the adult world. A somewhat different notion of l i m i n a l i t y i s described i n Peter McLaren's (1986) Schooling as a ritual performance: Towards a political economy of educational symbols and gestures. McLaren used Turner's work (along with research from a variety of d i s c i p l i n e s ) 7 for his theoretical framework i n this study that examined schooling as a type of r i t e of passage (p.23). However, McLaren used the term *liminal' stage to denote the tra n s i t i o n between different states of interaction as opposed to a l i f e t r a n s i t i o n . For example, he suggested students experience a 6 Both authors based their work on van Gennep's model of r i t e s of passage although Turner's work came from the f i e l d of structural anthropology and Bridges' work explored how people currently make sense of transitions i n everyday l i f e . 7 McLaren (1986, p.9) acknowledged that some of these are only marginally or tenuously connected. 26 liminal stage between the types of interaction on the playground outside of class and the interaction when class commences. It i s a transition from an appropriate manner of interaction i n one context to one appropriate for a changed context. As McLaren uses the term, l i m i n a l i t y delineates a t r a n s i -tion from one state or mode of behaviour to another, one that i s short term and occurs repeatedly. On the other hand, Turner and Bridges employed the term to depict the middle phase i n a trans i t i o n from one stage to another on the l i f e journey. Few l i f e journey transitions are repeated and the few that may be are seldom repeated i n a similar context. Consequently McLaren's notion of li m i n a l i t y , even though i t i s used i n the context of public schooling, may not be useful as a perspective for understanding the liminal experiences of grade twelve students as they move through the liminal corridor. The term, liminalityr i s also applied i n other contexts to denote the time between one condition and another. Bettis (1996) suggested that the term addresses the uncertainty of the economic and social context i n which a group of urban students exist. The current economy i s "betwixt and between the old and new so c i a l and economic orders"(p.106) and the concept of l i m i n a l i t y was a useful construct for exploring how students perceived their economic futures. While Bettis used liminality as a framework and interviewed students about the future, she did not focus on the liminal phase of adolescent t r a n s i t i o n into adulthood. Her study examined how students perceived th e i r 27 future given that society i t s e l f i s i n the liminal phase of making the transition to a postindustrial society. Although not writing of the phases of transition, i n par-t i c u l a r the liminal phase, but i n keeping with the notion of the transformation that takes place (as suggested by van Gennep, 1908, 1960; Turner, 1967; and Bridges, 1980), Mahadi (1996, p. x v i i ) , i n the preface to a col l e c t i o n of essays related to the notion of transition, argues that as adolescents make the trans i t i o n into adulthood, they "must undergo a second bi r t h , must be born of their culture, their community, the i r elders." Mahadi also maintains that, throughout human history, r i t e s of passage have served humanity well and that, even today, the young have a desire for r i t e s and r i t u a l s at puberty and at the end of adolescence. She argues that, i f possible, "we need wise men and women ready to provide perspectives and meaning for the res p o n s i b i l i t i e s ahead" (p.xvi) for a r i t e of passage can be "one of the major moments i n the transmission of culture, i f celebrated i n a constructive way with mentors and elders" (p.-xvi) . While Mahadi was speaking s p e c i f i c a l l y of the tran s i t i o n at puberty rather than at the end of adolescence, i t could be argued that as young people make the tran s i t i o n into adulthood, the guidance of wise men and women i s even more important. Yet, according to Grof (1996, p.6), our culture i s one of few i n history that does not embrace r i t e s of passage. While i t may be argued that our culture i s r i c h i n celebrations of youth passages (e.g., birthday parties, end of school year celebra-28 tions, etc.), there are few r i t u a l i z e d practices through which the community and elders help the young cope with this major transition. Instead, transition to adulthood i s considered a process whereby young people progress from p a r t i a l dependence on parents to independence (Irwin, 1995, p.2) — a s o c i e t a l concern and an economic issue — and the t r a n s i t i o n a l experiences of the individuals most fundamentally concerned are not of primary interest. It should be noted that the two approaches to research on youth tra n s i t i o n — transition as a societal concern or t r a n s i -tion as personal transformation — do, i n fact, overlap since a l l youth transitions affect both the individual and the society. However, the focus s h i f t s from the individual to the society as one moves from one body of l i t e r a t u r e to the other. Nonetheless, while the body of l i t e r a t u r e concerned with transition as a societal concern provided important background information, i t was the l i t e r a t u r e on t r a n s i t i o n as transformation that contributed meaningful insights into the experience of the transition process and provided a conceptual framework for my study. Being 'Betwixt and between': the liminal period Liminality, or threshold to a new l i f e , i s a concept Turner (1977, p.36) "borrowed" from van Gennep who used the term limen to denote the midpoint of the transition process. 8 Turner (1967, 8 Turner (1977, p.37) contended that i n the case of protracted r i t e s of passage the limen or threshold i s a very 29 p.93), whose basic model of society i s that of a "structure of positions," viewed the liminal period as important because of i t s implications for a general theory of sociocultural processes (1977, p.36). According to Turner, r i t e s of passage indicating transitions between states designating legal or s o c i a l status can be found i n a l l soci e t i e s . 9 Transition from one state to another i s "a process, a becoming, . . . even a transformation" 1 0 (1967, p.94). During the period of l i m i n a l i t y , which Turner viewed as an interstructural situation, the "passenger" or "liminary" (1977, p.37) progresses through a sphere that has few or none of the characteristics of the past or coming state (1967, p.94). Liminaries "are ^being grown' into a new postliminal state of being"(p.37). I sometimes talk about the liminal phase being dominantly i n the subjunctive mood of culture, the mood of maybe, might be, as i f , hypothesis, fantasy, conjecture, desire—depending on which of the t r i n i t y of cognition, affect, and conation i s s i t u a t i o n a l l y dominant. . . . l i m i n a l i t y can perhaps be described as a f r u c t i l e chaos, a storehouse of p o s s i b i l i t i e s , not a random assemblage but a s t r i v i n g after new forms and long threshold, almost a corridor. The notion of a corridor may better characterize the liminal experiences of grade twelve students. 9 According to Lloyd Warner (1959, p.303, c i t e d i n Turner, 1967, p.94), the most salient type of r i t e s of passage usually accompany one's journey through l i f e punctuating "the c r i t i c a l moments of transition which a l l societies r i t u a l i z e and p u b l i c l y mark with suitable observances to impress the significance of the individual and the group on l i v i n g members of the community"(in Turner, 1967, p.94). 1 0 In both van Gennep's and Turner's work the focus was on r i t u a l that was intended to bring about the personal transform-ation of the individual during the l i f e t r a n s i t i o n . 30 . structures, a gestation process, a fetation of modes appropriate to the postliminal existence. (Turner, 1986, p.42) 1 1 Turner also pointed out that r i t e s of passage are not confined only to decisive times or " c u l t u r a l l y defined l i f e - c r i s e s " but may concern passage into a newly achieved status (1967, pp.94-95) . Working with adults experiencing a time of t r a n s i t i o n i n their l i v e s , Bridges (1980, p.17) suggested that the middle or liminal phase of transition " i s a time of lostness and emptiness before ^ l i f e ' resumes an i n t e l l i g i b l e pattern and d i r e c t i o n . " Accordingly, i t i s meant to be a "moratorium from the conven-tional a c t i v i t y of our everyday existence"(p.114). Bridges (p.130) suggested that the liminal phase, the phase of t r a n s i -tion that the modern world pays least attention to, i s a time of reorientation. He asserted that at present we treat t r a n s i t i o n as though i t were a matter of some kind of adjustment rather than an opportunity for r e f l e c t i n g to become more aware of the natural transition process. Bridges pointed out that the old "consciousness-altering techniques" that were part of t r a d i t i o n a l r i t e s of passage did not actually create a different r e a l i t y for those i n transition but "only enhanced the natural tendency to see and understand the world d i f f e r e n t l y i n the gap 1 1 Terence Turner (1977, p.54) argued that Victor Turner's central contribution to the theoretical understanding of liminal phase and structure of r i t e s of passage l i e s i n his emphasis upon the r e l a t i v e l y unstructured, undefined, potential of the qualities which he i d e n t i f i e d as d i s t i n c t i v e features of liminal phenomena. 31 between one l i f e phase and the next" (p.117). Within the liminal phase there i s a degree of chaos that i s , i n fact, "a primal state of pure energy" (p. 117) as yet unshaped by purpose and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n (p.118). Uncovering assumptions i n t r i n s i c to the liminal phase Turner's (1967) notion "of l i m i n a l i t y predominantly focused on r i t e s of passage or i n i t i a t i o n r i t e s . According to Turner i n i t i a t i o n r i t e s best exemplify tra n s i t i o n since they have well marked and protracted liminal phases (p.95). Liminality i s the interstructural phase of the tra n s i t i o n process and subjects passing through this phase are "betwixt and between". That i s , members of the society operating within the states or s o c i a l statuses on either side of this phase have more c l e a r l y under-stood i d e n t i t i e s but during the liminal phase, subjects or liminaries have no clear status or identity and are s t r u c t u r a l l y "invisible"(p.95). They are i n the process of being transformed (94) and are represented by symbols that give "outward and v i s i b l e form to an inward and conceptual process" (p.96). Further, the state of the liminary i s ambiguous since the liminal phase "has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state"(p.94) . Turner argued that during the liminal phase of the t r a n s i -tion, liminaries are "undifferentiated raw material"(p.98) who "have nothing . . . no status, property, insignia, secular 32 clothing, rank, kinship position, nothing to demarcate them struct u r a l l y from their fellows" (pp;98-99) [ i t a l i c s i n or i g -i n a l ] . Turner's emphasis on the structurelessness of the liminal phase and the disconnecting of the liminary from the actual transition process suggests that the actual transition, particu-l a r l y that i n r i t e s of passage, i s something that i s controlled, orchestrated, and f i n a l l y bestowed on the liminaries by others rather than something that, i n fact, i s a passage. Further, Turner's model suggests that the tra n s i t i o n process i s a movement through a corridor, between structures rather than an experience of a transition. Although he contended that the symbols used during the tran s i t i o n v i s i b l y represent an inward process, his description of the liminal phase suggests that the tran s i t i o n i s an awarding of a new 'outer' status rather than an actual inner transformation. Therefore, during the liminal phase, the subject or liminary i s a detached being to whom things are 'being done'. In Turner's description of events, liminaries perform certain r i t u a l s after which other members of the society w i l l view them d i f f e r e n t l y . Turner assumed that members undergoing these r i t u a l s are inwardly transformed as a result of the performance. On the other hand, Turner did make some connection of the liminary to the transition process i n his depiction of communitas and flow where he described the sense of communion between liminaries and their h o l i s t i c sensation of acting with t o t a l involvement. As well, he spoke of the special connections 33 that develop between liminaries "which persist after the r i t e s are over, even into old age"(p.101). However, these connections do not relate to the experience of the actual passage but rather to a bonding between those undergoing the tr a n s i t i o n process. Turner presented a view of the liminal phase of tr a n s i t i o n as an unstructured corridor that others move the liminary along to f a c i l i t a t e the liminaries' entry into the next state or status. This suggests that transition i s not an experience on the l i f e journey but a r i t u a l designed by others during which liminaries perform set tasks and are assumed to undergo inner transform-ation. Acknowledging limitations of r i t e s of passage f o r present study The underlying assumption i n r i t e s of passage i s that by performing certain r i t u a l s people are transformed, that this t r a n s i t i o n i s brought about by tasks set by others, and through the endorsement of others the individual has indeed been trans-formed. Turner (1977, p.37) wrote of "the words or phrases which indicate [the liminaries] are 'being grown' into a new postlimi-nal state of being." This assumption — that individual change i s realized not through deepened understanding and r e f l e c t i o n but i s mandated by others — brings into question the relevancy of these r i t u a l s when exploring the tran s i t i o n experiences of adolescents. As McLaren (1986, p.16) points out, " r i t u a l s do not serve solely as some type of sacerdotal s t i l t s or metaphysical 34 protheses that celebrants can s p i r i t u a l l y strap on to assist them i n their scramble towards the sublime." Further, McLaren states, there i s "a theoretical scepticism" regarding "the appropriateness of applying conceptual advances gathered from anthropologists studying r i t u a l s of pr e - l i t e r a t e societies to societies existing i n complex i n d u s t r i a l settings" (19), a v a l i d c r i t i c i s m given the post-industrial society i n which we now l i v e . If the notion of r i t u a l as a vehicle for tr a n s i t i o n i s i n question, can the term "liminal experiences" be applied to the experiences of adolescents as they make the tra n s i t i o n from secondary schooling to the adult world? In addition, as Kimbal (1960, i n Van Gennep, 1960, p.vii) pointed out, the major source of van Gennep's inspiration came from the tr a d i t i o n of positivism - "the insistence that general laws of soc i a l process should be derived from empirical observa-tion rather than from metaphysical speculation." Can an under-standing of the experience of tran s i t i o n be gained through observation? How can the ontological and epistemological posi-tions of positivism inherent i n r i t e s of passage be adapted to examine the constructed understandings of adolescents? The s t r u c t u r a l i s t notion that r i t e s of passage can govern and explain how adolescents experience the tr a n s i t i o n from secondary school to the adult world may be inappropriate as a descriptive framework for gaining an understanding of how adolescents gradually construct their 'liminal experiences' of grade twelve. Although "structuralism encompasses a vast range 35 of human experience"(Gibson, 1984, p.6), related to the central conception of structuralism i s the assumption that elements cannot be subtracted from the whole, 1 2 that the individual can be explained only i n reference to the whole structure and i s thus a subsidiary to i t 1 3 , and of the primacy of synchronic analysis (pp.8-10). In addition, according to Gibson's view of structuralism, structures constitute the o r i g i n and direct the flow of change (p.11). Individual constructions of experience and diachronic analysis extract elements of the liminal phase from the whole. Is i t possible to extricate from r i t e s of passage the notion of l i m i n a l i t y and some of the elements Turner attributed to i t i n order to understand the tran s i t i o n experiences of adolescents? The answer may l i e i n the fact that, as stated above, there i s a range of understandings of s t r u c t u r a l i s t frameworks (Gabor-iau, 1970; Goldmann, 1970; Lane, 1970; Pinar, 1994; Sarup, 1988). Among them, Goldmann's notion of a s t r u c t u r a l i s t framework i s useful. Goldmann (1970, p.98) argued that structures are created patterns of behaviour which people retain for a long time i n order to solve similar problems. These structures must be adapted a l i t t l e each time and the individual must relinquish the idea of an ideal solution. According to 1 2Lane (1970, p.14) noted that probably the most d i s t i n c t i v e feature of the st r u c t u r a l i s t method i s the emphasis i t gives to wholes, to t o t a l i t i e s . 1 3 Sarup (1988, p.l) recounted that Levi-Strauss stated the ultimate goal of human sciences i s not to constitute man but to dissolve him. 36 Goldmann (1970, p.100), a l l human r e a l i t y i s made up of overlapping structures and every structure f u l f i l s a function within a larger structure. It i s what these structures have i n common rather than what separates them that allows us to understand certain patterns. If from an i n f i n i t e p o s s i b i l i t y of choices people choose only one particular structural configur-ation, i t i s because of the need to express certain things (p.104). What Goldmann described can be labelled ^schemata' — those mental constructs through which a particular perception i s taken up into a category. The "overlapping structures" within the notion of li m i n a l i t y , rather than being "elements that cannot be subtracted from the whole" (Gibson, 1984), become structures or constructs that allow us to understand certain patterns or discover something — a h e u r i s t i c . 1 4 Using the notion of l i m i n a l i t y as a h e u r i s t i c Although Turner's notion of l i m i n a l i t y was o r i g i n a l l y developed to explain the midpoint i n t r a d i t i o n a l r i t e s of passage r i t u a l s within pre-industrial t r i b a l societies, there are elements of the notion that can be extracted as heuristics, 1 4Lane (1970, p.26) noted that some sociologists use structure as a heuristic device but "for the majority structure does not serve as an i n i t i a l organizing p r i n c i p l e that can be discarded as the phenomena come to be coherently arranged. On the contrary, i t i s the ultimate form i n which the phenomena are presented." 37 valuable i n attempting to understand adolescents' t r a n s i t i o n a l experiences. Turner's characterization of the liminal phase i n i t s e l f i s useful as i s Bridges' depiction. Both Turner and Bridges emphasized that the li m i n a l phase i s a time of r e f l e c t i o n and reorientation. This i s one aspect of l i m i n a l i t y that may be revealed i n adolescents' constructions of their experiences. As well, the notions of 'sacra', 'communitas' and 'flow' as outlined by Turner may be useful as a heu r i s t i c framework when co-constructing understandings of l i m i n a l i t y . Turner claimed that sacra are "the heart of the liminal matter"(1967, p.102). He described them as the things that are shown or otherwise conveyed to those i n t r a n s i t i o n as a way of guiding the passage and preparing the liminary for the post-liminal state. According to Turner, the knowledge obtained i n the liminal period i s intended to change the innermost nature of the liminary, "impressing him [sic], as a seal impresses wax, with the characteristics" of the postliminal state (p.102). To follow Turner's archetype precisely would l i m i t the i n v e s t i -gation of sacra within adolescents' liminal experiences to those things presented to the students. But what of those things within their own individual experiences that they interpret as objects that reveal the nature of their culture? What of those things not purposefully presented by others that provide oppor-tunities for students to r e f l e c t on their culture and society — the fundamental purpose of sacra? What are the diverse ways i n which these things are'interpreted and how do they contribute to 38 the liminal experiences of adolescents? In fact, what constitutes a liminal experience? By holding to the notion that r e f l e c t i n g on Asacra' i s part of the liminal experience, I may be more receptive to the myriad of ways i n which students make sense of the transition from secondary schooling to the adult world. Another element that may be useful as a h e u r i s t i c i s xcom-munitas' which Turner interpreted as a level of communication, even communion, between liminaries (1977, p.47). He likened this to the bond that develops between classmates i n a college or academy, a bond that resurfaces at reunions. In my preliminary study, a number of grade twelve students spoke of new connections with their classmates, connections that had not been part of their schooling experiences during the previous years. How do students' interpret these connections? Is this what Turner describes as communitas? In what ways i s i t part of their liminal experiences? Is this a shared experience and what are the various ways in which ^communitas' surfaces during the liminal phase? Drawing on Csikszentmihalyi's work, Turner defined xflow' as a time when action and awareness merge, a " h o l i s t i c sensation present when we act with t o t a l involvement" (p. 48) . He also com-mented that group experience, may lead to the selection of certain symbols to serve as f l o w - e l i c i t o r s (p.52) , 1 5 Is i t 1 5 Turner (1977, p.52) noted that i n a l l societies "flow" symbols are most l i k e l y to be found i n association with begin-nings and transitions. 39 through communitas that these symbols are selected? What are the various ways students construct meaning through these flow-e l i c i t o r s ? Are there instances that grade twelve students might describe as moments of t o t a l involvement and do they interpret these times as liminal experiences? What understandings do students have of the notion of flo w - e l i c i t o r s and how might the group experience contribute to their selection? The notion of li m i n a l i t y , viewed not as a structure into which the experiences of adolescents encountering one of l i f e ' s passages can be stowed for future analysis but as a heu r i s t i c that opens p o s s i b i l i t i e s , embodies Turner's concept of the subjunctive mood. As noted above, l i m i n a l i t y as a heuri s t i c reveals "the mood of maybe, might be, as i f , hypothesis, fantasy, conjecture, desire"(Turner, 1986, p.42). It provides, as Bridges suggested the old "consciousness-altering techniques" did, an occasion "to see and understand the world d i f f e r e n t l y i n the gap between one l i f e phase and the next"(1980, p.117). The degree of chaos within the liminal phase that Bridges referred to as being as yet unshaped by purpose and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n (p. 118) compels us to seek out heuristics that i n v i t e r e f l e c t i o n . This truncated, synoptic account of Turner's (1967), Brid-ges' (1980), and others' perspectives of the liminal phase of transition provided a scattering of ideas that contributed to my descriptive framework for understanding the liminal experiences of students (although I acknowledge that seeking a framework 40 from which to inquire into adolescents' individual liminal experiences appears problematic, even inconsistent). That aside, three further aspects of l i m i n a l i t y were also useful i n piecing together an alternate perspective of l i m i n a l i t y i n an attempt to understand the liminal experiences of grade, twelve students. These were sacra (Turner, 1967, p.102), "communitas" and "flow"; the l a t t e r two from Turner's 1977 study of l i m i n a l i t y i n what he terms p o s t t r i b a l societies. These notions helped reveal other aspects of the t r a n s i t i o n phase as grade twelve students interacted to construct their understandings of their liminal experiences. Sacra are communi-cated through exhibitions, actions, and instructions, that i s , by what i s shown, what i s done, and what i s said. Although i n the cultures described by Turner, sacra are frequently distorted and exaggerated, their purpose i s to provide liminaries opportunities to r e f l e c t on their culture and society. As Turner pointed out, l i m i n a l i t y i s the realm of "primitive hypothesis, where there i s a certain freedom to juggle with the factors of existence"(p.106). As for communitas and flow, Turner speculated that "certain kinds of l i m i n a l i t y may be conducive to the emerg-ence of communitas"(1977, p.47). As noted e a r l i e r , communitas i s a common bond that develops between the liminaries. The notion of "flow" involves a merging of action and awareness (p.51) as does communitas. However, although i n Turner's view communitas i s a kind of shared flow, he questioned parts of Csikszent-41 mihalyi's conception of flow. 1 6 According to Turner, communitas, l i k e flow, "involves a merging of action and awareness, an ego-less state that has i t s own rewards" but does not require "formal rules" as Csikszentmihalyi suggested (p.51). Turner also proposed that group experience may lead to the selection of certain symbols to serve as flo w - e l i c i t o r s (p.52). An " h o l i s t i c sensation", awareness, group selection of f l o w - e l i c i t o r s , and shared communication were a l l aspects of my he u r i s t i c used i n re f l e c t i n g about l i m i n a l i t y among students. Questioning the use of the conceptual framework: It would be reasonable to question the appropriateness of applying a conceptual framework gathered from anthropologists studying r i t u a l s of pre - l i t e r a t e societies to small groups existing within an i n s t i t u t i o n a l context i n a complex post-in d u s t r i a l setting. In addition, the notion of l i m i n a l i t y as a midpoint i n the transition between societal structures i s a st r u c t u r a l i s t perspective of how we move along our l i f e journey, hardly a position conducive to understanding how individuals make sense of their own tran s i t i o n a l experiences. How helpful can the work of van Gennep, Turner, Bridges, and others be when co-constructing understandings of adolescent experiences? 1 6 For example, Turner contended that while people may be aware of what they are doing, they cannot be aware that they are aware for to do so creates a self-consciousness that causes the 'doer' to stumble. He also disagreed "that flow requires 'formal rules' and circumscription i n space and time as preconditions." 42 On the other hand, as Bridges (1980, pp.87-88) pointed out, the t r a d i t i o n a l r i t e s of passage show a remarkable understanding of the inner processes of transition. As a result, these r i t u a l s "can provide us with names for the elements of our own experience that are distressing and perplexing because they are otherwise nameless." It i s when we take these named elements and use them as heuristics that we see the worth of the notion of l i m i n a l i t y when attempting to gain an understanding of the passage from grade twelve to the adult world. Does the notion of transition f i r s t suggested by van Gennep and later expanded by Turner and Bridges provide an appropriate heuri s t i c device for understanding the liminal experiences of grade twelve student? To some extent, yes. Granted such a per-spective might suggest a p o s t p o s i t i v i s t epistemology which i s a n t i t h e t i c a l to a constructivist position where ontological and methodological assumptions focus on constructed r e a l i t i e s . How-ever, as Mclaren (1989, p.14) points out, we interpret r e a l i t y through the particular lens, paradigm, or model with which we choose to focus our investigative and analytical perceptions. Turner and others who have explored the notion of l i f e ' s pass-ages, and i n particular i t s midpoint — the liminal phase —-have provided us with ideas that serve as worthwhile heuristics in our own explorations. For that reason Turner's perspective of l i m i n a l i t y i s worthwhile when attempting to co-construct an understanding of the liminal experiences of grade twelve stu-dents . 43 But what are the experiences which appear to represent the trans i t i o n process from secondary schooling to the adult world? What meanings does this passage hold for adolescents? And how could I, as an adult outsider, gain some understanding of the "liminal experiences" of grade twelve students? 44 CHAPTER 3: ENTRY INTO THE LANDSCAPE As I prepared to enter the f i e l d I was reminded of Jansen and Peshkin's (1992. p.720) contention that "qualitative researchers . . . are so palpably present that they cannot delude themselves that who they are w i l l not make a difference i n the outcome of their study." And so I reflected on who I am and the ways in which being "palpably present" would make a difference i n my inquiry. I considered when and how, as a participant-observer, my "Subjective 'I's'" (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992) might emerge and reveal themselves i n the research process. Since my subjectivity "narrows what I see and shapes what I make of what I see" (Peshkin, 1988c, p.278), how, I wondered, could i t be possible that my subjectivity "can be seen as virtuous" as Peshkin (1988a) claimed? Given that i n participation-observation researchers are "immersed i n the l i v e s of others whose behavior and b e l i e f s are the essence of. their data," how would interviewing and participant observation threaten or e l i c i t the presence of the other? When re-presenting the meaning of adolescents' experiences of schooling, how could I safeguard against confusing their stories with the reconstruc-ted understandings of my own high school graduation year, the graduation experiences of my children, or the stereotypical 45 model that i s part of our mythology? To address some of these issues, I explored the option of adopting a research methodology framed by a constructivist paradigm i n the hope that my subjectivity — that "unique configuration of [my] personal qualities joined to the data c o l l e c t [ e d ] " (Peshkin, 1988a, p.18) would help reveal a narrative that more accurately re-presented the meaning of the schooling experiences of a group of grade twelve students. Choosing a Constructivist Paradigm Schwandt (1994, p.118) argued that the p a r t i c u l a r meanings of c o n s t r u c t i v i s t , constructivism, i n t e r p r e t i v i s t , and interpre-t i v i s m are shaped by the intent of their users and "are best regarded as sensitizing concepts." My goal, a goal shared by advocates of these concepts (p.118), was to understand the complex world of l i v e d experience from the point of view of those who l i v e i t . 1 The world of l i v e d experience i s constructed by social actors. Constructivists, who challenge notions of objectivism, empirical realism, objective truth, and essentialism (p.125), presuppose the social, dialogic nature of inquiry and are deeply committed to the view that "knowledge and truth are created, not discovered by mind"(p.125). An integral 1 A similar notion can be found i n van Manen's (1984, p. 37) d e f i n i t i o n of phenomenological research as the study of l i v e d experience, the experience as i t i s l i v e d rather than as i t i s conceptualized, categorized, or theorized about. 46 tenet of constructivism i s that the i n t e r a c t i v i t y between the researcher and researched should be recognized and the participants' subjectivity be explicated and explored (Lincoln, 1990, p.78). Schwandt (1994, p.128) described Guba and Lincoln's constructivist paradigm as "a wide-ranging e c l e c t i c framework" in which they assume that the inquirer cannot be disentangled from the observed and "findings or outcomes of inquiry are themselves a l i t e r a l creation or construction of the inquiry process." One of the properties of constructivism, according to Guba and Lincoln (1989, in Schwandt, 1994, p. 129) i s that i t i s an attempt to make sense of or interpret experience. Through inter-action, multiple "knowledges" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p.113) are constructed. 2 The epistemological position of constructivist inquiry holds that "knowledge i s created i n interaction among investigator and respondents"(p.Ill) . Further, the central focus of the constructivist paradigm i s not the abstraction (reduction) or approximation (modelling) of a single r e a l i t y but the presentation of those multiple, h o l i s t i c , competing, and often c o n f l i c t u a l r e a l i t i e s of multiple stakeholders and research participants (including the inquirer's). (Lincoln, 1990, p.73) The notion that r e a l i t i e s are apprehended i n the form of multiple, intangible mental constructions that are 2 Since knowledge i s constructed through interaction, Guba and Lincoln (1994, p.113) pointed out that such constructions are "subject to continuous revision, with changes most l i k e l y to occur when r e l a t i v e l y different constructions are brought into juxtaposition i n a d i a l e c t i c a l context." s o c i a l l y and experientially based, as well as lo c a l and sp e c i f i c i n nature, i s an essential element i n defining the ontological presuppositions of the constructivist inquiry paradigm (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p.110). Whereas the " r e l a -t i v i s t " i s committed to the view that a l l d i f f e r i n g and contradictory views are correct, the " r e a l i s t " i s committed to the view that only one view can be correct ( P h i l l i p s , 1990, p.41). Re l a t i v i s t s argue that "to expect ontological obj e c t i v i t y as a methodological consequence of the work of research science i s unthinkable" (Trifonas, 1995, p.89). Opponents of the r e l a t i v i s t view often dismiss relativism as l i t t l e more than "rank subjectivity," implying "that relative judgments are only private and idiosyncratic, possibly i r r a t i o n a l , and perhaps even unbridled fantasy" (Guba, 1992, p.18). But how could there be only one r e a l i t y of the f i n a l year of secondary schooling? I knew that, for a myriad of reasons, each student would experience his or her f i n a l year of secondary schooling d i f f e r e n t l y . Would the experiences of one student be closer to 'the truth' than those of another? As Guba and Lincoln (1994, p . I l l ) pointed out, "constructions are not more or less 'true,' i n any absolute sense, but simply more or less informed and/or sophisticated." Further, constructions are "subject to continuous revision, with changes most l i k e l y to occur when r e l a t i v e l y different constructions are brought into juxtaposition i n a d i a l e c t i c a l context"(p.113). The findings created i n any inquiry are r e l a t i v e to the particular inquirer and to the particular context i n which the inquiry was carried out (Guba, 1992, p.19). In other words, constructivists take a r e l a t i v i s t position at both the ontological level and at the epistemological l e v e l . I realized that, as a researcher, I would gain i n my under-standing of the complexities of adolescents' experiences of schooling by accepting the multiple r e a l i t i e s constructed and reconstructed i n that d i a l e c t i c a l context rather than holding to the notion that only one r e a l i t y was true. Guba and Lincoln (1994, p. I l l ) pointed out that "the variable and personal nature of social constructions sug-gests that individual constructions can be e l i c i t e d and refined only through interaction between and among investigator and respondents." Therefore, fundamental to understanding the multiple r e a l i t i e s of grade twelve students was the interactive linking of me, as the adult outsider, and the students, as we worked together to create the "findings." As a researcher, I was actively engaged i n " f a c i l i t a t i n g the 'multivoice' reconstructions of [my] own constructions as well as those of a l l [the students]"(p.115). As varying constructions were brought into juxtaposition, a l l of us formulated more informed and sophisticated constructions and became aware of the content and meaning of competing constructions. Consequently I was actively involved i n the co-constructions rather than an "objective" outsider. This level of researcher involvement i s rejected by some such as P h i l l i p s (1990, p.43) who maintained that, l i k e the notion of truth, the notion of ob j e c t i v i t y " i s a regulative ideal that underlies a l l ' inquiry." While he acknowledged that the ob j e c t i v i t y of an inquiry does not guarantee that the truth has been revealed, P h i l l i p s contended that i f we abandon such notions as o b j e c t i v i t y and truth, i t does not make sense to make inquiries. Since an assumption of the constructivist paradigm i s that the inquirer cannot be disentangled from the observed and since the outcomes of the inquiry are a l i t e r a l creation of a l l the participants (including the inquirer), the notion of subjectivity inherent i n the constructivist paradigm demanded further exploration. Revealing the presence of s e l f i n the research process Much has been written about the influence of the researcher i n qualitative inquiries (Bruner, 1993; Eisner, 1991; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983; Jansen & Peshkin, 1992; Peshkin, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c; P h i l l i p s , 1990; Roman & Apple, 1990). Scholars offer varying definitions of subjectivity and there i s l i t t l e agreement on how researchers should respond 50 to i t s effect i n inquiry (Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.703). It has been argued (Peshkin, 1988c, p.267) that subjectivity imperils the researcher's f a i t h f u l presentation of a phenomenon because i t leads to "emphases and omissions that result i n skewed por-trayals." P h i l l i p s ' (1990, p.24) contention that ". . . i f we hold that a biased or personally loaded viewpoint i s as good as a viewpoint supported by carefully gathered evidence, we are undermining the very point of human inquiry" would support that conviction. P h i l l i p s further argued that " o b j e c t i v i t y " i s a label or "stamp of approval" used for inquiries that are "prized because of the great care and responsiveness with which they are carried out" and our "aim should be to move in the direction that w i l l earn a f u l l stamp of approval"(p.35). In an attempt to overcome problems of subjectivity, some researchers, believing that "personalization undermines o b j e c t i v i t y " (Eisner, 1991, p.45), have sought procedural ob j e c t i v i t y i n an attempt to depersonalize their presence i n the works they created. 3 Evidence of the hegemony of obj e c t i v i t y i s the fact that i n the educa-tional research community, "discourse traditions are intended to create the i l l u s i o n that we have provided an ontologically objective mirror image of what i s r e a l l y out there"(p.45). However, the position that qualified, competent observers can accurately and objectively uncover the meanings of their subject's l i f e experiences has come under attack (Denzin & Lin-3 Eisner (in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.697) pointed out that agreement on procedures to eliminate judgment would s t i l l offer no guarantees on r e a l i t y . 51 coin, 1994a, p.12; Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983, p.6). Poststruc-t u r a l i s t s and postmodernists argue that there are no objective observations, that "any gaze i s always f i l t e r e d through the lenses of language, gender, social class, race, and ethnicity" (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994a, p.12). Bruner (1993, p.2) i s even more direct, "The idea of a s c i e n t i f i c , supposedly objective account i s not only a cliche, i t i s an impossibility." As Eisner (1991, p. 4 6) pointed out i n discussing the impossibility of achieving ontological objectivity, our "perception of the world i s i n f l u -enced by s k i l l , point of view, focus, language, and framework." In other words "what we come to see depends on what we seek"(p.46). Clearly, my subjectivity — my point of view which i s conditioned by my personal characteristics — affected the results of my investigation. As Bernstein (1988, p.36, in Guba, 1992, p.18) stated: The idea of a basic dichotomy between the subjective and the objective; the conception of knowledge as being a correct representation of what i s objective; the conviction that human reason can completely free i t s e l f of bias, prejudice, and t r a d i t i o n ; the idea of a universal method by which we can f i r s t secure firm foundations of knowledge and then build the e d i f i c e of a universal science; the b e l i e f that by the power of s e l f - r e f l e c t i o n we can transcend our h i s t o r i c a l context and horizon and know things as they r e a l l y are in themselves—all of these concepts [can be] subjected to sustained c r i t i c i s m . Rather than engage in f u t i l e attempts to eliminate the ways in which I, as a researcher, affected my inquiry, my focus was on understanding the ramifications of my influence. Peshkin (1988a, p.17) suggested that although so c i a l s c i e n t i s t s acknowledge that subjectivity i s invariably present 52 i n their research, they are not necessarily conscious of i t . He contended that researchers should be meaningfully attentive to their own subjectivity. In his own research he actively sought his own subjectivity by monitoring himself to sense how he was feeling, looking for the emergence of negative and positive feelings, being aware of the experiences he wanted to avoid, and recognizing when he f e l t moved to act i n roles beyond those necessary to f u l f i l his research needs. The results of his "subjectivity audit" (p. 18) were contained i n a l i s t of six "Subjective-I's": the Ethnic-Maintenance I; the Community-Maintenance I; the E-Pluribus-Unum I; the Justice-Seeking I; the Pedagogical-Meliorist I; and the Nonresearch Human I (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992, pp.104-105). While Peshkin's Subjective-I's provide a useful framework for other researchers grappling with the enabling and disabling potential of their own subjectivity, each of the Subjective-I's examines feelings that emerge i n the f i e l d . They do not draw attention to the "I's" that are rooted i n the assumptions and biases of each of us. Peshkin's Subjective-I's do not expose the Subjective-I that determined such things as my research inter-ests, the particular questions I pursued, and the influences of my own unique set of prior experiences. 4 It i s l i k e l y that the 4 For example, i n Peshkin's Subjective-I's there does not appear to be a space where he examined how previous experiences might influence his inquiry or why "his Jewish s e l f " (1992, p.104) was curious about how ethnicity operated i n the l i v e s of students and parents i n a Christian fundamentalist school. What were the assumptions, biases, and personal concerns motivating this research interest? Is i t not l i k e l y that they 'narrowed' and shaped how he interpreted what he saw? However, i n another assumptions, biases, and personal concerns motivating this research interest 'narrowed' and shaped how I interpreted what I saw. Gaskell (1988) reminded us that the views of the researcher inevitably affect the study. 5 To try to do value free or unbiased research i s simply to conceal, or try to conceal, the i m p l i c i t point of view i n the questions that are asked and the search for evidence. Researchers would do better to make clear why the problem i s framed as i t i s , to j u s t i f y the framework they are using, and to place i t among competing concerns with the relevant issue. (1988, p.409)[italics i n original] As an adult outsider attempting to gain understanding of how adolescents experienced their f i n a l year of secondary schooling before embarking on a new phase of their l i v e s , a a r t i c l e (1988c, p.268), Peshkin did recognize that the choice of topic i s "a starting point for the interplay of subjectivity i n social science inquiry." To further i l l u s t r a t e this, he quoted Shulamit Reinharz' r e f l e c t i o n that "In the subtle matter of selecting a research problem and s i t e , the researcher's conscious and unconscious needs seek f u l f i l l m e n t " (Reinharz, 1979, p.141, in Peshkin, 1988c, p.268). On the other hand, i n the same a r t i c l e he commented, from an academic perspective from which he i s personally distanced, on the growing Christian fundamentalist movement i n America. As well, elsewhere {in Deyhle, D., Hess, G., Jr., & LeCompte, M, 1992, p.624) Peshkin acknowledged that he used his religious a f f i l i a t i o n to negotiate entry into the fundamentalist Christian community. Nonetheless, i n a r t i c l e s outlining his notion of the "Subjective-I," Peshkin did not relate his personal interest i n inquiry into a Christian fundamentalist school - "a starting point for the interplay of subjectivity" — to any of the "Subjective-I's". 5 Gaskell (1988) described Erickson's (1979) study (partly funded by the B r i t i s h Columbia Ministry of Education) i n which he concluded that private schools were better schools. Gaskell (1988, p.409) pointed out that Erickson, a known advocate of independent schools, "set out to show that what he had observed informally, what led him to prefer private schools, could be demonstrated formally by social science research." In Gaskell's (1988, p.409) view, Erickson engaged i n "selective research for facts that [bore] out his argument." 54 phase i n which their l i f e course decisions would be characterized by a greater freedom of choice, i t was important that I acknowledged the personal concerns that inspired my interest and the experiences that might have coloured my understandings. Although I was not aware of i t at the time, the seeds of this inquiry were planted when I was investigating the pedagogical practices of a homeschooling support group as the research component of my Master of Arts Degree. I could not help but notice the seamlessness of the tra n s i t i o n for the young people as they moved from adolescence to adulthood. What was different, I wondered. The seeds were further nourished when, several years later, I worked as a researcher on a national project to study student engagement. From my conversations with grade twelve students at that time, more questions arose about the transition from secondary school to adulthood. Their comments made me r e f l e c t upon my own high school graduation and what i t had been l i k e to leave the structure that had been a defining part of my l i f e . I wondered i f , given the distance i n time from my own graduation, the tra n s i t i o n from secondary schooling to the adult world had a more seamless quality today than i t had i n previous generations. Now, far removed i n age from these adolescents, i n some respects I also am embarking on a new phase i n my l i f e . Upon completion of my doctorate degree I too w i l l make l i f e course decisions. It was essential that I be d i l i g e n t to ensure that I did not interpret the students' stories through the lenses of my 55 own trepidations and uncertainties or positive convictions about how the future w i l l unfold. In addition, having been a classroom teacher for a number of years, i t was also important that I make every effort to take off my 'teacher glasses' and be cognizant of the potential for interpreting students' schooling experiences from a teacher's perspective. As well, as I listened to the stories of these students and as the research relationship deepened over the course of the year, I had to be aware of the p o s s i b i l i t y of making connections to the graduation year experiences of my own children and taking on the role of 'mother' instead of listener and co-constructor. At the very least I needed to be aware of a l l these personal presences as I reflected on the experiences of a group of grade twelve stu-dents. Therefore, to Peshkin's l i s t of Subjective l ' s I added at least one more Subjective I — a more personal or "Private I." Appreciating subjectivity as a virtue The concern over researchers' subjectivity i s frequently addressed by scholars from various f i e l d s (LeCompte, 1987; Agar, 1980; Ginsberg & Matthews, n.d.; Rubin, 1981; a l l in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, pp.705-10). Taking a position opposite to the standard emphasis on objectivity, Stade (1981) argued that inquiry "should rely more on personal experience and personal meaning as i t s data, and more on participant observation and introspection as i t s method" (in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.704). 56 He believed that "relevance" i s enhanced as researchers participate i n the l i v e s of participants i n the inquiry thereby learning about their perspectives as well as their behaviours. According to Stade, our subjectivity can bring our observations and interpretations more i n l i n e with what participants perceive. Smith (1980) voiced concern that the personal emotions of researchers can distort their perceptions. In her own work, Smith became aware that prior experiences i n a similar setting resulted i n nostalgic and fantasized memories that affected her research [in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.705). On the other hand, following another study, Smith believed that emotional reactions can also enhance the accuracy of an account. Therefore, Smith urged researchers to r e f l e c t i v e l y examine their emotional reactions to research events. In her view, "Personalistic bias, though affective i n nature, i s neither random nor wholly explicable, and may either d i s t o r t the truth or help find one" (p.705). According to Peshkin (1988c, p.267), the issue i s not whether subjectivity i s a persisting aspect of s o c i a l inquiry, rather, the issue i s "subjectivity's variable nature at the hands of the very same researcher." Our biases — our Subjective-I's — germinate i n the f e r t i l e ground of our personal and professional history. Which of the Subjective-I's, a l l stemming from my socio-economic class, statuses, gender, values, and experiences, would emerge i n the inquiry? Quid perciptur, runs the Thomistic adage, per modum perci-pientis percipitur: Whatever i s perceived i s perceived through the character of the one who perceives. (Michael Novak, in Peshkin, 1988c, p.267) Our subjectivity not only shapes what we perceive but, as stated above, i s there at work even before we begin to formulate our question. Peshkin (1988c, p.269) pointed out that our research topic derives from personal inclinations and we cannot claim to set aside our personal orientations at the end of the study any more than we did at the beginning or thereafter. As inquirers, we bring our biases or inclinations to our research. That they w i l l interact with the focus of our study i s unavoidable (p.278). But does this mean that our prejudices so dominate our work that what we see i s solely i n our own beholding eye? I think not. Granted my biases and prejudices, moulded by my experiences of my own colour, status, gender, and ethnicity as well as by my experiences as a teacher, mother and student, were present i n the interactions with grade twelve students as we constructed our understandings. The inescapable fact of my presence meant that I would be present to make choices. "Choices equal subjectivity at work" (Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.721). However, while my subjectivity was one basis for my distinctiveness, i t was not a unique distinctiveness, peculiar solely to me (Peshkin, 1988c, p.278). Otherwise, my work would be marked by idiosyncrasy that located what I had seen exclusively in my eyes (pp.278-79) . On the other hand, i f , as Peshkin (p.280) pointed out, a l l researchers were alike, we 58 would a l l t e l l the same story about the same phenomenon. By virtue of my subjectivity, "I t e l l the story I am moved to t e l l . " However, I could not claim to re-present the experiences of a group of grade twelve students i f I did not present as accurately as possible their constructions. If my work i s to be accepted, what I saw must be "squared with the real or imagined perceptions of others"(p.279). Trustworthiness w i l l be judged by readers (in particular, the participants themselves) who per-sonally ascertain the f i t between what they read and what they know and have experienced (Lincoln and Guba, 1985, in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.717). If a virtue i s defined as a good quality, an advantage, then I agree with Peshkin's notion of "virtuous su b j e c t i v i t y . " I believe that my subjectivity — that "unique configuration of [my] personal qualities joined to the data [I] c o l l e c t [ e d ] " (Peshkin, 1988a, p.18) — was an advantage. On the other hand, a methodology situated within the constructivist paradigm required on-going r e f l e c t i o n on my Subjective-I's l e s t my advantage become the Others' 6 disadvantage. Having chosen my research methodology, i t was time to enter the f i e l d . 6Although the term Other implies some d i s t i n c t r e a l i t y that can be 'found' through inquiry — which i s contrary to the constructivist paradigm and therefore less than satisfactory — I have used the term intermittently throughout this text. Terms such as respondent, subject, and even participant do not capture the interactive nature of the relationship i n emergent-paradigm inquiries either. We are i n need of a term less cumbersome than co-constructor to describe the people with whom we construct understandings i n our inquiries. 59 C h o o s i n g t h e s i t e Applying to the Research Office of a large school d i s t r i c t i n the Lower Mainland of B r i t i s h Columbia for access to a secondary school for research purposes, I met with the director, Dr. Susan Graham.7 I was interested i n this particular school d i s t r i c t for two reasons. F i r s t , although the d i s t r i c t was growing rapidly, the population was r e l a t i v e l y stable. Since the study was to take place over the whole school year, I wanted to find a school where very few students were l i k e l y to leave the school during the study. The second reason had more to do with l o g i s t i c s . Since I expected to spend a great deal of time at the school, I needed access to a s i t e where inordinate amounts of time would not be consumed s i t t i n g i n rush hour t r a f f i c . The school I had i n mind would allow for easy access for b r i e f on-si t e appointments and, since I was somewhat familiar with the area, would help me provide a more in-depth context for the study. Not only was Dr. Graham receptive to my research question, but she provided guidance i n the kinds of documentation that the receiving p r i n c i p a l would favour. She also spoke with the pr i n c i p a l on my behalf. Although the p r i n c i p a l of the school I had in mind denied me access to her school, Bob Lee, the p r i n c i -pal of Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School, a school of Dr. Graham's 7 A l l proper names — students, teachers, sta f f , administra-tors, and the school i t s e l f — used i n the study are pseudonyms. Several of the students i n the discussion group chose their own pseudonyms; a l l others were randomly selected. 60 choosing, was most welcoming. Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School i s a suburban secondary school which, at the time of the study, served 1357 grade 8 to 12, predominantly Caucasian, students. Of those, 2 65 were regis-tered i n grade 12. The socio-economic status of the school population has been, and remains, upper middle class. Approxi-mately 15% of the student population was classed as ESL (English as a Second Language), and of those students, approximately 90% were Taiwanese — estimated at an 8% increase over the previous year. Only 10 to 15 of the student population were F i r s t Nations People. There were 36 international students 8 attending Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. The school had a s t a f f of 85, approximately 10% of whom were part time. The school operated on a semester system and, as well as standard curricular courses, offered the International Baccalaureate Program, a Cafeteria Program, a d i s t r i c t Alternate Program and a Ministry of Education sponsored Co-Op Program.9 Nestled i n a residential area, Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School i s , nonetheless, only a few blocks from the commercial area of the community. Next to the school i s a large recreational f a c i l i t y . On the other side of the school i s an 8 At the time of this study, there were 90 international students attending school i n this d i s t r i c t . Over one t h i r d were attending Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. Each student paid $11,500 per year and fees were expected to increase by $1000 the following year. 9 The Co-Op Program i s designed for grade 11 and 12 students. It i s a regular academic program but focuses i n a par t i c u l a r academic area plus work experience i n that area. 61 elementary school. Behind i s a wooded area where students, not allowed to smoke on the school grounds, congregate. The f a c i l i t y , l i k e many current schools i n this province, i s a predominantly two storey building that sprawls on the school grounds. The school has one wing i n which the two floors are at a half storey different level from the main section of the school. Shop classes are housed i n another wing of the school extending beyond the gymnasiums. Other than the classrooms, most of which are locked other than at class time, students have few places to congregate. The main section of the school i s b u i l t around a central open courtyard with a conversation p i t . Given the frequent inclement weather, i t i s not used for large portions of the school year. Off the cafeteria, one section of the quadrangle has a large open breezeway where students often congregate but during the winter, i t i s too cold for a l l but the most hardy. There i s some talk of closing i t i n so that students could make more use of i t but no definite plans. The cafeteria i s very small and seats only a small fraction of the student population. Cafeteria students, under the direc-tion of the Cafeteria Program Head, Wilf Mackenzie, prepare hot meals. Most students buy their food from the cafeteria and then s i t on the floor along the corridors to eat lunch. 1 0 Several t r a d i t i o n a l long cafeteria tables with benches take up one 1 0 A large number of senior students leave the campus during the lunch period. 62 section of the room. Other seating i s provided by a few tables and white v i n y l patio chairs which are stacked along one wall after the lunch hour. During class time, students on a 'spare' often come here to v i s i t or study. Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School i s the result of an amalgama-tion of two schools — a senior secondary and a junior secondary feeder school — with not p a r t i c u l a r l y compatible philosophies and resulting school cultures. 1 1 Although the amalgamation occurred a decade ago, tensions for some of the s t a f f are not far below the surface. The senior secondary had a reputation (deserved or otherwise) of being an e l i t e school where i t was assumed that students would go on to university. There was a high drop out/failure rate and many students i n the l a t t e r category simply moved to a nearby secondary school and completed their schooling there. The junior secondary school had a reputation (again, deserved or otherwise) of being a 'tough' school and served a somewhat less affluent population. The merger was not a happy union — especially for the staff of the junior secondary school. There had been e a r l i e r tensions because the senior secondary s t a f f f e l t that the junior secondary school was not adequately preparing students for 1 1 Siskin (1994, p.39) describes how teachers who participate in formal or informal networks influence the school. She argues that understanding the teaching workplace as s o c i a l l y con-structed focuses attention on the active side of construction. "Context features thus become not determining factors, but rather a set of constraining and enabling conditions within which individuals actively and c o l l e c t i v e l y shape the meaning, and the practice, of teaching." 63 senior secondary school. On the other hand, the junior secondary school staff f e l t that the senior secondary school was too hard on the students. The merger exacerbated these tensions as neither faction wanted to see any of their power diminished. Fervent disputes erupted over such issues as whether or not the junior secondary section of the amalgamated school could continue to hold "graduation" ceremonies when students completed grade 10 and whether the new school team would carry the name of the junior secondary school team or the senior secondary school team. Hard feelings were in t e n s i f i e d when, sometime later, the school was downsized and a number of s t a f f were moved. Teachers were passionate about where they wanted to be placed and some of those who remained at the school were less-than-'happy-campers'. The competing philosophies and underlying tensions are s t i l l apparent and contribute to the culture of Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School. In the staffroom, the divisions are obvious. F i e l d notes from one of my early v i s i t s to Eagle S p i r i t Secondary reveal much. 64 I wander into the st a f f room at lunch time. A number of teachers s i t at the several tables on one side of the room. On the other side, sofas and chairs have been placed to form a large c i r c l e . Although not a l l the chairs are f i l l e d , without a doubt, i t i s the domain of the group of men s i t t i n g there. The closeness of the group i s cl e a r l y evident and they pay no attention to others i n the room. Annabeth, a relati v e newcomer to the staff, volunteers that the group "does not seem to feel part of the s t a f f . " The group publishes i t s own newsletter laden "with sexist comments" and they run a sports pool. While "occasionally they w i l l take i n newcomers," for the most part, i t i s a group that harbours "lingering animosity from the amalgamation years ago." ( f i e l d notes, January 5, 1998) Since the group i s made up for the most part of men from the junior secondary staff, i t exacerbates a tension found i n many secondary schools. As i n other educational i n s t i t u t i o n s , certain programs have higher status for st a f f as well as stu-dents. 1 2 Siskin (1994, p.180) notes that "by virtue of the subject they teach, teachers bring the d i s t i n c t perspectives, procedures, values, and discourses of their f i e l d s into the school—and sometimes into c o n f l i c t . " Given that 'the group' at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary, composed of men who, for the most part, teach entry level core subjects, Physical Education, or elective courses, also s i t together at staff meetings, their influence on 1 2 The question of which subjects have the most status has been pursued by a number of analysts (e.g., Bernstein (1973), Foucault (1972), and Young (1971) cited i n Siskin (1994, p.120). Goodson (1988b:179)) described the "preferential treatment of academic subjects." Hargreaves (1990b, p.306) noted that "the higher-status subjects, most notably the 'academic' subjects, . are more l i k e l y to be made compulsory than the lower-status, p r a c t i c a l subjects." Goodson (1988b, 1987 c i t e d i n Siskin, 1994, p.120) also pointed out that "status i s neither permanent nor natural, but rather the temporary result of larger p o l i t i c a l and cultural processes i n which schooling i s embedded." 65 the context of the school should not be underestimated. They have found other ways to regain some of the status and power lost through amalgamation. The p r i n c i p a l of Eagle S p i r i t Secondary, Bob Lee, was most enthusiastic about the study and was always very accommodating, arranging for classroom v i s i t s , finding spaces for meetings, w i l l i n g l y giving up his time to answer any questions I might have, and encouraging teachers to participate a l l the while apologizing for not doing more. He also arranged with Diane Taylor, the Grade 12 Counsellor, to be my l i a i s o n throughout the study. The o f f i c e s t a f f were always very helpful and greeted me warmly on a l l my many v i s i t s to the school. This, then, was the context i n which I explored the t r a n s i -t i o n a l experiences of a group of grade 12 students. Seeking co-constructed understandings It has been argued that a l l social research i s a form of participant observation since i t i s not possible to study the social world without being a part of i t . In keeping with that notion and since my inquiry was framed by a constructivist para-digm, which emphasizes n a t u r a l i s t i c inquiry, being a part of the secondary school experiences of grade twelve students i n a number of ways was essential. While my inquiry embodied an emergent research design, n a t u r a l i s t i c observation, surveys, discussion groups, and individual interviews were a l l important 66 components of my research methodology. However, group discussions and in-depth interviews 1 3 were the predominant data co l l e c t i o n techniques as students and I worked together i n the co-construction of our understanding of the experience of grade twelve. As well, these interviews led me to see things d i f f e r e n t l y i n my observations (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983, p.118). Adler and Adler (1994, p.378) suggest that qualitative observation i s fundamentally n a t u r a l i s t i c . It occurs i n the natural context of the event, among those who would naturally be participating, and traces the natural stream of everyday l i f e . Consequently i t has the advantage of providing access to the "phenomenological complexity of the world, where connections, correlations, and causes can be witnessed as and how they unfold"(p.378). Yet, according to Adler and Adler, qualitative observation has not been dealt with i n methodological l i t e r a t u r e . They claim that i t "has remained a stepchild to i t s more widely recognized offshoot: participant observation"(p.378). As do others, I define participant observation not as a 1 3 Based on Merton, Fiske, and Kendall's (1956) discussion of focused interviews, Mischler (1986, p.99) stated that among the c r i t e r i a for effective and productive focused interviews are d e p t h — the subject has the opportunity "'to describe the affective, cognitive, and evaluative meanings of the situation and the degree of their involvement i n i t ' " and p e r s o n a l c o n t e x t the attributes and prior experiences of the subject are brought out during the interview to provide the situation with d i s t i n c t i v e meanings. 67 particular research technique but as "a mode of being-in-the-world characteristic of researchers" (Atkinson & Hammersley, 1994, p.249). However, l i k e many terms, participant observation has a range of definitions. Sometimes a d i s t i n c t i o n i s made between participation observation — researchers playing an established participant role i n the inquiry — and non-participation observation. But this seems to imply that the non-participant observer plays no - recognized role i n the inquiry process. In recent decades, practitioners' attitudes have shifted toward greater involvement or even membership roles i n the research setting. Adler and Adler (1994, p.379) suggest that as n a t u r a l i s t i c social s c i e n t i s t s moved into a variety of membership roles, three membership roles appear to dominate: the complete-member-researcher, the active-member-researcher, and the peripheral-member-researcher, and that "the current span of observational research roles includes some combinations of these two typologies." As an adult outsider s i g n i f i c a n t l y separated by age from grade twelve students, the role of complete membership i n the secondary school setting was impossible, the role of active membership, improbable. 1 4 While the notion of peripheral member-1 4 The term 'age' i s used here as a surrogate measure for a number of social, psychological, and physical characteristics. However, as I use the term I am reminded of Dryden's (1995:07) comment that during his study he f e l t l i k e one of the students, "older, but not the three times older I was. I f e l t enough l i k e them that i t never occurred to me that [the students] wouldn't see me as I saw myself." While the role of active membership was improbable, I frequently had to remind myself that my own under-standing of the grade 12 experience was from another time. 68 ship i n i t i a l l y appeared too removed from the life-world of adolescents, the role did provide an opportunity "to observe and interact closely enough with the students to establish an i n -sider's identity without participating i n those a c t i v i t i e s constituting the core of group membership"(p.380). For that reason, i t offered the research stance that provided opportun-i t i e s for on-going co-constructions of the experiences of grade twelve. More importantly, a - feminist ethic of caring seemed to strengthen the observational inquiry for i t required "the forma-tion of a long-term trusting relationship between the observer and the observed" (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994b, p.354). In addition, although observational research i s susceptible to bias from the inquirer's subjective interpretations of s i t u -ations, the interactive nature of peripheral membership contin-u a l l y presented opportunities to gather students' quotes thereby enriching the observational data and deepening my understanding of how students experienced their f i n a l year of secondary schooling. Given the naturalness and nondirection of the observer role, "observational methods embody the least potential for generating observer effects" (Adler & Adler, 1994, p.282). This, along with the i n t e r a c t i v i t y of the inquiry relationship, increased the significance of the peripheral-member-researcher role i n the study. As stated above, included i n the methodological spectrum of this study were "more member-articulated strategies"(p.389) such as depth interviewing and group interviews. This was i n keeping 69 with the epistemological position of constructivist inquiry which holds that "knowledge i s created i n interaction among investigator and respondents" and that through interaction multiple "knowledges" are constructed. Beginning i n October, I began meeting with a group of grade 12 students. To recruit volunteers to participate i n a dis-cussion group, I v i s i t e d a l l of the grade 12 classrooms i n two different blocks. 1 5 I explained the nature of the study and asked those who were interested to come to a meeting the following week. As well, a notice asking for volunteers was read with the dai l y announcements over the P.A. system and displayed on the h a l l monitors for three days prior to the preliminary informational meeting. I had envisioned a core group of twenty students who would meet every two weeks throughout the school year. The r e a l i t y was somewhat different. While there were approximately twenty students i n the discussion group, attendance at each session ranged from six to ten and the composition of the group was seldom the same. The t o t a l number of students i n the group was approximately 20 to 24 although, other than a small core group, attendance varied from session to session with some students coming less frequently and weekly attendance seldom exceeded 12. Membership i n the group was comprised predominantly of f u l l time or p a r t i a l IB students. 1 6 1 5 V i s i t i n g the classrooms i n two blocks was an attempt to make contact with a l l students since many students have a 'spare' block i n their senior year. 1 6 While the text i d e n t i f i e s the program i n which some students are enrolled, not a l l students are so i d e n t i f i e d . For 70 While other students were invited to j o i n the group, the predominance of IB students may have discouraged greater participation by students i n other programs although that concern was never articulated. For example, at least seven members of the Cafeteria Program were interested i n joining the group but, since they are required to work i n the cafeteria through the lunch hour u n t i l clean-up i s complete (usually about 1:30 p.m.), they were unable to j o i n the noon hour group. In December, students i n the discussion group asked i f we could meet every week instead of every other week. While this made i t easier for students to remember that i t was 'discussion group day,' i t was a substantial time commitment and l i k e l y accounted for the 'revolving' nature of the group. Volunteers were asked to obtain informed parental consent. The discussion group was an important component of data co l l e c t i o n . Since the study was framed within an emergent research design, input from the students was essential as we worked together i n the co-construction of our understanding of the experience of grade 12. The discussion group was set up so that students could direct the focus of the conversation i n order to better r e f l e c t their own experiences although I occasionally raised questions. Members not only offered two reasons: f i r s t , i n some cases, students are not registered i n a program but are taking one or more courses i n i t and therefore associate with other students i n the program; second, although pseudonyms have been used for a l l particpants i n this study, many students were very candid i n their conversations and I was concerned that connecting them with a pa r t i c u l a r program might threaten their anonymity. 71 suggestions for discussion topics but were asked to encourage input from students outside of the group i n order to provide a deeper understanding of the liminal experiences of grade 12. As well, I asked for input from the group for questions for the survey. Many of the students i n the discussion group were also indi v i d u a l l y interviewed at least once during the school year. 1 7 Unstructured group discussions proved a valuable technique for the construction of multiple knowledges. Although usually associated with marketing research (Fontana & Frey, 1994), the unstructured question format and the informal, spontaneous setting of the group interview engendered rapport and increased trust within the group. The group discussions f a c i l i t a t e d brainstorming as the students and I worked together to explore the topic and to construct their understanding of the grade twelve experience. As a result, discussions were data r i c h and fl e x i b l e , stimulating to respondents, were r e c a l l aiding, and were cumulative and elaborative (p.365). This type of discussion group was not, however, without problems. Although infrequent, the emerging group culture occas-ionally interfered with individual expression as the group was dominated by students with an IB focus. It was not apparent that 'group-think' was the outcome and, for the most part, any prob-lems were lessened since the group interviews were augmented 1 7 From a t o t a l of 35 interviews, 12 of the students who participated i n the discussion group agreed to be interviewed. Some others said they were too busy; others just did not sign up for an interview. 72 with individual in-depth interviews. Individual interviews f a c i l i t a t e d exploring sensitive topics and, to a large extent, eliminated the problem of group culture and group domination. The individual interviews were an even more valuable compo-nent of my data co l l e c t i o n (although I had o r i g i n a l l y believed the reverse would be the case). To recruit volunteers, I once again v i s i t e d a l l of the grade 12 classrooms i n two separate blocks. Going to the classrooms gave me the opportunity to connect with students who were outside the regular academic program and who were not inclined to make the time commitment to an on-going discussion group. At a follow-up v i s i t , volunteers signed up for an interview time. I l e f t informed consent forms with students who voiced an interest i n being interviewed and asked that they bring the signed copies along to the interview. Most of the interviews were conducted during class time and the opportunity to miss class, I suspect, was an added incentive to sign up for an interview. Several interviews were conducted during the lunch hour but most students were reluctant to give up their free time especially since most students leave the campus over the lunch hour. In t o t a l , 35 students were individually interviewed between March 2 and May 14, 1998. While I began the interviews with prepared questions, each interview took on i t s own flavour as the students and I worked together to explore their experiences of grade 12. Most interviews were one half to one hour long. Several were considerably longer and conducted over two or more sessions. Since the discussions were 73 not limited to their experiences within the structure of the in s t i t u t i o n , conversations often became very personal. Those interviews that took place over more than one session were with students who seemed to need to talk to someone about what was going on in their lives outside of the school structure. The essence of the unstructured interview l i e s i n the inquirer-participant interaction — that "establishment of a human-to-human rel a t i o n " with the other and "the desire to understand rather than explain"(p.366). Fontana and Frey point out that since the goal of unstructured interviewing i s under-standing, i t i s essential that the inquirer establish rapport, to put him- or herself i n the role of the respondents and attempt to see the situation from their perspective. On the other hand, while obviously close rapport with the students opened doors to more informed research, there was always the potential for problems i f , as noted above, I began to ide n t i f y too closely with any of them. Inquirer influence was potentially a problem as i t i s i n a l l research techniques so assumptions and premises needed to be made as clear as possible. Gender, i n particular, influenced the inquiry. Denzin (1989a, in Fontana & Frey, 1994, p.369) argues that "gender f i l t e r s knowledge." Since the interview took place "within the cultural boundaries of a p a t e r n a l i s t i c society i n which masculine i d e n t i t i e s are differentiated from feminine ones"(p.369), I believe my gender made a difference. Feminist researchers have suggested ways to circumvent the t r a d i t i o n a l 74 interviewing paradigm. Oakley (1981, in Fontana & Frey, 1994, p.370) argued that interviewing i s a masculine paradigm which i s embedded i n a masculine culture and stresses masculine t r a i t s . At the same time i t excludes from interviewing t r a i t s that are c u l t u r a l l y viewed as feminine, such as s e n s i t i v i t y and emo-t i o n a l i t y . In gendered interviewing, the inquirer may reject such outdated techniques as non-involvement i n the conversational interaction and instead may engage i n a " r e a l " conversation with "give and take" and empathetic understanding. Fontana and Frey suggested that this makes the interview more honest, morally sound, and r e l i a b l e (1994, p.371). Not only are participants treated as a co-constructor of understanding as they express personal feelings, the interview presents a more " r e a l i s t i c " picture. In addition, unstructured conversations outside of the interview situation are important to "establish rapport and immerse oneself i n the situation, while gathering a store of 'tacit knowledge'"(p.371) about the group. In addition to the discussion group and interviews, data were collected through several other means. Two questionnaires, one i n January (at the end of the f i r s t semester) and one i n May (near the end of the second semester) , were distributed to a l l grade twelve students. Completion of the questionnaires was voluntary. The questionnaires were intended to provide data that would situate the discussion topics and interview questions within the broader context of the entire graduating class. Once again I v i s i t e d each grade twelve classroom, explained the questionnaire and distributed copies to each student. In a l l but one case, the classroom teachers allowed students time at the beginning of the period to complete the questionnaires. I returned just before the end of the period to c o l l e c t those questionnaires that had been completed. For the second term questionnaire, the process was repeated. One hundred fourteen of the January surveys were -returned; ninety-one of the May surveys. These data collections were supplemented throughout the year by grade twelve classroom observations and observations at school extra-curricular events to provide additional informa-tion for discussion, interview topics and context. Informal dis-cussions with the grade 12 counsellor, administrators, and teachers, a l l sensitive to the school experiences of the grade 12 students, contributed additional context information. F i n a l -ly, document analysis of a l l newsletters and other print material, and the curriculum materials/textbooks rounded out the data c o l l e c t i o n procedures. Supplementary data were used as feedback i n discussion and interview topics. As I began writing the text, sections were given to the discussion group for feedback. When Chapter 4 was complete, copies were given to four members of the discussion group for ci r c u l a t i o n within the group and one copy was given to another student who had not been part of the group. A l l offered their feedback either over the telephone or i n person. In telephone conversations with five students who had been interviewed, I 76 read them the sections of their interviews and the context i n which those quotes were used i n the text and invited feedback. Re-presenting the co-constructed understandings The topic of subjectivity not only raises questions about the conduct of research but also about the presentation of findings. Age, gender, and relationship to i n s t i t u t i o n a l struc-tures influence not only what i s learned but subsequently what i s presented. Our attention i s drawn to "the reflexive, problematic, and, at times, contradictory nature of data" and the "tremendous, i f unspoken influence of the researcher as an author" (Fontana & Frey, 1994, p.372). And Bruner (1993, p.6) pointed out, any act of representing the "Other" i s "inherently p o l i t i c a l " and he reminded us that there i s a danger " i n putting the personal so deeply back into the text that i t dominates." On the other hand, i t i s "possible to be evocative, to express feelings, ours and theirs, and to capture the drama of social l i f e . " That does not mean that such stories are f i c t i o n a l (i.e., false or not real) or that our text avoids accountability. Rather, i t means that, as Eisner (1991, p.20) described, "cadence, image, and innuendo grab and hold us and provide images through which we can enter into the scene v i c a r i o u s l y . " Other writers also draw attention to concerns about the ways i n which we present our findings. Jansen and Peshkin (1992, p.712) stated that "description and representation are not taken 77 for granted anymore: The concern i s with how the text i s con-structed, how the position of the author figures into the written account, and how 'the subject-object d i s t i n c t i o n ' (Van Maanen, 1988, p.34) plays out i n different textual s t y l e s . " These same issues were addressed by Lincoln (1990, p.83) who pointed out that the problems that plague constructivism are ra d i c a l l y different from those encountered by conventional pos t p o s i t i v i s t researchers. Among the problems t y p i c a l l y faced by emergent-paradigm inquirers are the f a i t h f u l representation of multiple, constructed, and often c o n f l i c t i n g r e a l i t i e s and the necessity to maintain anonymity while using extensive, word-for-word, natural language quotations. On the other hand, Hargreaves (1996, p.16) maintains that we must re-present voices c r i t i c a l l y and contextually and that while this " w i l l e n t a i l s a c r i f i c i n g some of the richness and complexity of each individual voice . . . i t w i l l add much to our understanding . . .." Rosaldo (1989, p.21) would l i k e l y have supported the notion of s a c r i f i c i n g 'richness and complexity' since he pointed out that there was a growing rea l i z a t i o n that the "objects of analy-s i s are also analyzing subjects" and that they themselves can have a voice (in Jansen & Peshkin, 1992, p.713). My challenge, when representing the students' constructions as well as my own, was to create a text that presented both inquirer and participant as having active creative selves (Bruner, 1993, p.6). For as Eisner (1991, p.28) pointed out, language not only shapes, focuses, and directs our attention, i t transforms our 78 experience i n the process of making i t public. And this underscores signif i c a n t ethical issues. Deyhle, Hess, Jr., and LeCompte (1992, p.636) argued that since researchers assess ethical r e s p o n s i b i l i t y d i f f e r e n t l y and from different perspectives, different ethical conclusions can be reached. An inquirer assessing ethical r e s p o n s i b i l i t y from a covenantal ethic position, 1 8 for example, acknowledges the indeb-tedness of one to another and holds that her or his paramount respons i b i l i t y i s to the participants i n an inquiry. The ethical perspective with which an inquirer i s most comfortable w i l l be compatible with the understanding of qualitative research with which he or she most closely i d e n t i f i e s (p.611). The ontol-ogical, epistemological, and methodological positions associated with my constructivist paradigm are i n harmony with the b e l i e f s of the Covenantal Ethics perspective. As stated above, I am arguing that an inquiry framed by a constructivist paradigm with i t s emphasis on face-to-face inter-action and an epistemological position of co-constructed knowl-edge provided greater access to the multiple r e a l i t i e s of the experiences of grade twelve students. However, what I chose to t e l l was a highly constructive act on my part, depending on the 1 8 William May (1980) synthesized ethical positions into five theories of moral behaviour: the Teleological Ethic, the U t i l i -tarian Ethic, the Categorical Imperative, C r i t i c a l Theory and Advocacy, and Covenantal Ethics (in Deyhle, Hess, Jr., & Le-Compte, 1992, pp.602-609). Deyhle, Hess, Jr., and LeCompte (1992, p.614) suggest that i f researchers examine their own l i v e s they w i l l find that one of the e t h i c a l frameworks ch a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y dominates their work. 79 stories I wished to convey about the students and myself as an inquirer. In my text, the students' words represent their con-structions but my interpretation of their words i s my construc-tion and therein l i e s the danger. Richardson (1992, p.131) reminded us that when we write our text . we use our authority and privileges to talk about the people we study. No matter how we stage the text, we—the authors—are doing the staging. As we speak about the people we study, we also speak for them. As we inscribe their l i v e s , we bestow meaning and promulgate values. When we enter into a research relationship with participants and ask them to share their stories with us, there i s "the potential to shape their lived, told, relived, and retold stories as well as our own" (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994, p.422). The variable and personal nature of social construction underlies this dilemma. Re-presenting the experiences of grade twelve students in a way that does not speak for them but rather allows them their own voices was f a c i l i t a t e d by a Covenantal perspective. Since no two experiences are ever alike I am aware that "the kind of text [I] create [ed] makes the difference, and that difference i s epistemic"(Eisner, 1991, p.22). My experiences of adolescence have been reconstructed repeatedly through the f i l t e r s of my adult experiences which are a r e f l e c t i o n of my colour, status, gender, ethnicity, and hi s -tory. My adolescent experiences are not the adolescent experi-ences of today. I am a woman who struggled to adulthood when "frozen i d e n t i t i e s " (Fine, 1994, p.80) were the order of the 80 day, before notions of self-determination or gender equity came into vogue. With l i t t l e e f f o r t I remember the times I wanted to t e l l men to stop speaking for me. Long before people spoke of 'finding voice' I realized I was silenced. I believe i t was c r i t i c a l that I reflected on those times and l e t them become a part of my "virtuous subjectivity" as I attempted to re-present the voices of a group of students as they constructed their own understandings of the experiences of grade twelve. In re-presenting their stories, I "need[ed] to consider the voice that i s heard and the voice that i s not heard" (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994, p.424). If I included the voices of students i n such a way that they spoke their stories of triumph but not their stories of despair, or conversely, i f I embraced their stories of despair but denied their stories of triumph, i f I included the voice of a student i n such a way that the context of the research text obscured or silenced important parts of that voice, or i f , for whatever reason, I included some and not others, 1 9 I then relegated students to the position of "objects of analysis" and denied them their voices as "analyzing subjects." The story that follows i s an attempt to give voices to those students as they experienced the l i m i n a l i t y of grade twelve. 1 9 I am aware that a l l voices of the graduating class at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary are not re-presented i n this work. Obvi-ously not a l l students chose to participate i n the discussion group sessions, interviews, or two surveys. One can only specu-late as to their reasons and how their voices might have changed this study. 81 CHAPTER 4 IN THE MIDST OF LIMINALITY: BETWIXT AND BETWEEN THE ENDING AND THE BEGINNING This year has been the oddest year for me. I don't feel very " i n " to school l i k e I used to be. It's a great concern for me, but I don't seem to take i t nearly as seriously as I have i n the past. The fervour that I once had for school work has seemed to diminish greatly and I don't know how to get i t back. I'm not sure why that fervour i s gone — maybe because my l i f e has gotten insanely busy or maybe I've just gotten bored. (Survey 048) The "oddest year for me." The student who wrote those words inadvertently captured this last year of secondary schooling, a year f i l l e d with ambiguities and p o s s i b i l i t i e s . By d e f i n i t i o n , grade twelve i s a year of transition — with graduation comes an ending of the high school years and a beginning of whatever comes next. It i s also, by d e f i n i t i o n , a year of l i m i n a l i t y , a year of being 'betwixt and between.' Although there are many common experiences during this passage, not a l l students experience this liminal time i n the same way or share the common experiences at the same time or to the same degree. Every student's passage i s unique. But within this year of change, the many stories from the Eagle S p i r i t Secondary grade twelve students r e f l e c t a mixture of uncertainty and fear intermingled with hope and celebration. Within this year of waiting, the stories t e l l of times of pressure, despair, 82 confusion and loss. Many stories also mark moments of pride and personal growth and r e f l e c t i o n along the passage. But what do the stories reveal about the liminal experi-ence? I n i t i a l themes or major aspects of the liminal experience begin to emerge during the interviews and discussion group sessions and are often used to guide subsequent interviews. By the end of the year, as I immerse myself i n the stories and f i e l d notes, seven central themes emerge to reveal how this group of grade twelve students experience the time of l i m i n a l i t y as they prepare to cross the threshold from secondary school to the adult world. Although each of the themes has more than one dimension, the major components of the grade twelve liminal experience can be i d e n t i f i e d as 1) Arriving, 2) Waiting, 3) Being pressed, 4) Reflecting, 5) Hoping, 6) Leaving, and 7) Cel-ebrating — each experienced i n different ways and at different times. While there i s no one pattern to the way i n which students experience this time of l i m i n a l i t y , because of the time frame within which the i n s t i t u t i o n operates, the experience can be framed temporarily — the passage begins i n September and ends with graduation i n June. For that reason, I have chosen to order the themes of l i m i n a l i t y as I moved through the school year with the students. Like the school year i t s e l f , we begin i n September and move toward graduation. To highlight the shared experiences, I have taken the l i b e r t y of "moving" some of their stories from the time frames i n which I heard them into the seven themes of 83 l i m i n a l i t y . Although each passage i s unique, there i s a discernible movement through the various aspects of l i m i n a l i t y , beginning with the feeling of arriving and ending with celebrating. While the stories i n between do not a l l follow a precise chronological order, for some the feeling of waiting begins early i n the year and, for many, the feeling of being pressed begins to gain momentum by the middle of the school year. Although the aspect of r e f l e c t i n g i s situation s p e c i f i c and i s therefore an experience not necessarily connected to the time frame of the grade twelve school year, the tendency to 'look back' i s heightened as the end draws nearer and plans for the future, by necessity, must become firmer. As the end of the year approaches, many students experience a new hopefulness as their future plans begin to take shape and, f i n a l l y , at the end of the year, feelings of separation and detachment surface b r i e f l y before the focus s h i f t s to celebrating. Although the stories that follow are fragments of many personal journeys, they are presented to illuminate the liminal experience of the passage from grade twelve. A r r i v i n g : "I made i t ! " For the students at Eagle S p i r i t , there are several consti-tuents found within the notion of 'arriving.' For some, arriv i n g i s a sense of coming into a time and place of heightened import-84 ance, a sense of a new status or power. "I made i t ! " says J u l i a , "I did come out a l i v e . I remember in grade five talking to my friends, God we are never going to get there! And now we're here - i t ' s l i k e a t o t a l accomplish-ment" (interview 012). As Jason (interview 033) explains, "You're the big XG' — when you come to the school i n grade eight, you are back down to the bottom of the ladder and now you are back up again." Although, for others, the a r r i v a l i s not always everything that had been anticipated: "It's not what I expected at a l l , " says Rod (interview 017). "I expected to come i n and be on top of the stuf f . I waited a l l my l i f e to be able to boss a l l the l i t t l e kids around l i k e I was, and you get there and i t ' s not the same — they [won't] be bossed around. It's always a challenge," he says, "some kids w i l l give i n and t h e y ' l l play along with you and some kids w i l l be the hard-ass." While not speaking s p e c i f i c a l l y of the power that comes with having reached grade twelve, Wendy (interview 023) suggests that grade twelve i s "unique [because] people have more trust i n you, people look at you di f f e r e n t l y . They look up to you." Not that she finds this change easy to understand: "It's l i k e why now? I am the same person as just a year ago. There i s nothing different about me." There are other expectations of what i t i s going to be l i k e once you f i n a l l y make i t to grade twelve. "I was t o l d before I got into grade 12 that grade 12 i s just slack, you just breeze 85 by, there's no work involved," says Bruce (interview 014). "I thought, well, that's good, I can't wait to get into grade 12. I get to grade 12, uh... there's a l o t of work to do!" As the year begins, connection to the experience of grade twelve, for some, i s a mixture of surprise at having made i t this far, a satisf a c t i o n i n having made i t to 'the top of the ladder,' and a sense that i t does not seem to be what had been anticipated. Part of the elation over having made i t to the top of the ladder i s the sense of arriving at a doorway or entry into something much bigger. In our conversation, Bruce explains that for a l o t of people, grade twelve could be seen as a threshold because "their l i f e i s f i n a l l y starting. For some who are going straight into post-secondary, i t could be a threshold or i t could not be. For myself, I think i t i s , simply because I've been waiting for i t for so long." [Is i t a threshold to the adult world, I ask.] "I don't think so. It's to freedom" (interview 014). Although, even i n reaching the threshold, there can be a feeling of disenchantment, of arriving at a place that i s not as had been anticipated. As Glynis describes i t : "I suppose [grade twelve] i s a threshold but i t i s a r e a l l y boring threshold . . . because you wait your entire l i f e . It i s l i k e one of those movies everyone says ' i t i s so good, i t i s so good, I laughed, I cried, I loved i t , i t was so beautiful' -- then you go and see i t and you are a l l worked up and you think, this i s good but not 86 that good" (interview 015). While few students portray grade twelve as a threshold, other comments, i n fact, do describe just such a passing over to something new, something different. On the survey, students are asked i f they feel as i f they are crossing a threshold i n their l i v e s . "Not r e a l l y , " replies one student. "So much l i e s ahead. What's behind i s nothing"(survey 047). "No," writes another, "I feel l i k e I have just finished something that needed to be done and now I am going on with my l i f e " (survey 069) . These comments, and "I am just passing into another stage of my l i f e and graduation i s just a barrier to be overcome" (survey 005) , describe a crossing of a threshold just as much as the response: "Yes. The real world begins" (survey 019). What comes through i n these comments i s a sense that what has been i s not 'the real world.' For some there i s a sense that l i f e — their 'real' l i f e — w i l l begin when this passage i s over. "That's what happened to my s i s t e r , " Claude (interview 027) t e l l s me. That's when she started having a l o t of fun. I can't wait to get to University i f i t i s anything l i k e what is was for [her] - I can't wait. I think everyone wants to get out of here regardless what they are doing. Some people just hate school and they just want to go to work f u l l time at Boston Pizza. Some of my friends think of school non-stop - they want to go to University. Everyone wants to get out of here - that's what I think. Regardless of their goals, they just want to get out of here. I don't see i t as a waste of time but I also want to get out. 87 As well as f i n a l l y arriving at an ending and a threshold to something new, for many there i s a sense of ar r i v i n g at a dangerous place, a place where consequential decisions loom, a place fraught with uncertainty. At the f i r s t discussion group session, I explain to students that I am interested in how they are ex-periencing this time in t h e i r l i v e s . I tell them that while I don't want to influence them with any comments about my own grade twelve experiences, I do remember that on graduation night I f e l t as i f I had come to the edge of a c l i f f . Glynis: "That i s soooo weird. I was just t a l k i n g to someone the other day and we were saying the same thing. Like before there was always the grade twelves to be there and show the way and now there was just us and i t ' s l i k e we're standing at the edge of a c l i f f and there's nothing there." Drudi [one of the boys]: "Maybe they are at the bottom of the c l i f f and t h e i r dead bodies w i l l cushion our f a l l when we go over the edge." (from f i e l d notes, October 2, 1997) While Drudi's comments are said i n jest, I wonder how many students experience a sense of impending danger such as indicated by one student survey response: "[grade twelve is] not 88 r e a l l y a threshold but a brick wall" (survey 003). It i s interesting to note that far more students express concerns about crossing the threshold to the future when completing the surveys than do those i n face-to-face interviews. When asked to describe how prepared they f e e l to undertake their plans for the future and to describe one concern they have about leaving secondary school, the level of concern changes only s l i g h t l y from the January survey to the May survey. In January many s t i l l do not have s p e c i f i c plans and comments range from, "I f eel that i t w i l l be a challenge but not so much that I'won't be able to handle i t " (survey 111A) , to "Extremely unprepared. I'm af r a i d of leaving high school and not being successful. Ending up nowhere, doing nothing"(survey 112A) . By May most have chosen the direction of their new beginning — postsecondary schooling. However, while one student responds, that s/he feels "overconfident" (survey 071) most responses s t i l l speak of confusion and uncertainty. "I have no idea what I want to do and honestly don't feel prepared at a l l , " writes one student (survey 031), while another states: "I'm frightened that the decisions I make w i l l set my l i f e i n stone" (survey 042). "I'm not sure I'm ready emotionally for the real world," confides another (survey 084) . Perhaps the anonymity of the survey permits a kind of freedom from putting on a display of confidence — a confidence that, for some, i s shaky at best. Briana describes this time as knowing there i s a huge fork in the road but not knowing when she i s coming to i t (from f i e l d 89 notes, March 5, 1998) . "No one can make the decision except me and that makes i t even harder," says Rachael (interview 001). The turmoil i s exacerbated by the b e l i e f that present decisions permanently determine the future. As Cherie describes i t : [It's] d e f i n i t e l y scary, a l l the changes, that i f you made one wrong mistake, your whole l i f e w i l l go down i n front of you. It's scary because I f e e l l i k e I'm choosing my future, basically, and I'm choosing after school, after a l l my homework's done and I have maybe half an hour to decide a l l these different things, what program, what faculty, which university I'm going to, and i t ' s a l l rushed and what am I going to do i f I make a wrong choice. It's a big tr a n s i t i o n and i t puts a l o t of respon s i b i l i t y on me. I guess that's the whole point of becoming an adult with a l l this responsibility, but i t weighs pretty heavy, and with a l l the implications that these choices have for your future, i t ' s hard. . . . It's kind of the f i r s t steps we're taking [toward being an adult], especially the wide range of choices we're facing. I know that whatever you're going to do changes your l i f e forever, even small, small things are going to change your l i f e forever; but right now you have to start thinking long term. Before i t was kind of l i k e 'am I going to go out on Friday night?' but now i t ' s 'am I going to go into this faculty at UBC or that one?' and i t ' s going to change your l i f e so much and there's so much stress put on you. At the same time you s t i l l have a l l the teenager things to deal with. It's kind of l i k e a turning year where you're just getting introduced to a l l the big choices you have to deal with. . . . [I feel vulnerable] in that I do not want to make the wrong choice. There are so many options and I don't know what to do. Go to school, not go to school, go to work, tra v e l . I am trying to think of years down the road and not make the wrong choice. [Is there pressure about not making the wrong choice?] Um. . . yes, sort of. I want to be successful. I want to make the right choice whatever that i s . (Cherie, interview 003) During our conversations I ask each student, "Can you think of a metaphor for this time of your l i f e ? " It seems that i n many ways, most days are much l i k e school days have been over the 90 past few years, others are more s t r e s s f u l . Perhaps a metaphor w i l l illuminate the experience. Over the many conversations we construct several. One of the images we talk about centres on grade twelve being l i k e arriving at the station after a long t r a i n t r i p . Someone adds that, as you are nearing the station, you real i z e that you have not been given directions — you know where you want to go but no one w i l l t e l l you how to get there. " I t i s l i k e the l a s t stop before you get off for your actual l i f e , " says Wendy (interview 023). "You have been going since kindergarten building up to Grade 12. Everyone says 'oh, you'll be so excited when you get there.' They b u i l d up this big expectation and when you get here i t ' s just... [long pause]... I don't understand i t . " I ask Wendy what i t i s l i k e to 'pull into the station.' "You get off then you can go anywhere from there. If you can find your way there then you can get there but other than that you are just kind of stuck. [Grade 12] t e l l s you where to go but not how to get there. It says 'OK meet me here' but i t doesn't give you directions on how to get there." When I ask him to describe what grade twelve i s l i k e , Jeff says that the best word would be "'scared' because you don't know what you r e a l l y want." He adds that he i s not r e a l l y ready to graduate because "high school i s your safety-net" (interview 009). "I feel l i k e I'm going to become a number," writes one student (survey 051) and from another conversation "[at univer-sity] you are just another face, . . . grade twelve i s a huge 91 change, a turning point i n your l i f e . . . . It i s almost l i k e losing your parents. That's scary" (interview 012). Gn the other hand, not everyone experiences this loss. ". . . i t ' s just the beginning," writes one student on the survey, "I think you start to realize who you r e a l l y are and what your character i s after high school"(survey 035). However, as Tara explains, "It's l i k e the big-time end. There i s nothing, no schedule saying do this on time. You have to figure everything out"(interview 024). Comments from the survey echo Jeff's and Tara's trepidation. " I t seems l i k e I'm taking a big step forward and going into the real world where I'm not prepared" (survey 075) and "I feel l i k e I have to start a l l over again since a l l my experiences w i l l be new to me. It makes me fe e l scared and uneasy"(survey 043). Other responses to the questions about crossing a threshold and feeling prepared speak of being i n a space where previous certainties are no longer part of their r e a l i t y : " . . . for 13 years I've had a regular routine with no choices but now I've lots of decisions and an uncertain future before me" (survey 031); "Up to now, my whole l i f e has been a big routine. I'm afra i d of not having a set routine i n my l i f e and of taking on new large, r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s " (survey 045); and " . . . the fabric of my l i f e i s being resewn entirely. The routine of 12 years of school i s gone" (survey 054). The fact that "you can't come here any more" i s a scary thought, explains Crystal. "You can't wake up [thinking] do I want to go to school or not — I have to go 92 to work" (interview 018). One student sums i t up as, " I t doesn't h i t you (well, me, anyway) u n t i l the l a s t week of May when you feel l i k e high school i s over and you are now i n f u l l charge of your life"(survey 027). As J u l i a says, "There i s a l i t t l e part not ready. . . . The kid, the l i t t l e g i r l , i s scared. It's l i k e the curtain comes down and you want to stay behind the curtain"(interview 012). [cartoon] used with permission Although there i s considerable trepidation about arri v i n g at the end of the line, there i s also a strong sense of having reached a goal. Todd explains how he never r e a l l y had given grade twelve much thought, not r e a l l y considered whether or not he would graduate: "School was a hard place for me to be. . . now I'm glad that I stuck i t out" (interview 013). As Megan (interview 034) explains, " . . . we've come 13 years, and that's a long way." While Wendy, Todd, and Megan speak of ar r i v i n g at the end 93 of something, other metaphors emphasize the space between the end and the new beginning, a time of waiting. One metaphor we construct i n our conversations likens this time to that of a butt e r f l y emerging from i t s cocoon. Another that has resonance for many i s being i n a bubble-dome tennis court and being caught in the a i r space between the enclosed court (high school) and the exit or entrance (leading to the outside world). A l l of the metaphors speak of a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation of what comes next, of a time of waiting for the next stage of the l i f e journey to begin, of being 'betwixt and between.' Waiting: "a slushy area, l i k e getting ready for something" At a discussion group session near the end of October we are s t i l l trying to think of ways to describe what i t i s l i k e to be i n grade 12. After chatting about the events of the past week, the conversation turns back to the task at hand. Ed: "I don't r e a l l y have time to think about those kinds of things." [and when you think about them now? I ask] "Grade 12 i s kind of a slush area." Phaedra: "Yeah,, a slushy area, l i k e getting ready for something." Nicole: "Yeah, getting ready, but i t ' s uncertain. People ask what you're going to do with your l i f e and you say you don't know and they say 'How can you not 94 know, you're in grade 12?"'[from f i e l d notes, October 29, 1997) Early i n the school year, the confusion over how best to deal with this "slushy" time of l i f e becomes apparent. Although no one seems able to explain exactly what i s creating the con-fusion, the conversations often focus on not knowing exactly how to deal with emotions and uncertainty. "I'm just crying a l l the time and I don't know what i t i s , " laments Rachael, "and I just feel ridiculous because there's nothing happening." Phaedra and Erina echo the feeling. Could you describe this time i n your l i f e , I ask J u l i a . " It i s a challenge," she says, "because there are so many twists and turns, you never know what i s going to happen. Like tomorrow I could win a big scholarship or get nothing. I have no idea." Adding to the challenge i s how you are perceived by others: " I t i s kids and adults — we are not kids and we are not adults." As I l i s t e n to J u l i a , Ed's and Phaedra's metaphor of a "slushy" time comes back to me and I think how apt i t i s . Slush i s neither rain nor snow, a l i t t l e of each, but with an identity that i s less than clear, somewhere between the two. Certainly this i s i n keeping with Turner's (1997, p.94) contention that during the period of l i m i n a l i t y , the person i n t r a n s i t i o n passes through a sphere that has few of the characteristics of the past or coming state. There i s a degree of chaos as yet unshapen by purpose and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . This time of waiting for the new 95 beginning i s a time for refl e c t i o n , when the ideas, facts, and sentiments previously bound up i n configurations and unthinkingly accepted are resolved. As some of the students seek to establish their new identity there i s some consideration of what i t means to be successful i n our society. Tn October, I ask people in the discussion group for some suggestions about questions for the survey to be handed out to all the grade 12 students at Eagle S p i r i t . "What about something that asks about what they think of t h e i r future?" suggests Phaedra. She says that i t seems as i f by grade 12 the future i s already set for many students, that what they're l i k e in grade 12 i s what they're going to be l i k e for the rest of t h e i r l i v e s . Like they know i f they are going to be successful or i f they are going to end up work-ing at McDonald's. I ask i f she means do people feel o p t i m i s t i c about t h e i r future. I t ' s not quite what she means and I wonder how I can word a question on the questionnaire that seems so negative, that appears to have so l i t t l e hope for that notion of upward mobility, so highly regarded in our society, (from f i e l d notes, October 29, 1997) As students consider what i t means to be successful and wait for the next stage i n their l i f e , there i s also a sense of 96 marking time, waiting for a clearer v i s i o n of the future. Many students at Eagle S p i r i t describe a waiting that speaks of putting i n time u n t i l someone unlocks the future for them or u n t i l the end f i n a l l y comes. In mid-September, I enter the waiting room of the counselling centre, a functional but not terribly-i n v i t i n g room with o f f i c e s off i t . The walls are decorated with posters advertising. various u n i v e r s i t i e s and scholarships. A rack holds a number of brochures about local college offerings and health issues. Next to the two f i l i n g cabinets are an almost empty bookcase and a display rack holding several magazines. The only other pieces of f u r n i t u r e include a small, worn couch with wooden arms and legs, three more u t i l i t a r i a n o f f i c e chairs, and two padded chrome chairs — all set in a horseshoe with a small round, very worn, end table in the centre. On the table i s a mason canning j a r f i l l e d with fresh roses. Three students wait for counsellors. I ask the young man i f he w i l l be graduating in June. "Hopefully," he t e l l s me. While he i s uncertain of his plans, he shows l i t t l e concern about the future. His dad wants him to go to u n i v e r s i t y but he's not sure he could do that. Instead, he t e l l s me, he w i l l do computers l i k e his brother or go into stocks and bonds l i k e his dad. 97 Later that morning I sit in on a Law 12 class where students s i t in rows and show l i t t l e enthusiasm for being there. As we move on to another class, Dianne Taylor, the grade 12 counsellor, t e l l s me that these students are taking this course as an e l e c t i v e , one that i s less challenging than some of the other courses. The boy from the counselling s u i t e i s in t h i s class, (from f i e l d notes, September 16, 1997) As I think about the waiting room and my conversation with the young man, i t strikes me how uninviting and barren the waiting room i s , how different the furnishings are from those i n the staffroom. There i s a sense of tokenism here both i n the furnishings and the directions to the future. As I r e f l e c t on this, I wonder how l i k e l y i t i s that the young man w i l l f i n d the way to his future here. By the same token, how l i k e l y i s he to find the key in a classroom where students and teacher are putting i n time? Like s i t t i n g i n a not p a r t i c u l a r l y i n v i t i n g waiting room, i s the young man s i t t i n g i n class simply waiting -- waiting for the ending? And i f so, what new beginning w i l l the ending bring? More importantly, how does he experience this waiting? Does his seeming nonchalance belie feelings of pressure to decide on his future path? 98 B e i n g p r e s s e d : " W h y i s t h e r e s o m u c h p r e s s u r e ? " The pressure that the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t describe has several sources. The sources seem rooted i n both the present and the future — pressure to make the 'right' deci-sions about the future and the subsequent pressure of what w i l l become of them i f they make the 'wrong' decision; pressure from the perceived expectations of others; pressure from the work load and the need to achieve scholarship l e v e l marks; and pressure from family problems. Often students are unable to pinpoint the main source of their pressure and, instead, speak of feeling overwhelmed by i t a l l , offering a l i t a n y of 'problems' i n support. What kinds of questions should I ask students in order to understand what t h i s time i s l i k e , I ask people at one of the discussion group sessions. "What about pressure from peers?" offers Nicole. She says there i s a l o t of pressure from peers, about u n i v e r s i t y , etc. Also, while everyone here [in the group] i s worried about what u n i v e r s i t y they w i l l be accepted at, some are worried about whether or not they w i l l graduate. Phaedra and Nicole talk about the pressures of school work, family commitments, and t r y i n g to maintain a social l i f e . Phaedra says she can't avoid thinking about boys. 99 Ed: "I don't have a social l i f e , i t ' s been t o t a l l y ripped out. " Being in IB, his l i f e has been t o t a l l y restructured he says. " I t ' s l i k e an old b u i l d i n g that i s smashed and r e b u i l t . " I ask i f i t i s smashed and t o t a l l y torn down and r e b u i l t or reno-vated. He says smashed and r e b u i l t . Nicole: "There's so much pressure." Erina: "Right now there's the extended essay, then in February I have to apply for u n i v e r s i t y and hopefully I ' l l get accepted. I keep hoping that next semester w i l l be better." Phaedra: "I've been thinking that i t ' s never going to be better, that l i f e i s always going to be l i k e t h i s . " As the session ends, I remind everyone that we w i l l meet in two weeks, same time, same place. Ed writes i t down in his daytimer. Phaedra teases Ed about his daytimer and Ed says that he couldn't manage l i f e without i t , that i t goes everywhere with him. Phaedra says that she r e a l l y must find her own daytimer. What does an ever-present daytimer say about the experience of grade twelve, I wonder, (from f i e l d notes, October 29, 1997) Is the daytimer one way some students t r y to control the constant 'pressure and stress' — a common complaint for most of 100 the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary? On the other hand, one cannot help but wonder i f , in 1 fact, the ever present daytimer merely increases the everyday stress. As well, what many experience as pressure i s not grounded i n the busyness of today, but i s grounded i n the necessity to make decisions. For some that pressure comes from what i s perceived as lack of choice about the future or of being pushed along toward certain decisions. In January, Patrick, during the discussion group session, blurts out, "Does anyone else f e e l pressured about deciding about the rest of their lives? Why i s there so much pressure? At the point of grade 12 you have to decide what you want to do. It i s not that I'm not ready, I just don't want to do the same thing as everyone else. Maybe I'm wrong, but university seems to be the only choice"(from f i e l d notes, January 15, 1998). Several months later, when I remind Patrick of his e a r l i e r comments, he says that, at that point, "I honestly f e l t that I had no alternatives. If I wanted to do anything with my l i f e , i t had to be university. I was so frustrated; everything I said I didn't want to do, I had to do. That r e a l l y frustrated me. I don't want to be the same as everybody else"(interview 022). This feeling of 1 having no choice about the future i s closely connected to what some see as the added pressure of the expectations of others. Even i n the midst of the s o c i a l i z i n g and routines that are part of the grade twelve experience, these perceived pressures are not far below the surface. 101 J t i s the l a s t discussion group session for Octo-ber and we begin with a boisterous f r e e - f o r - a l l about the Hallowe'en Dance two days e a r l i e r . Drudi went dressed as "Barbie" — complete with blonde wig and a dress stuffed to produce a very large bust. He i s thoroughly disgusted at "the way some of the guys kept coming up to him and groping [his] chest." The g i r l s exchange knowing looks. Other than being fondled when dressed as a woman, what kinds of pressures are you going through, I ask. Patrick says that he f e e l s no pressure. Someone else comments that he doesn't do anything, that's why. "I do so," he r e p l i e s with mock seriousness, "I represent a l l the procrastinators at the school and i t ' s a very tough job." Jane says that people expect a l o t more of you when you're in grade twelve, expect you to pay for things. "They" are parents, i t seems. As the talk turns to expectations of parents, Glynis says that her mother has always treated her as an equal. Now that she i s closer to a c t u a l l y being an equal, Glynis says that her mother cannot handle i t . Everyone t a l k s of how they are being pulled in two d i r e c t i o n s . "There's pressure from the u n i v e r s i t i e s , " says Rachael. "Good grades are no longer enough." U n i v e r s i t i e s say they want "well rounded" students so e x t r a - c u r r i c u l a r a c t i v i t i e s are important. High marks are r e a l l y important. Parents complain that students are doing too much — that "you shouldn't be doing this to yourself," says Jane, "but then they say you should be doing more" so you w i l l get into a good u n i v e r s i t y . Rachael's comment i s that students haven't been given enough i n s t r u c t i o n on how to manage stress. (from f i e l d notes, October 30, 1998) Sometimes, perhaps looking for something other than their own uncertainties to blame, students see the workload and the need to maintain top grades as the only source of the pressure. "I'd be lying i f I said i t wasn't getting to me," says Ed, during our conversation (interview 002). He reminds me about the talk, i n an e a r l i e r discussion group session, of the 'slushy period.'" Well, the news i s the slushy period i s over. Big Time. With a crash. I received back a review of my draft for my essay (which I thought was my good copy) and basi-c a l l y have been told that i t ' s a piece of trash. Maybe not i n those words. So I have to go home after school today and do i t again. . . . I don't have enough time. I wish there were 36 hours i n the day. Ed i s p a r t i c u l a r l y worried about scholarships as money i s not p l e n t i f u l i n his family and he doesn't want to l e t his parents down. "My mom, s p e c i f i c a l l y . She's done so much for me that i f I 103 gave anything less than 100% I'd be l e t t i n g her down. . . . [What are you looking forward to next year, I ask.] What am I r e a l l y looking forward to? I can't think of anything." In the midst of assignment deadlines and the ever-present daytimer, Ed does not notice that much of his feeling pressed i s i n t e n s i f i e d by his uncertainties about how he w i l l manage on the other side of the threshold. That i s not to say that most students are not feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of examinations and assignments. During a discussion group session, La Shondra says that her whole l i f e revolves around studying at the moment, although she adds that she has gotten to the point that she just doesn't care any more. "You know," she says, "I'm going to look back twenty years from now and I'm not going to know what mark I got." Glynis comments that she has "never, ever, in [her] whole l i f e worried about an exam. I've never studied for an exam... [long pause] .. that might explain the reason why I'm f a i l i n g and going to summer school I! ... [pause]... But I've never f a i l e d an exam before. If I'm going to f a i l , I just don't do i t . " The rest of the group i s each caught up in his or her own f e e l i n g s of stress and do not react to Glynis' remarks nor are they r e a l l y responding to each other. La Shondra comments that "nobody cares [about the 104 marks you get] that's the sad part." (from f i e l d notes, March 19, 1998) School related pressures aside, as I l i s t e n to the students' stories, I am often taken aback by the problems i n their l i v e s , how much they have to deal with. For many, the pressure of deadlines and the inner turmoil associated with having to make the "righ t " decision that w i l l determine the door that opens on the other side of the threshold i s exacerbated by family problems. As I r e f l e c t on how this might affect the liminal experience, I wonder how having to assume too much respons i b i l i t y too young changes the tran s i t i o n into adulthood? Frequently those who do not have close contact with adoles-cents i n this age bracket view young people as fun-seeking teenagers with few r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . Often, even those who do have close contact with young people have the stereotypical attitude that young people today have i t too easy. At least this i s what many of the students suggest i n our conversations. Yet the notion of the fun-seeking irresponsible teenager i s far removed from Rachael's experiences. Since her parents' somewhat acrimonious divorce, Rachael alternates l i v i n g with her mother and father and, as a result, 'parents' her younger brother. Just as she alternates her home base, she alternates between seeing her re s p o n s i b i l i t i e s as a burden and a blessing. I used to get angry that I couldn't go out at night, or when others went out to a movie I'd have to bring my brother along. When you're 13 or 14 you don't want 105 to do that because i t ' s not cool. You want to talk about boys and you can't do that because your l i t t l e brother's there and what i f he t e l l s your mom. Or I'd have to stay home with him. But as the years go on, li k e now I bring him. . . . I don't mind so much, and I've grown to love and appreciate him more. We s t i l l fight and get on each others nerves but we have such a strong foundation at the bottom. I don't think he realizes i t so much. I'm kind of glad for him, but I'm kind of sad, too, that I had to take so much respons i b i l i t y when I was young because I didn't have the freedom of being able to do kid things a l o t . [what did you miss? I ask] I don't know; maybe i t ' s not even missing something but the added stress of trying to juggle everything. Even when my dad was gone recently, I had so many assignments due for English, I had p i l e s and p i l e s of English work, but my brother's science f a i r was coming up and he'd gotten to the 'I don't want to do i t , I hate science.' So I'd come home at 4 or 4:30 because I'd taken this calculus course, make sure he'd eaten, cook dinner for him, work with him on his science f a i r project, try to motivate him, make these models, make sure he's done his other homework, make sure he's happy because I don't want him to get depressed because he misses my mom (he hasn't seen her i n 8 months), put him to bed and i t ' s l i k e 10:30 and I s t i l l have to do my homework. I wasn't fini s h i n g homework u n t i l l i k e 4 i n the morning. This went on for 10 days, while my dad was gone, because the science f a i r was coming and I had to go to the l i b r a r y with my brother and Mr. Webster, my English teacher, was asking "what's going on with you? You look l i k e you've been h i t over the head with a ton of bricks!" . . . Everyone i n the family [has so much stress right now], except my brother, I don't want him to have any, I ' l l take that off him. He shouldn't have any. [why shouldn't he? I ask] He's a very sensitive c h i l d . I'm not as much, you kind of grow up with i t and learn the hard way, you take on re s p o n s i b i l i t y and you're spared the brunt of i t . He's very sensitive, . . I try to protect him as much as I can. (interview 001) Or Crystal who, a couple of years e a r l i e r , lost her grandfather to cancer and who, since then, has had more re s p o n s i b i l i t i e s than many. Crystal t e l l s me she was very close to her grandfather and i t was very d i f f i c u l t "watching him die 106 everyday. I was with him everyday u n t i l the day he died." She goes on to explain how her family situation exacerbated her pain. My parents s p l i t up just before that. Divorcing. There was a g i r l who was threatening me. I dropped out of school for 2 months, dealing with depression, every-thing was f a l l i n g apart. Then just l a s t year I f e l t I don't want this for myself, I want to do something for myself. Watching someone die makes you reali z e you don't know when i t i s going to end. For a year they told him he had a cold; then they t o l d him he had cancer and he died two months la t e r . You don't know how much time you have, you better enjoy i t . [at a time when you r e a l l y needed people around you to support you, your family was breaking up. It must have been a double "whammy," I comment] My Dad l i v e d i n [a nearby community] , my Mom would every weekend go and stay with her boyfriend u n t i l r e a l l y l a t e . I would stay at home by myself. Instead of going out with my friends I would s i t at the window i n the l i v i n g room and stare out i n space. If my Mom was at home I would just argue with her because she wasn't there, she wanted to have fun, she wanted someone there for her, she didn't want to be with the kids and worry about how they f e l t , [so on the weekends you are by your-self?] Yes. It makes you grow up. . . . [My dad and I] would get into a big argument and he would blame me for my Mom leaving and everything. I b a s i c a l l y raised my brother, I'm l i k e his mother. I'm there when he comes home, I'm there i n the morning getting him ready, I take him to do everything, I'm the dominant figure i n his l i f e , I d i s c i p l i n e him. [so when do you get a turn? When does Crystal get to be a kid?] I had to grow up way too fast. . . . How do you feel now, I ask. "I just want to have fun, my kid i s coming out. I want to have fun, get my career going. I don't want to have anyone else to worry about"(interview 018). Dealing with the family problems, Crystal describes a downward s p i r a l from which she has managed to p u l l herself up. It was the kind of turning point that many students describe as 107 part of the liminal experience. Reflecting: "After a while you r e a l i z e In our conversation, I ask Sean (interview 032) i f he has changed since grade eleven. He describes a number of events i n his l i f e and speaks of "a metamorphosis," a transformation, that has taken place over the past year. It i s the kind of change Crystal describes. When Sean and Crystal look back, both see themselves d i f f e r e n t l y than they did previously. Turner (1967, p.94) contended that tr a n s i t i o n i s "a pro-cess, a becoming, . . . even a transformation." This view i s similar to Mahadi's (1996, p.xvii) notion that during the transformation transition into adulthood, [young people] "must undergo a second birth, must be born of their culture, their community, their elders." To pursue this idea further, I ask other students i f there has been a turning point i n t h e i r l i v e s during the past year, a time when they began to, perhaps, see themselves d i f f e r e n t l y . In our conversations, not a l l students are able to describe such a turning point. For some students the turning point, although part of the transition process, comes before the begin-ning of grade twelve. Most describe a process that has been happening over a period of time although, i n looking back, they are able to i d e n t i f y an event or situation that triggered i t . For some i t i s connected to the death of someone important i n 108 their l i v e s . For others, i t i s the ending of a relationship. For more than a few, the turning point has come about because of the necessity to change a l i f e s t y l e that included near or actual brushes with the law. Whatever the catalyst, almost a l l of the students describe a new feeling of self-respect. When I ask Todd i f he has changed since l a s t year, he says that he has matured (interview 013) . I ask him what he means by that. "Last year I was getting into trouble, going out and causing trouble, getting into trouble with the police and this year I'm i n grade twelve, graduating, and getting on with my l i f e . Growing up a l i t t l e b i t . " Todd t e l l s me that he changed because of his mother, that he realized he did not want to keep hurting her. Was there one incident that was a turning point, I ask. " I t was gradual. I was being kicked out of school, out of my house. I started losing everything, the respect of my friends and s t u f f . " Was i t scary, I. ask. " I t i s scary. You don't know what to expect next. You are i n your house one day then boom! You're l i v i n g on the street." When he made the decision to change, he started coming to school more, started respecting himself and others. How do the changes and your options for the future make you feel, I ask. "A great deal of self-respect," he replies. Rod t e l l s me that grade twelve i s a " r e a l i t y check" (inter-view 017) because " i n grade twelve you can't screw around or you don't graduate and i t screws up everything." He says that he has grown up a lo t since last year. " A l l the l i t t l e pranks and stuff 109 I pulled, a l l of a sudden weren't so funny any more." When did you start changing, I ask. The change for me occurred i n the middle of grade eleven. I wasn't, I don't know how you could put i t , the most kind person. I got arrested and when I went through that I f i n a l l y realized [ i t ] . . . . Oh, yes; i t was a r e a l i t y check. I went from being a kid one day to possibly going to j a i l as an adult. I'm t o t a l l y clean now. [What did this mean for you, I ask.] Total ditching of my friends. I talk to them occasionally but I don't go out i n [that community] any more. I kind of miss i t because i t was so much fun but then again i t got me into so much shi t . [What makes you feel good about yourself, I ask.] Staying out of trouble. It's harder than you think, i t r e a l l y i s . I've grown up since I was four years old thinking that i f you found four dollars on the ground because some guy dropped i t , you picked i t up and walked the other way instead of ' s i r , you dropped something.' [I think you l i k e who you've become, I suggest.] Yeah, I'm proud of myself. Sophie would probably agree with Todd that i t i s "harder than you think" to stay out of trouble. Her problems began as teenage rebellion - "I wanted to be this big, cool teenager when I was 13, 14, so I t r i e d everything" — and escalated u n t i l she moved out of her parents' home when she was i n grade eleven (interview 031). She got into "such massive f i g h t s " with her parents and she thought "I have some rights, no one can t e l l me what to do and I was so stupid about i t that I just thought, I can move out, I can work, I'm so smart." L i f e was a whirlwind of parties, alcohol, men, and drugs. She and her room mate drank a f l a t [40 beer] between the two of us every night, did lots of coke. My tolerance l e v e l went up and up and up. My friends that I had before said, 110 'what are you doing? Look at yourself! You're going crazy! You sleep u n t i l three every day, go to bed at seven [in the morning]. Like this i s going stupid.' Kerry reamed me out up and down, said 'you are turning into a plum and a bum because you gained so much weight drinking alcohol and eating McDonald's.' I was having so much fun I didn't realize how bad everything was r e a l l y going. I kind of look back on i t and I don't regret, i t because i t was fun for a while but I'm glad that I stopped. I don't even hang out with my old friends any more because they're just not doing so good with themselves now. We hung out with the dealers and they were the cool guys i n town and I was r e a l l y proud of myself, walking around thinking I was so smart, so cool, but i t r e a l l y i s n ' t . After a while you realize that i t ' s not so fun any more and i t ' s a d i r t y drug . . . and i t leads up to worse. . . . As grade twelve began, Sophie's parents invited her to move back home — with some house rules to adhere to. She agreed and has made an ef f o r t to turn her l i f e around. It's been about a year since I have done coke. I get along with my parents. I've been getting everything going for myself. I don't drink other than a couple of drinks i n a bar on the weekend but I don't do drugs, I don't smoke any more, don't smoke pot. I guess I changed a l o t over the l a s t while. I just looked at the way I was, and i t wasn't what I wanted to be. [My parents] said come on home, so I had to t r y harder. Now that I'm trying harder, I l i k e i t . People know me as a pa r t i e r and someone who hangs out with older people and they're shocked that I don't do drugs or smoke and I kind of l i k e that. Bruce had also been a rebellious teen. To this day he does not know how much his parents knew about his l i f e s t y l e . He t e l l s me that the change has been almost a two year process. He stopped drinking, smoking, and doing drugs but, he says, "I s t i l l had the attitude" (interview 014). When I ask him what brought about the change, he t e l l s me that "a major, major part" 111 of i t was "the respect I have for my parents and i t hurt me to see them hurt for me and I didn't enjoy putting them through that." Bruce changed his l i f e s t y l e completely and now waits for graduation so he can serve two years i n the f i e l d as a mission-ary. When I ask Megan i f she has changed since l a s t year she says, "I think probably I actually have now that I think about i t . I can't pinpoint a time and say this i s when I changed but I think I'm just more understanding about l i f e and how things can be there and be gone so quick"(interview 034). While Megan cannot identi f y when the turning point took place, many students at Eagle S p i r i t are able to connect the inner changes they have experienced with the death of a family member or friend. Wendy (interview 023) t e l l s me about a 15 year-old friend who, on a recent weekend, ran away from her foster home along with two other young people. They stole a car so they could go camping for the weekend and i t ended i n Wendy's friend's death. Wendy t e l l s me that she thinks about her friend, the fact that no one wanted her — not her parents or grandparents, that no one would take her i n and " i t makes me appreciate my l i f e more, to be more cautious when I'm out driving with my friends. I've been appreciating things around me more, watching everything around me. I'm doing that a l o t since I heard." La Shondra t e l l s me that her turning point was not r e a l l y connected to any particular event, that i t was just a change i n 112 her self-perception. She t e l l s me that she got to know herself a l o t better but that the changes began before the beginning of grade eleven when her brother was i n a serious car accident. That probably was a r e a l l y big threshold for me. After that I r e a l l y changed my point of view . . . I realized that my teenage immortality didn't exist because someone I loved that much [almost died]. I was r e a l l y depressed . . .1 wasn't doing too well but from that I r e a l l y learned a l o t and I guess i t was a slow tra n s i t i o n . . . because of a catalyst I grew up. Everyone has their own situations, (interview 005) La Shondra goes on to explain that the inner changes brought changes i n friendships - "I tended to drop some of the ones I didn't think were healthy for me" — and even i n the music she listened to and the way she dressed. She concludes by saying that she i s probably s t i l l going through a transition, "but that was probably the main thing, my attitude change, change of friends, more ambitious, looking forward to my future." A number of students describe how they changed when they ended a long term relationship. Jason t e l l s me that he realized that when he was with his g i r l f r i e n d , she was his main p r i o r i t y and everything else was second. "When we broke up, I was l o s t . I guess lost i s the only way to term i t . So this year I've sort of realized that I have to come f i r s t and my l i f e has to come f i r s t and everyone else i s second"(interview 033). Others, such as Heather, realized that their relationships were actually draining them (interview 004). After l i s t e n i n g to this part of her story, I comment that she seems to be more x i n touch' with who she i s and ask her what brought that about. "I broke up with 113 my boyfriend. Should have done i t e a r l i e r . I would agree, agree, agree and then I would think, no, I don't think that at a l l . " Patrick's recent i l l n e s s has had a profound impact on him. He has been away from school now for two and a half months. On a recent v i s i t to the school he says that i t was a b i t of a shock "because everyone looked a l o t older. . . i t was l i k e they were not the same people as they were 2 months ago or 2 1/2 months ago, they seemed older. . . . something about Ed makes him seem older and more t i r e d or something. It seems that I once belonged to this group but now — at that point when we s p l i t two and a half months ago they went forward and I stayed where I was"(interview 022). I t e l l Patrick that, while I do not question what he i s feeling, I wonder i f , i n fact, the opposite might not be true since he has had very d i f f i c u l t things to deal with recently. Previously, Patrick had been very l a i d back. When I ask him i f he would l i k e the 'old Patrick' back, he says that he does not regret becoming who I am. There i s nothing I can do about i t . I can't wave a magic wand and convert to who I was and more over I wouldn't want to do that. I am happy with who I am, I am happy with the progression over these l a s t couple of months.... no I do not think I would change. It i s more a case of moving forward but moving forward i n a different direction . . . . Instead of being on an academic path and worrying about school, I had to deal with myself a lo t more. I had a l o t of time to think, to look at where I am. It has forced me to concentrate on who I am as a person, as a student . . . . My l i f e has kind of slowed down, and that gives me the chance to appreciate everything around 'me and a chance to explore my l i f e even further, (interview 022) While few students have to deal with the devastating 114 effects of an extended i l l n e s s , as La Shondra says, everyone has their own situations. For some students the inner changes are brought about by reassessing their goals i n l i g h t of their academic achievement. Ed t e l l s me that when he was i n grade ten he thought he would become an aeronautical engineer, and then he realized how much work i t would be and the kind of marks he would need. He began to think that he was s t r i v i n g for an impossible goal. He explains that when I saw that I wasn't getting marks that were good enough in Chemistry even though I was working very hard every night and s t i l l not understanding even though everyone else was, I got out of the course and took History instead. I'm not going to say i t saved my l i f e , but i t was a huge decision to make and my whole outlook changed. It changed then because I didn't know what I was going to do and towards the end of the year I started r e a l i z i n g that business was probably what I was going to do. Over the summer I thought more and more that I was going to go into business. The decision period for me occurred probably i n the time frame between when I realized what work aeronautical engineering would enta i l and the end of grade 11. That was when the decision was made. For me, there's a respectability to going into business, to being a successful businessman. For me, success (oh, God, I can't believe i t ' s come to this) i s power, prestige, wealth, (interview 002) Julia's inner changes also came about because of concerns about academic achievement. J u l i a t e l l s me that she always f e l t that she had to be perfect, that she needed to get good grades for her parents' love (interview 012) , although deep down she knew that they r e a l l y didn't care i f she f a i l e d as long as she was trying. She would go to work after school, go home and work 115 for eight hours and then go to bed. She did that every night and ended up with straight As. "I ended up i n the hospital because of i t , " she t e l l s me, " i t was so weird." How did your parents feel about you pushing yourself so much, I ask. At f i r s t when I was kind of hiding that I was studying so much, they were so proud of me and then they r e a l -ized i t and they were kind of mad that I was doing i t . Then I realized that i f they were going to hate me for getting good grades, what was the point. It was l i k e a whirlwind. I didn't know when to stop i t . Even i f I wanted to, I couldn't. I wasn't the same person, I was weird. No one I knew would have recognized me. J u l i a now does two to three hours of homework every night and gets more sleep but she s t i l l worries about her studies. She worries that " i f I stop studying now I could lose the opportunity to get scholarships, then have to work a thousand times harder and I can't afford to work any more than I am now." While J u l i a has changed her behaviour, she i s s t i l l working on the inner changes that w i l l bring self-acceptance. For most of the students, the inner changes have opened up p o s s i b i l i t i e s for their future that they had not previously seen. While there i s a sense that Ed, who had wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, and Patrick, who had wanted to j o i n the American Navy, have settled on their second choices, others speak enthusiastically of p o s s i b i l i t i e s they had not previously considered. As Kareena exclaims, "I can do anything I want to do"(interview 021). 116 H o p i n g : " a s e t b a c k . . . m e a n s y o u g o i n a d i f f e r e n t d i r e c t i o n " In his description of the middle or liminal phase of the tra n s i t i o n process, Victor Turner (1986, p.42) used such phrases as "the mood of maybe, might be, . . . desire." For many of the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary, that "mood of maybe" i s coloured with optimism. We are now midway through the second semester and while plans are not firm, when conversations with some of the students turn to considering the future, the 'maybes' now speak of open choice rather than uncertain futures. Here they speak op t i m i s t i c a l l y of definite p o s s i b i l i t i e s even when those p o s s i b i l i t i e s are undefined, unexplored, unclear. Embedded i n the liminal experience of grade twelve i s the feeling of hope for the future although, l i k e other aspects of l i m i n a l i t y , students experience hope i n different ways. For some students, feeling optimistic or hopeful about the future comes easily as they have made careful plans and are very r e a l i s t i c about what the future might bring. Sometimes those plans have come from the parents and students, not knowing what else to do, have adopted them as their own. Others put the future on hold and make somewhat temporary plans, speaking convincingly that the future w i l l unfold as i t should and "there w i l l be something" that opens up. For others, their feelings of hope are coloured by varying degrees of wishful thinking - "I might....," "maybe I ' l l ," with l i t t l e or no planning to set things i n motion. For s t i l l others, feeling hopeful seems set i n the kind of certainty that can be found only i n dreams and fantasy. 117 Finally, as graduation approaches, for those who have been clinging to wishful thinking that has been couched i n optimistic phrases, hope takes on a new meaning. Hope now looks for a way to deal with r e a l i t y . Todd does not plan to attend university, but he i s highly optimistic about the future. He does not have d e f i n i t e plans for after graduation, but wants to go into a three-year apprentice-ship program i n the culinary arts, perhaps working i n either Banff or Whistler. He's talking to Chef who has connections from working i n restaurants and hotels. Before he considered the apprenticeship program, he thought he might j o i n the coast guard because he was i n Sea Cadets for 3 years and has always been r e a l l y interested i n the water, but Chef has been a strong per-sonal influence on him. As well, many of his friends are working at Whistler and he would rather be with his friends. He does not think his change of plans has changed him i n any way because "I have the same drive. I had a goal and I was going for i t ; now I have a different goal and I'm going for that." What happens i f your plans do not work out, I ask. "There might be a setback but that just means you go i n a different direction. You have to deal with i t the best you can" (interview 013). On the other hand, Crystal's plans for the year following graduation are firm. She i s going to apprentice i n hairdressing in July. For the past four or five years she has been doing her sis t e r ' s hair and her s i s t e r suggested that she become a hair-dresser. About two years ago she began working i n a shop and 118 entered the co-op program. She has 500 hours to complete on the 1500 hour program. At that point she w i l l be a licensed hairdresser. While some of her friends plan to travel after graduation Crystal plans to "work, work, work for the f i r s t three or four years and then buy a l l this stuff when I've got some money. You can't enjoy [travelling] when you're young, you have no money to enjoy i t . I'm going to work and get that money, then enjoy it"(interview 018). Others are equally certain of where their future l i e s . "I d e f i n i t e l y want to go to university, SFU or UBC. I am already i n at Kwantlen . . . . I've got that to f a l l back on. [My goal] was teaching . . . but now I'm thinking of journalism," says Sandy (interview 011) and, from a survey response, "[I feel] extremely prepared and optimistic! I don't think you can f a i l i f you are doing something you enjoy"(student survey 047). While her plans are s t i l l somewhat open, Tara has applied to Douglas College, where she "thinks" she wants to go. At the moment she would l i k e to go into business, marketing or manage-ment, but i t might change. She has been interested i n marketing for about six months. It was r e a l l y a process of elimination since she i s not interested i n the sciences or arts and teaching ' does not appeal to her. Most of a l l , Tara would l i k e to take a break i n her schooling but her parents feel that i f they had had the opportunity to go on i n school they would not have had to work so hard i n their adult l i v e s . "So i t must be the answer — know what I mean?" asks Tara (interview 024). 119 It seems parents are a strong influence on the decision to attend university. "My mother has influenced me the most. She has influenced me by t e l l i n g what I am going to do," writes one student (survey 064A), and another states, "They said i f I didn't go to college I would be thrown out" (survey 071). Teachers do not seem to have the same influence on students' decision to attend postsecondary i n s t i t u t i o n s : "[they] just t e l l me to get a post-secondary education, but don't have any advice for those without $ to borrow and be i n debt," comments a student (survey 006). Yet i n a discussion group session, Rachael comments, "Teachers have a huge role i n shaping kids. Grade twelve teachers may influence l i f e decisions"(from f i e l d notes, February 5, 1998). The advice, wherever i t comes from, seems to be well taken, however. On the survey i n May, almost three quarters of the students say they are going on to post-secondary education; almost two thirds have had those plans - less than one year. As Graduation Day approaches, the time of p o s s i b i l i t i e s turns into decision time. On the surveys, many students also say that their parents feel that university i s "the answer." However, the students do not say whether or not they personally view going to university with optimism. A student (survey 063A) who i s headed for university or college next year but with no de f i n i t e plans, writes "My mother wants — r e a l l y wants — me to go and do something with my l i f e . " Another writes "[My mom] i n s t i l l e d her b e l i e f s i n me at a very young age. By attending university I 120 w i l l be able (hopefully) to gain the knowledge required i n order to obtain a satisfying job with which I w i l l be able to support myself"(survey 057A) . A student (030A) writes, "my parents always just expected this [going to university] of me." When asked i f parents have been an influence on future plans, another student who plans to attend university next year responds, "Greatly. I've chosen a path she wished she could've done"(survey 070). Even though plans appear to be i n place, they are not always well thought through. On the student survey at the end of January, one student responds that she/he i s planning to "attend a post-secondary educational i n s t i t u t i o n , possibly through a sports scholarship" (student survey 009A) . It i s not clear whether or not the student has submitted applications and accom-panying videos to prospective i n s t i t u t i o n s , something that most students who hope to be awarded a sports scholarship do i n grade l l . 1 In fact, the majority of students indicate that they plan to attend a post secondary i n s t i t u t i o n i n the year following gradu-ation, although many have not registered, nor do they have sp e c i f i c plans as to where they w i l l apply or the courses they might take. 1 For example, Karla, a very focused and confident student, has been awarded a f u l l s o f t b a l l scholarship at a university i n the United States. She has been playing s o f t b a l l since grade 4 and now plays on a loca l team that i s "probably going to the Nationals this year." She sent her videos to several universities i n early January. "Most sent them i n grade 11 but mine didn't get done . . . your team has a whole p o r t f o l i o that we are able to use. You send i t down there, they c a l l you back or you c a l l them" (student interview #025). 121 Heather finds this push to attend university d i f f i c u l t to understand. In our conversation she reminds me that I had asked people i n the discussion group why they were going on to post-secondary education and some had responded, 'well, what else am I going to do?' "That attitude just floors me," says Heather, I mean, why would you go to school when there's so much else out there? and I think they do i t just they don't know, I mean, they have been i n school for 12 years. I think they just do i t because either everyone else i s or a l l their friends are or they f e e l that they have to because everyone else i s . I don't see i t . I don't see that as an immature attitude but I see i t as r e a l l y short sighted. Some people are af r a i d that when they get out of school they w i l l have so much fun they won't go back to school. The point i s , i f you don't go back after a couple of years, you probably never were intended to go i n the f i r s t place, (interview 004) Seeing post-secondary schooling as some kind of key to the future even when you have no s p e c i f i c plans seems common. Wendy is planning to go to Kwantlen College to take general studies although she has not registered. She wants to be a f l i g h t attendant. She i s not certain what the educational requirements are but she thinks you just need to have completed grade twelve. Her mom had recently drawn Wendy's attention to an advertisement in the newspaper that said applicants need to have "OK looks, good height, good hygiene, good personal s k i l l s and talk two languages." I ask Wendy i f she speaks two languages. "Yes, French and English. I was i n French Immersion for six years. I have lost a l o t of i t but you know those tapes you can get, I'm going to get those so I can pick i t up again." U n t i l Wendy saw 122 the ad i n the paper, she was thinking of going into designing, clothes or i n t e r i o r , or teaching i t (interview 023). One could argue that seeing a future of yet to be selected p o s s i b i l i t i e s i s a way to put the future on hold. At some point the future w i l l look after i t s e l f , things w i l l f a l l into place. A way of saying that whatever obstacles there are to accomplishing plans, they w i l l be overcome, are not insurmount-able, and are to be considered "tomorrow. I ask Jeff how he feels about next year. "Pretty cool," he says and then goes on to say that he and his buddy are going to go up to Whistler for a year for snowboarding. When I ask i f he hopes to become a profession-a l , he says that he "doesn't know, we just want to move up there and see how we do. I was hoping to come back and go to BCIT and become an e l e c t r i c a l technician for airplanes, but I don't know." He has a job i n a grocery store for the coming year. His biggest concern? . . . that I won't want to come back after that year, but I have to because I need more education i f I'm going to be successful, [what does success mean, I ask] Having a good job, doing what you love, I guess, [partly money and partly satisfaction?] Yeah. If you've got money you've got power that's how I f e e l . You just have to have money, (interview 009) Kareena also plans to take a year off school to stay at Whistler, work in a restaurant, and snowboard. She and three friends w i l l share a condo owned by the parents of one of the g i r l s . Later she w i l l continue her education at Kwantlen with a future i n education (interview 021). Seeing the future as endless p o s s i b i l i t i e s also helps get 123 through, to wait out, the todays. Glynis i s not going to graduate with her friends. She i s two credits short. Glynis speaks with her version of a B r i t i s h accent — something she has acquired over the past few weeks. She dresses almost t o t a l l y i n black. Last year was a year of turmoil as she dealt with a mother who moves in and out of manic depression. Glynis i s angry, angry with herself, angry with her peers, angry with the system. She i s angry because everyone knows for certain what she should be doing but no one cares about what she wants. Teachers, friends, people, society, a l l expect things of you, she t e l l s me. In her mind, having a l l this education i s a waste of time. "I could have learned everything i n this school at home reading books which I do a l l the time anyway." Where w i l l you be i n ten years, I ask her. Either making films, both sides of the camera. Writing. Directing, acting. Definitely painting. I ' l l be i n a l i t t l e l o c a l theatre. Or else I w i l l be i n a big movie and be famous. I ' l l l i v e i n a house, a farm house on Salt Spring, White Rock, or Nelson. I w i l l have plenty of friends, I ' l l always have friends but only really, r e a l l y good friends. I ' l l have a big huge yard with an orchard, a garden. And my mother w i l l l i v e close by because she i s a gardener. I ' l l be r e a l l y busy. I w i l l be pregnant or expecting to become pregnant, not at 28 but by the time I'm 30. I'm not worried. I ' l l be famous by the time I'm 38. (interview 015) In her world where p o s s i b i l i t i e s are certainties, Glynis sees herself as, out of necessity, being very mature, the one who always had to be diplomatic. She had to " s i t there and not cry" when her mother was h i t t i n g her because then i t would just get worse. "I never r e a l l y had a chance to be a kid," she t e l l s 124 me. Later i n our conversation, when I mention that I sense she wants to prove something and ask what she wants to prove, Glynis replies, "That I'm not my mother. I think i t a l l comes back to my mother." What she does not want to be seems to be Glynis' only certainty. In many ways, Glynis' future plans are orchestrated by her present circumstances. While the circumstances vary considerably, this i s true for some other students as well. I talk with Patrick about metaphors for thresholds and opening and closing doors. We talk about how doors allow us to experience entering something as well as leaving something, how a s o l i d door forces us to use our imagination about what i s on the other side while a glass door allows us to be i n two places at once since i t shows us what i s on the other side even before we open i t . 2 Thinking about the door to the future, he t e l l s me he honestly does not know what i s i n store for him since his recent extended i l l n e s s has put his graduation i n jeopardy. If i t happens this year or next year, i t i s s t i l l a big 'what i f . ' The two doors — graduate or not grad-uate - they're both wooden doors because I don't know what i s beyond them. I don't know which one I can open yet. There i s no path for sure that I can take. Right now there i s nothing for sure i n my l i f e , (interview 022) Tara and I talk about this time of decisions. She t e l l s me 2 This discussion was based ideas from Richard Lang's a r t i c l e , "The dwelling door: A phenomenological exploration of t r a n s i t i o n " i n Exploring the Lived World: Readings in Phenomenological Psychology. 125 how her best friend had wanted to go to school i n the States and become a doctor but because her grades have gone down she w i l l not be able to get into a school i n the States (interview 024). Now her friend i s looking at going to Kwantlen College or Douglas College. Tara's boyfriend had wanted to be i n the m i l i -tary doing fi n a n c i a l work. Now he has decided to go to either Kwantlen or Douglas as well. Tara says, "Everyone i s t o t a l l y , at the last minute, thinking, 'I don't r e a l l y want to do that.' Everyone changes their mind i n the end," she says. Tara explains that i t i s as i f people think to themselves, 'If I can't do that, then I ' l l just go there,'" reminding me of Todd's comment that "a setback means you go i n a different d i r e c t i o n . " Tara goes on to say, "We are a l l figuring out that we don't know what we want to do and i t ' s scary. We're a l l i n the same boat. At least we know that everyone i s feeling what you're fe e l i n g . " Later i n our conversation, Tara mentions that she knows people who graduated several years e a r l i e r and they s t i l l do not have jobs. She wonders i f , i n five years, she w i l l be l i k e that. "I thought I would know what I wanted to do," she adds. In May I pay another v i s i t to the Career Centre. Sharon Thompson, the Career Centre clerk, mentions that after I l e f t yesterday a grade twelve female student came into the Centre to check on the requirements for nursing. The student said to Sharon, "I think I r e a l l y screwed up. I don't have Chemistry 126 and I think I need i t . " She and Sharon checked the program and all post-secondary i n s t i t u t i o n s require Chemistry 11 for t h e i r nursing programs. Sharon t e l l s me that she asked the student when she had l a s t done the Choices program and the students answered, "Last f a l l . " Sharon t e l l s me that, on further questioning, i t appears the student had also completed the Choices program in grade ten but said that she didn't know what she wanted to do at that stage. Sharon looks somewhat frustrated as she t e l l s me that when she asked the student i f , when she did the program l a s t f a l l , she had not seen that Chemistry 11 was a requirement, the student had replied, "I was r e a l l y just screwing around and not r e a l l y paying attention." Now we are three weeks from graduation and the student needs Chemistry 11. I ask Sharon what the student i s going to do. "If she i s not 19, she can come back in September to take i t , i f the class i s not f u l l ; she can take i t at Kwantlen; or (if she wants to work hard) take i t at summer school. Either way, her plans are on hold." As I wonder how the student might be f e e l i n g , Sharon t e l l s me that another student has just been in to check about archaeology, to find out about the requirements for the various post-secondary i n s t i -tutions and which ones offer archaeology. When Sharon t e l l s her that most i n s t i t u t i o n s have been accepting applications since last fall, the student says that it's okay, she might take a year off anyway. As I leave the Centre, I wonder what part having no plans this close to graduation plays in the transition from and the ending of secondary schooling (from f i e l d notes, May 14, 1998). We are nearing the end now and over the past couple of weeks there has been a definite change i n how students are feeling about this time i n their l i v e s . La Shondra says that grade twelve i s l i k e a journey to Disneyland - i t ' s fun but sometimes you stand i n l i n e for a long time and the ride turns out to be disappointing. Graduation i s quickly approaching and some students become more aware that this phase of th e i r l i f e journey i s coming to an end. Soon they w i l l leave behind friends, routines, and an identity. L e a v i n g : " i t ' s n o t m y p l a c e . . . a n y m o r e " Although students have been waiting with varying degrees of patience for the end to f i n a l l y arrive, the month of May brings mixed emotions. It i s d i f f i c u l t to stay focused on assignments and exams when a future that w i l l bring new friends, new free-doms, new opportunities i s so near. "I want to be out of my comfort zone," says Heather when I ask her how she feels about leaving. She i s anxious to break old habits, not see the same 128 people a l l the time. "I r e a l l y want to separate myself," she adds. Another student (survey 020A) i s even more emphatic: "Been there, done that. In a rush to get out." "Can't wait to get out," states another (survey 005A) , a response reiterated by several others. Yet intermingled with thoughts of the future i s the r e a l i z -ation that things are going to be l e f t behind. With the leaving comes a sense of loss — loss of friends, loss of comfortable routines, loss of freedom from res p o n s i b i l i t y . For some, the physical leaving at the end of June w i l l be a formality, for they are no longer connected to this place. At a discussion group session, someone comments that Alex Webster, the English teacher, has told students that this i s the most dangerous time because their minds are elsewhere. La Shondra, however, dismisses this with the comment, "He's just messing with our heads" (from f i e l d notes, May 4, 1998). Chad (interview 032) i s one of the students who has mixed emotions about leaving. He i s glad to be "getting out of this school, moving on." On the other hand, he t e l l s me that, "a l o t of my friends w i l l probably be gone and I'm not sure i f I ' l l ever talk to them again. I have some friends I've had since grade six and while we don't talk that much, when we do, we have a r e a l l y great time. That's the kind of thing I'm going to miss." Chad's feelings are echoed by Sandy, who comments that she i s "ready to move on with [her] l i f e and meet new people," but she w i l l be sorry to see "the people I know just go, not see 129 them any more"(interview O i l ) . As graduation nears, Sandy wishes that she had "talked to more people, gotten to know them better, e a r l i e r " and now the opportunity i s l o s t . Similarly, Glynis comments that she "has started talking to a l l these people [she's] been ignoring for five years" (from f i e l d notes, June 4, 1998) . Also feeling the impending loss of friends, Tara (interview 024) comments, "I have .gone to this school for fiv e years. Some of these people I have gone to school with since kindergarten, and I don't know them. I know their parents and where they l i v e , but I don't know them. I have had a couple of classes with them over the years but ... [pause]... i t ' s sad." Those students who are going away to university i n the f a l l are leaving more than friends. With graduation comes the r e a l i z -ation that they are also leaving home and family. Cherie, whose parents are divorced, t e l l s me that she w i l l be glad to get away from a l l the fighting i n the family, but adds that she w i l l be sad to lose her relationship with her dad. "I know I can hop on a bus for two and a half hours," she says, "but when I am focused on school there probably won't be time. I'm scared to lose my relationship with my mom. I feel l i k e I'm losing a part of myself because you don't grow up with someone and then move on without leaving a part of you behind" (interview 003). Sandy (interview Oil) speaks for a l l whose leaving i s bringing feelings of loss when she says, "A chapter i n your l i f e i s closing." 130 The feeling that he w i l l soon be leaving important things behind i s described by Drudi when he says that he i s "not sorry to see things change, [he's] sorry to see things go." [What w i l l you be sorry to see go, I ask.] "Well, my friends, being a big f i s h i n a small pond, there i s so much more I can do here. I can do i t i n university but i t won't be here. I was honestly con-sidering f a i l i n g and coming back for just another year. Then i t would be an easy breeze through, increase my grades and do a l l the things I want to do. The l i s t i s very long"(interview 010). For Rachael, the feeling i s more one of something slipping away. "I have a feeling that this year i s going to pass by and I won't even remember i t , " she says (interview 001) . "It's just not a si g n i f i c a n t year for me." In order to create memories, she says that she has "started a box of stupid things l i k e movie stubs and stuff I've done this year so I have things to remind myself that the year actually happened." La Shondra says that high school represents friends more than education because she has known most of the people i n the school for "a good eight, nine years"(interview 005). Thinking about leaving and losing those friendships, she says, " . . . you say you' re going to see them and write once a week, but I know i t ' s not going to happen." The one thing she i s not going to lose i s the memories. "You may lose contact," she says, "but you're never going to lose memories." Concern over leaving friends i s mentioned frequently i n response to the survey question, "What concerns do you have 131 about next year?" " . . . i t feels weird," comments one student (survey 080), "because we know we w i l l never do these things again with the same people." Another (survey 079A) sums i t up with the comment, " . . . having people you know leave to go to other schools sucks!" It i s not just leaving behind the friendships that makes this time of the passage d i f f i c u l t . Students are also leaving behind a routine that has structured their l i v e s for the past thirteen years. As Megan says, It's kind of l i k e you've come this far and you've done a l l this work pretty much for nothing. [Does i t fe e l anticlimactic, I ask] Yeah! I thought i t was going to be way more exciting. Everybody hypes i t up so much. It's exciting leaving high school but this i s the routine I've had for so long, and even though i t ' s not a good routine, but...[pause]... I don't know, I'm kind of scared to be out of i t . Wendy (interview 023) i s also looking forward to breaking the routine. "I'm looking forward to [graduation] just so I can get out of this routine. I've kind of been ready for a while. I went to graduation last year with a friend and that was kind of my graduation." As the month of June approaches, the desire to leave behind high school and i t s routines i n t e n s i f i e s . In our conversation, Claude (interview 027) t e l l s me, "I want to get out of here as soon as possible. This time right now means nothing to me. I have fun, I go out with my friends, see movies, go for a drive, play hockey. I want to go to University. I want to get out of here. It's l i k e a day-to-day basis, do my homework, study for a 132 test, come back, do my test, do more homework and that's the way i t has been going." There i s a sense that i t i s time for i t to be over, a feeling that i s echoed by Bruce (interview 014) who t e l l s me that he w i l l be'"glad to be out.".Graduation i t s e l f i s not such a big deal, he says, "just the fact that we're getting out i s the biggest deal for me. . . . some people w i l l be sad to leave, but I won't, I ' l l just be glad to f i n a l l y be gone." Another student (survey 073A) sums i t up by writing, "I'm so glad high school i s almost over. I'm so sick of i t . " As anxious as students are to leave school and cross the threshold into adulthood, for some there i s the r e a l i z a t i o n that the l i f e of a student and i t s routines, as boring as they have become, offer a kind of freedom. When I ask Bruce (interview 014) to talk about some of the things he w i l l be sorry to leave behind, he says, I say that i n the future I ' l l be getting a l o t more freedom but with that freedom comes a l o t more respon-s i b i l i t y , that's what I ' l l be sorry to lose. I think that right now, to be honest with you, i s the best time i n my l i f e . I have a l o t of freedom for a teenager, simply because I'm an older teenager, but I s t i l l don't have the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of putting food on the table and buying clothes. I have limited r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . I have a car and I have to pay for the gas and maintenance, but s t i l l , I don't have the huge r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . That's what I ' l l probably be sad to see go. Many students t e l l me that, mentally, they have already l e f t school. In my conversation with Patrick (interview 022), we talk about how his i l l n e s s may extend his schooling. It becomes 133 apparent that Patrick i s mentally finished with the notion of schooling as he has known i t for many years. "Yes," he says, " i t i s dragging on and on. . . . i t ' s l i k e 'oh i t should be over by now.' I have been i n grade 11 and 12 a l l my l i f e . [The t r a n s i -tion bridge has been too long for you, I comment.] I'm done, I'm done, leave me alone already! It's t o t a l l y i t ! " As Glynis t e l l s me, " . . . I am not r e a l l y supposed to be here . . . . It's not my place; i t ' s out there, not here. Not any more. It used to be" (interview 015). On another occasion, during a discussion group session, she says, "I'm so t i r e d of being here." Ed adds, "I'm not turned off enough to not come; I've been doing this a l l my l i f e and I ' l l just keep doing this and trying my best" (from f i e l d notes, May 4, 1998). For many of these students schooling i s over. It i s "done," as Patrick says. The only part of the leaving l e f t i s graduation and the celebrating. C e l e b r a t i n g : " s o r t o f l i k e t h e f i n a l g o o d b y e " This year of li m i n a l i t y , of being i n passage, i s coming to an end. That i s not to say that the feeling of being 'betwixt and between' i s over for everyone, but the school year i s soon ending. The feelings of waiting and uncertainty are, for the moment, set aside. Now the focus i s on graduation and how that w i l l be celebrated. Just as the passage has been unique to each student, graduation i s a personal experience i n the midst of the 134 celebrations shared by almost the entire graduating class. Comments from the students about the celebration run the gamut from too much — partying, alcohol, money spent, emphasis given — to too l i t t l e — planning, grad s p i r i t , consultation with students. Here and there are voiced regrets of those who w i l l not be a part of i t . Some w i l l be celebrating the ending and the leaving; some, the new beginning. Many are simply c e l -ebrating because i t i s part of the r i t u a l of passing over the threshold between high school and adulthood. For most students the Grad Dance and the After-Grad parties are what they have been waiting for. Dresses have been bought, limos rented. It i s going to be a night to remember. "It's going to be awesome!" says La Shondra (interview 005) when I ask her to t e l l me about graduation. Although she i s proud that she i s graduating and of the scholarships she w i l l be receiving, she sees commencement as more for her family; for her, the ceremony i s more a preliminary to higher education. The part of grad that La Shondra i s looking forward to i s the celebrating - "the banquet and the dance and the after grad, not the dry grad," which, she plans to go to for awhile. "It's d e f i n i t e l y a celebration for sure," she t e l l s me. During the summer, she and her friends are planning a camping t r i p but grad i s "sort of l i k e the f i n a l goodbye to a l l my friends i n high school, not a l l of them, I ' l l see a few of them over the next year, but there's going to be a l o t of people that I won't see u n t i l the 10th year reunion." Since she i s an emotional person, 135 i t w i l l be pretty hard, she t e l l s me, "but I know I'm going to be r e a l l y happy as well." Megan, too, i s excited about grad although "from about grade 8 to maybe the beginning of grade 12" she was not going to go to grad, i t just was not important (interview 034). I wasn't going to do i t because I never stayed at one school. I knew the people at the schools but not re a l l y . When I came back here I've known two or three of the people since I was i n grade 1 so i t ' s kind of l i k e I'm back with the people I should be graduating with and i t makes me happy that I can be with those people especially since I even l i v e d with one of them when I moved back here - she's just an amazing person — and I'm just so happy to be graduating with her, just to see her that day i s going to make me so happy I can't wait. Jenny talked me into going to grad this year. She said i t w i l l be so much fun and we'll get a l l dressed up and I thought about i t and I thought, sure, why not? I ' l l go. Grad i s kinda about celebrating, i n a way, I mean, we've come 13 years and that's a long way. I'm not going to commencement. Getting a piece of paper that says I've done something means nothing to me. Knowing that I did i t and being able to say I did i t , means something. A piece of paper saying that you've completed grade 12 means nothing. I'm not going to After Grad. I don't know many people at this school, I know the Caf kids and I know some of the Band kids. I have to say the Cafeteria kids feel l i k e family. We're a l l together i n a l i t t l e group, the same with the Band kids, so a l l the Caf kids are going together and we' re going to rent RVs and we're going camping at Todd's mom's. She just bought 13 acres i n Merritt and we're going there for two days. Those are the people that I want to spend my time with. Probably some of them I won't ever see again. Tara (interview 024) says she i s "so excited!" about gradu-ation and then l i s t s a l l the events: the commencement Friday night, then the banquet at noon with the parents on Saturday, 136 the dance, and then after that.the dry-Grad. The ceremony i s not r e a l l y important to her, she t e l l s me. Her whole family i s going to be there "but other than that i t i s no big deal." At the banquet she i s s i t t i n g with her parents and a few good friends with their parents. She explains that a l o t of people s i t at one end and their parents are at the other end of the room. Tara does not understand this since this i s for the parents. Do you have your dress already, I ask. "Yes, I got i t i n October. It was r e a l l y expensive. It was i n the mall where I work so I went in and sort of paid i t off. It hasn't been fitted-yet because i t took me a long time to find shoes." When I ask Tara why she thinks the Grad dance and everything i s such a big deal, she says, "I don't think i t i s for the guys as much. Everyone i s saying, have you got your dress? do you have your hair appoint-ment? . . . The guys just go and rent a tux — they wear i t and take i t back. For us the shoes have to match the dress, jewel-lery. I'm so excited, i t ' s l i k e , l e t ' s go! I am excited about getting my dress on, getting my hair done, putting my make-up on, going and having dinner then I don't know... being with a l l my friends and stuff. It i s kind of l i k e everyone i s doing i t . I am so excited about the day," and then, almost as an afterthought, "but I don't think i t i s going to be that big a deal." Tara t e l l s me that she i s not renting a limo. I ask her about the purpose i n renting a limo. "I don't know because i t costs l i k e $150.00 per person for 6 hours. I can't see the point 137, i n i t . You are going to be somewhere and t h e y ' l l just be outside. They are going to drive you from here to Langley and Langley to here, that's i t . " Tara's boyfriend's dad works for a car-dealership so he i s just going to lend them a sports car for the night. Her boyfriend i s going to drive i t . Some people want to drink i n their limo, she explains, but since she i s going to Dry Grad, she w i l l not be drinking anyway. Half of Tara's friends "don't want to go to Dry Grad, half of them are going to go to see i f i t i s fun." When I mention that I have not heard much about grad preparation, Tara agrees and says, "We have a pretty bad Grad Rep. It i s just the way our school i s . I think she was so overwhelmed with the job so we only had a couple Grad events. I t r i e d many times to help her out but... We have our Grad meetings every Tuesday but we don't have a l o t of commit-tees. I hope i t i s a good turnout." Remembering the number of students who have said they are not going to Dry Grad, I ask Tara how many tickets have been sold to date. Only sixty, i s the response, out of 280 grads. The committee i s hoping to s e l l at least 150 ti c k e t s . Perhaps people are waiting to see who else i s going, I suggest. "Ya! ! It i s so frustrating, I get mad at people." When I ask Crystal to t e l l me about graduation, she l i g h t s up and says how excited she i s (interview 018) . "My Mom i s making my dress, l i k e a b a l l gown, i t ' s a very exciting time." What i s exciting about i t , I ask. "It's 5 years coming to a close. Everyone i s going away. It's going to be l i k e one big 138 reunion almost. A l o t of us have known each other for so long." When I mention to Crystal that as others have described their b a l l gowns I was reminded of women choosing a wedding gown and preparing for a wedding day, her comment was, " i t ' s almost l i k e that you know." Part of Crystal's excitement stems from the fact that she is "the f i r s t one to graduate i n our house, my s i s t e r didn't graduate so my parents are r e a l l y excited. That's a l l they've been talking about since I got back here. It's good for my Mom." How important i s this to you, I ask. " I t gives me a r e a l l y great sense of pride, accomplishment knowing that I did i t . At f i r s t I. didn't think I would make i t , grade 10, grade 11 - I just didn't care. I was scared so i t i s r e a l l y exciting. I can't stop think-ing about it"(interview 018). Todd (interview 013) who t e l l s me that graduation " i s going to be great!" also describes how parental pride i s adding to the celebrating. My mom i s ecstatic! She i s so proud of me. She i s planning a l l these things for this one weekend - she's going to have a brunch, a dinner... she's going to do a l l t h i s . It's Wow! I haven't even graduated yet! Grad's going to be great. I ' l l be graduating with a great group of people, [how important i s the grad ceremony to you?] It i s important, I guess, but i t i s more for my mother. To see her s i t t i n g there with a camera or whatever, big grin on her face, I can see tears coming down her face — I know i t . It's more for her. The Graduating and getting out of school i s for me. The actual ceremony i s not important to me, I just want to be with my friends. While the graduation events — commencement, banquet, dance 139 (or Grad), 'dry' after-grad — are usually 'lumped together,' conversations reveal a personal grouping of selected events that makes "Grad" mean different things to different people. Although most await the event with great anticipation, for many, gradu-ation i s viewed with a mixture of cynicism and anticipation; regret and r e l i e f . The cynicism surfaces during some of the dis -cussions of the graduation events — the events are "lamo," the grad rep i s inept, there i s no school s p i r i t , grad i s just an opportunity to party, people spend way too much money, i t i s a l l over-rated. As I l i s t e n , I wonder how much of the cynicism stems from a long-anticipated event that i s not l i v i n g up to i n f l a t e d expectations; how much of the di s s a t i s f a c t i o n being l a i d at the feet of the grad rep stems from those same i n f l a t e d expectations. When I ask Beth (interview 035) to t e l l me about the grad a c t i v i t i e s , she says that "there r e a l l y haven't been any. I'm re a l l y disappointed i n my grad rep this year," and she adds, "and I know a l o t of other people are." What kinds of a c t i v i t i e s have been planned, I ask. "The a c t i v i t i e s are pretty much just the parties, and going out and having a good time," she explains. Beth i s going to Grad, the banquet, and commencement. As well, she has bought a ticket for Dry Grad. We talk about Dry Grad and how a l o t of people are going to go for a while then go o f f to what many refer to as 'Wet Grad.' When I mention that I have heard stories about awesome prizes available to those who stay u n t i l the end, Beth says that i t i s just "a bribe" and she 140 r e a l l y has not heard much about Dry Grad. I find r e a l l y no one announces things. I think i t ' s lack of enthusiasm i n general. People are procrastinating and then at the last , things just happen and that's not r e a l l y a good thing. There's no s p i r i t about grad, whatsoever, this year. Last year they had a l o t of s p i r i t . They went to a basketball game, a hockey game, went bowling, went ice skating. This year we haven't done anything. We went to a basketball game but i t wasn't r e a l l y great. The turnout wasn't good and no one r e a l l y went together, l i k e a couple of groups went together and then the rest just showed up. It would have been better i f we'd taken a bus out there as a grad class instead of going out own way. We went bowling one day and i t was just horrible. People were drinking inside the bowling all e y . It was not what I expected. I don't think i t ' s giving the school a bad reputation, but i f you're going to do stuff l i k e that, don't do i t there, do i t before or after, not i n the al l e y . There i s nothing planned so far for the Wet Aftergrad but there w i l l be — parties where the grads go, i n someone's back yard or we may rent a f i e l d . It w i l l be organized by certain students who just get fed up and say, 'This i s what's going on.' (interview 035) Wendy (interview 023) also claims to "have no idea what i s going on with Grad." She t e l l s me that she has not been informed about anything, although, when I ask i f grad i s important to her, "No, not r e a l l y , " i s her reply. She i s happy about the diploma "but the whole Grad stuff, the dinner, the dance, i t i s nothing new to me, I'm used to i t , " she says. Wendy says that she did that when she was i n grade eleven so " i t i s no big deal." Some of her friends are r e a l l y excited about graduation and, as a result, she feels l i k e an outsider. Wendy i s going to grad and to the Dry Grad. Do you plan to just stay for the f i r s t hour and then go elsewhere or w i l l you stay for the whole event, I ask. "I w i l l probably stay for the whole thing. I don't see the point to going out after Grad to party or whatever and 141 getting t o t a l l y drunk. Why not just stay and have fun and stay in one place instead of going a l l around." Wendy t e l l s me that her friends are going to stay at the Dry Grad for a couple hours then they are going to leave. Do they see the partying as part of Graduation, I ask. "Yes." How signif i c a n t i s the ceremony to you, I ask. "Getting the diploma and everything w i l l be more sign i f i c a n t than anything else," she says. " I ' l l be happy that I have actually gone through the 12 years of school." Then she pauses.... "And then I go back to school so..." she adds, laug-hing. Jason t e l l s me that, "compared to other years, our grad class i s r e a l l y disjointed and, I guess, much more cliquey" (interview 033). He thinks perhaps i t i s because there are well defined s o c i a l groups at Eagle S p i r i t that just do not mix well. Given his somewhat negative comments, I am surprised when he says that he i s going to grad and thinks i t w i l l be fun; especially surprised when he adds that, when he was younger, he had thought i t was pointless. Jason i s not planning to go to Dry Grad, thinks most people are not going to go. "From what I've heard," he says, "they're not going to s e l l tickets at the door and I think that's a f a t a l mistake because I think there's going to be about 20 people who go and i f they don't s e l l tickets at the door, no one's going to go." Jason and his friends have decided that they w i l l go to the banquet and then go to parties "or whatever," but i f they "got bored" they would go to the Dry Grad with the prizes and games. Perhaps, I suggest, the reason 142 you cannot buy tickets at the door i s because you cannot go to Dry Grad i f you have been drinking and many students who go somewhere else f i r s t w i l l have been drinking. "Probably," agrees Jason, "but what's the point of holding something i f no one's going to go?" Jason does not drink - "a personal choice" — but does not think there should be a separate Dry Grad — just Grad. In his opinion, no one i s going to decide not to drink just so they can go to Dry Grad. "I think the whole grad thing i s a pretty good excuse for a l o t of people to go out and get drunk and have a good time, their one last f l i n g where they can booze i t up with their friends and take whatever narcotic substance they can find to get high with their friends for one l a s t time but then everyone w i l l go their separate ways and meet new friends at SFU or wherever they're going to go," says Ed (interview 002). "I don't think very many w i l l maintain contact with anyone from high school after grad," he adds. How do you feel about that, I ask. "I don't feel any regret about that," he comments, "I know I'm moving on." Although a l i t t l e less cynical than Ed, Cherie i s not p a r t i c u l a r l y excited about graduation. She t e l l s me that she i s not looking forward to i t and, besides, there " i s so much put on money — l i k e the most expensive dress" (interview 003). She recognizes that a l o t of that i s "created by yourself" but she i s not going to get caught up i n i t . "Maybe la s t year I would have spent $100 on getting my n a i l s done and my hair but I'm not 143 going to do i t , " she states firmly. Cherie i s one of the few students looking forward to commencement "where people who have worked hard a l l year get awarded or recognized for what they've done, rather than the next night or the next week, at grad, where the g i r l with the richest daddy shows up with the most expensive dress and makes a big deal out of i t . " Because some people "make a big deal out of i t , " Heather i s no longer "exactly sure what [graduation] means" to her (inter-view 004). She i s "not p a r t i c u l a r l y looking forward to grad." She t e l l s me that at the beginning of the year she was r e a l l y excited about i t but as the year went on, i t has begun to feel just l i k e any other year. "This i s my tiny, small l i f e right now, with school and friends, and a l l that," she explains, "and next year i t ' s going to be t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t . And a l l these people are getting a l l hyped up about $400 dresses and things l i k e that and the limo and something kind of changed i n me and I kind of shut i t a l l out." The only reason she i s looking forward to graduation at a l l i s so that she can "get out of this routine." Heather t e l l s me that she has been ready for that for some time since she went, with a friend, to graduation l a s t year. "That was kind of my graduation," she says, " l i k e i t could be October now because for the l a s t seven months nothing's happened." "It's not r e a l l y a big deal for me. I can't see spending a l l kinds of money," Jeff (interview 009) t e l l s me. Who i s making i t a big deal, I ask. "Most of my friends are making a 144 huge deal of i t , spending thousands of dollars on limos, grad s t u f f . " I ask i f he i s going to grad. "Ya, but I'm not going to spend a l l that money," he states firmly. Why do you think some people are making such a big deal of i t , I ask. "I have no idea," Jeff says, "a milestone, I guess, [you don't agree?] Ya, but I'm not going to spend money on i t . " Do those spending a l o t of money, have a l o t to start with, I ask. "Some have saved, a lo t just have i t , " i s his reply. The school makes i t into a big deal, too, as far as Jeff i s concerned. On the other hand, amidst the talk of celebrating, when we talk about graduation as a milestone on the l i f e journey, some voice regrets — some because they w i l l not be graduating with their friends, others because of missed opportunities. Some students reali z e that graduation i s a turning point and that, i f they do not graduate, their plans are on hold. Graduation i s "very important" to Rod (interview 017). " I t shows you can be an adult," he t e l l s me. He describes himself as "one of those half-assed people that can go out and b u i l d half a motorcycle, want to ride i t , and not have the energy to b u i l d i t and not care." So graduation i s important because "most people I know, don't [graduate from high school]." As well, Rod i s very aware of how much i s riding on graduation. If I don't graduate this year I say goodbye to a l o t of things; i f I don't graduate on time I don't get bonds from my grandmother; i f I don't graduate on time I don't get a car; i f I don't graduate on time I lose a l o t of benefits from my parents. I can't complain, I've just got to graduate. I f a i l e d English 12 f i r s t semester. This semester I was taking i t again from the 145 same teacher and I told him that I just can't do this and he said, 'sorry, I'm.the only teacher, goodbye, see you later, have a nice semester.' So I went to talk to Mr. Cartier and to see i f I could write the Communications 12 exam and he said, 'sure, talk to Mr. Nevins' and this w i l l give me my English 12 to graduate. Sophie, too, i s feeling the pressure about graduation. She knows that, as much as she might want to, she w i l l not graduate (interview 031) . She admits that her attendance i s "so bad" and she i s "kind of disappointed i n [her]self" but when she promises herself she w i l l go to school, " i t seems, at the time, school's so unimportant." She goes on to say, I feel l i k e I'm just stuck here so bad. It's just such a waste of time, getting stuck i n a place just for a graduation c e r t i f i c a t e . I'm going to talk to a l l the principals, i f I can, just to see i f t h e y ' l l l e t me graduate anyway. I ' l l t e l l them that's a l l I want. Of course, t h e y ' l l bring up the whole conversation that everyone else has to do this and that but I ' l l t r y to think of some argument i f I can. Sophie especially feels "bad for [her] parents because this i s [her] second t r y . " But even i f she goes "to every single class for the rest of the semester, [does] every b i t of homework," she doubts that she would pass math. And, anyway, "I don't think I could even go to every single class for a month, especially with grad coming. I have a wicked grad planned. I don't think I could do i t . " Sophie and her best friend, Kerry, are not taking dates to grad because they would be too embarrassed to take guys who graduated four years ago to a grade twelve graduation. During our conversation she relates a discussion she had with the vice p r i n c i p a l during which he asked her what she wanted to get out 146 of high school. "To graduate," she t o l d him. "That's a l l you want — the c e r t i f i c a t e ? " "Yup," Sophie replied. She goes on to say that she knows he wanted her to say 'I'm learning s k i l l s for the future' because Mr. Nevins said to her, "No, you want to learn!" "No, I want to graduate!" Sophie t e l l s me that, although " i t ' s kind of fun," she does not care about learning; she just wants "to graduate so that down the road I won't have a l l this extra stuff to take before I can actually go on to school." Actually Sophie's pursuit of a graduation c e r t i f i c a t e i s not about education; i t i s about saving face. . . . i f I didn't graduate I don't think anyone would r e a l l y know. I'd s t i l l go to commencement because they just give you a piece of paper. Because that would be the worst of i t . I'd be embarrassed to walk around and have people say, 'Oh, she didn't graduate,' because I look at other g i r l s my age or older who didn't graduate and I think, 'God, you l i v e i n [this community]! We're not i n [a neighbouring community] — you should graduate!' In a conversation i n early May, Sam had said that graduation " i s kind of sad" (interview 029). He had said also that while i t i s a l i t t l e l i k e crossing a threshold, r e a l l y i t i s "a party, I guess, l i k e New Year's. It i s not important as to what I do next year. If i t didn't happen i t would not be the end of the world." On Graduation Night, I see no one who looks as i f they would agree with Sam. In the general pandemonium, there i s much laughter and many hugs along with faces that glow with obvious pride. Suddenly a l l of the uncertainty voiced over the past year has been traded i n for celebrating the ending and 147 anticipating, with certainty, the future. This i s the l a s t discussion group session. It i s the week after graduation. Classes end in f i v e days. Talk today i s about graduation. La Shondra says that she "spent $700 and i t was worth i t . I looked awesome," she says. "If I'm going to spend that much money I want to look great for more than a couple of hours," she says. La Shonda danced with her dad at Grad. "He told me how proud they are of me. I've always gotten As but i t was good to hear that i t has meant something to them." Phaedra describes the banquet and dance as being "unreal." She goes on to explain that everyone looked l i k e they were wearing a mask, pretending to be someone else. "I f e l t uncomfortable," she adds. Ed explains how his dad couldn't come to grad since "he i s on the verge of bankruptcy. " His mom had offered to pay for his t i c k e t from Ontario but his dad declined, saying there were other expenses involved in attending. Ed says, "I accepted i t , " adding, "I was disappointed." As I l i s t e n , I think again how Ed works so hard to maintain control. He does not mention his scholarship. The fact that her dad came up made i t a very special evening for Briana. Adding to i t a l l , she t e l l s us, her mom and dad talked about things that were never resolved in the past. It i s obvious that t h i s was a healing time in her family — t h a t in i t s e l f i s cause for celebration, I think to myself. The Valedictory Address becomes a topic for dis-cussion. Ken, who has known Vincent (the Class Valedictorian) since English 9, says, "Good for Vincent." He adds that- everyone knows that Vincent has no social s k i l l s and i s not an i n t e r e s t i n g speaker. A l l agree that there was nothing memorable about the speech. No one can think of one memorable phrase they've come away with. As I l i s t e n to the post-mortem on Graduation 1998, I think about hopes, dreams, and expectations. Other than La Shondra, who "looked awesome" and Briana, whose family connected, how many w i l l remember i t as a time of unmet expectations and u n f u l f i l l e d dreams, I wonder. The bell has gone and i t i s time to vacate the room where we have met over the past year. Everyone seems reluctant. We agree to meet over the summer. I. say that I w i l l spring for pizza. They choose the place. We don't seem to be able to l e t go of the bonds that have been formed (from f i e l d notes, June 11, 1998). A year of l i m i n a l i t y i s coming to an end for this group of 149 students. For them, i t has been a- year about passages and thresholds, the transition from secondary schooling to the adult world. Unlike t r a d i t i o n a l 'rites of passage' where each young person undergoes a similar experience, the liminal time for these grade twelve students i s a personal passage, unique to the individual. However, c o l l e c t i v e l y , their stories t e l l of a year of anticipation, of reflection, of uncertainty, of excitement, of sadness, laughter, loss, and despair. Most of a l l , their stories t e l l of a year of waiting, a year sometimes l i v e d with hope, often times with anxiety. From their stories, the seven themes of l i m i n a l i t y emanate: arriving, waiting, being pressed, reflecting, hoping, leaving, and celebrating. Many students begin the year i n September with excitement about arriving, having f i n a l l y "made i t . " Then the waiting begins. "I'd leave right now i f i t weren't for graduation," writes one student (survey 085A) . As the r e a l i t y of the f i n a l year of schooling sets in, some students begin to recognize they are about to cross a threshold i n their l i v e s - "I feel that i t i s a large step towards growing up. A step into the deep pool of responsibility. You either sink or swim from here," writes one student (survey 055). By midway through the year, students increasingly feel pressed — to make the " r i g h t " decision, to get high marks, to begin moving toward making their tentative plans a r e a l i t y . Reflecting and re-evaluating i s part of the entire liminal experience but seems to intensify i n the l a t t e r half of the year. As the end of the year approaches, the 150 previously tentative plans become firmer and students begin to face the future with hope. Just before graduation, the r e a l i z a t i o n that they w i l l be leaving friends and familiar structures and routines begins to sink i n . Fi n a l l y , a l l energy i s focused on celebrating the end of this extended passage. As one student describes i t , "Graduating i s l i k e being at the beginning of a race and the starting p i s t o l has just been fired!"(survey 044). As I r e f l e c t on my time with grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary, on how they have experienced this liminal time in their l i v e s , I r e f l e c t , too, on the situations and structures that helped shape this experience. Although this time of l i m i n a l i t y i s unique to each student, what role does the i n s t i t u t i o n and i t s personnel, curriculum, and r i t u a l s play i n the liminal experience? In what ways do parents and society, i n general, contribute to this passage along the l i f e journey? 151 CHAPTER 5: FROM THE OUTSIDE IN: INFLUENCING THE BETWIXT AND BETWEEN Although each student's experience of the liminal phase of the passage between secondary school and the adult world i s unique, there are a number of influences that interact over the year to contribute to the common experiences. These are reflected i n the ways i n which students describe their liminal experiences. Many of these have been explored i n Chapter 4 — times of celebration, feelings of uncertainty, hope, and a sense of loss, to name four. Often factors that influence those liminal experiences stem from the ways i n which people and ins t i t u t i o n s deal with adoles-cents as they pass from secondary schooling to the adult world. From my conversations with the students, four spheres of i n f l u -ence can be discerned: expectations, the i n s t i t u t i o n , sacra, and communitas and flow. 1 Elements of these four areas of influence combine i n different ways to produce spheres or c i r c l e s of 1 Although I have i d e n t i f i e d four s i g n i f i c a n t spheres or areas of influence, i t would be naive to suggest that these are the only factors that play a role i n how students experience this phase of the l i f e journey. However, the spheres of influence I am describing figured prominently i n my conversations with the students. It should be noted also that since the various influences on the liminal experience are so intertwined, i t i s often d i f f i c u l t to completely separate out the various influences. That said, the delineation of the id e n t i f i e d four spheres of influence i s useful i n understanding how students experience this passage i n their l i v e s . 152 influence that move toward the individual, influence that ebbs and flows throughout the year affecting liminal experiences i n different ways.2 Because these spheres of influence resonate s i g n i f i c a n t l y throughout their stories, i t i s not possible to understand how the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t experi-enced this time i n their l i v e s without exploring the ways i n which these spheres of influence impact on liminal experiences. That exploration follows. S p h e r e s o f i n f l u e n c e One notable sphere of influence comes i n the form of the perceived or articulated expectations of others. The expectations may be those of the students themselves but most frequently they are the expectations of parents, teachers, the broader society, and, occasionally, friends. These expectations have to do with the decisions students are making about the future. Often the expectations are transmitted by the use of words l i k e 'should' or phrases l i k e " i f you don't . . . " a s predictions are made about what the future holds for students. The impact of these expectations i s noticeable i n the pressure 2 Reflecting upon the degree to which these elements impact upon individual students, the image of the ripples created when a stone i s thrown into a pond comes to mind. Rather than the ripples moving out from the centre, they move toward the centre. I could imagine each student i n the centre with the ripples coming toward him or her. The size of the c i r c l e and the inten-s i t y of the ripples means that different students are influenced in ways that are unique to the individual. 153 and uncertainty that students f e e l . Another factor, usually cloaked i n the normalcy of long established b e l i e f s and practices, originates with the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n and i t s r i t u a l s , and/or from society through the media. Included i n this sphere of influence are the routines of the school, the courses available to students, the attitudes of school personnel, and the r i t u a l s associated with graduation. The emphasis i n the media on the celebratory aspect of graduation r e f l e c t s and reinforces many of these i n s t i t u t i o n a l practices and b e l i e f s . An important component of this sphere of influence i s the status that students have within the i n s t i t u t i o n . The ways i n which this sphere of influence impacts on the liminal experience i s apparent i n my conversations with grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. While one might naturally expect such factors as parents and r i t u a l s to impact on the liminal experiences of grade twelve students, another factor that s i g n i f i c a n t l y contributes to the liminal experience i s less often considered — the sacra communicated to students throughout the liminal phase of their transition from secondary schooling. As outlined e a r l i e r i n this work, Turner (1967, p.102) described sacra, "the heart of the liminal matter," as the things that are shown or otherwise conveyed to those i n transition as a way of guiding the passage and preparing the liminary for the post-liminal state. Meant to provide those i n transition with opportunities to r e f l e c t on their culture and society, sacra are intended to reveal the 154 culture to the liminary and to change the inner-most nature of the person i n tr a n s i t i o n . 3 Although Turner noted that sacra included actions as well as instructions and exhibitions, he did not include i n his notion of sacra those things not inten-t i o n a l l y presented — those unspoken ideas and messages often referred to i n education as the hidden curriculum. 4 This raises a further question about what liminaries, or i n this case students, internalize as things that reveal the dominant culture. Exploring the notion of sacra i s useful i n uncovering how this sphere of influence contributes to l i m i n a l i t y . Turner (1967, 1977) also outlined two other aspects of l i m i n a l i t y - 'communitas,' and 'flow.' Communitas, as described by Turner, i s the communion between liminaries, the new connec-tions that are formed during the tran s i t i o n stage. Flow i s that " h o l i s t i c sensation present when we act with t o t a l involvement," a time when action and awareness merge. Although flow may be transmitted and shared through communitas, ultimately i t stems from an inner response. While these two aspects of the liminal experience are evident i n the data collected at Eagle S p i r i t 3 • While i t can be argued that transmission of sacra i s inherent i n both the expectations of others and the i n s t i t u t i o n , I am suggesting that what students select from the array of ideas presented to them determines i t s inclusion i n this category. 4 Here the term curriculum i s used i n i t s broadest sense. Rather than referring to the formal curriculum presented i n school, i t i s related to the notion of pedagogy as guiding a young person to maturity and includes those 'lessons' learned from the unintentional actions of others especially when those actions imply a message other than the one intended. 155 Secondary School, their influence on the liminal experiences of students i s apparent predominantly toward the end of the liminal phase of the transition. In particular, as the school year ends, i t i s possible to identi f y what Turner describes as "flow-e l i c i t o r s . " Given the i n d i v i d u a l i t y of liminal experiences, obviously not a l l elements or factors have the same influence on a l l students, for just as the liminal experience i t s e l f i s unique, so, too, i s the degree to which the spheres of influence impact upon passage through this liminal time i n students' l i v e s . That being said, i n order to uncover how students experience this time i n their l i v e s , i t i s useful to examine their stories and co-constructed descriptions i n an attempt to understand the ways in which these spheres of influence contribute to the liminal experience. In doing so i t becomes apparent that expectations, the i n s t i t u t i o n , sacra, and communitas and flow contribute s i g n i f i c a n t l y to the liminal experiences of grade twelve stu-dents . Developing an explorative framework Since the purpose of this exploration i s to explicate the liminal experiences of the students, when thinking about a framework to uncover the role of various influences on those experiences, the importance of expectations to the t r a n s i t i o n experience becomes clear. Reflecting on my conversations with 156 the students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary, i t becomes apparent that, within the f i r s t few months of grade twelve, expectations are playing a major role i n their liminal experiences. In their comments during the discussion group sessions, many students speak of their own expectations, the expectations of their parents, the school, universities, and their peers. Later these comments are reinforced i n the survey and interview comments. In exploring the role of expectations i n the students' t r a n s i t i o n stories, a number of questions can be considered. In what ways do expectations impact, both negatively and posi t i v e l y , on the liminal experience? In what ways do the students' own expecta-tions combine with the expectations of others? Are there times of the school year when expectations are a more si g n i f i c a n t influence on the liminal experience? 5 Using these questions to explore the ways in which students' own expectations, as well as the expectations of others, contribute to their liminal experi-ences helps to uncover one aspect of the passage from secondary school. A second and equally provocative component of the liminal experience becomes apparent when students talk about their feelings about school. During the student interviews, i n the discussion group conversations, and on the surveys, students speak of their relationships with teachers and administrators as 5 While students also spoke of what they perceived to be the expectations of the broader society, I have elected to include those expectations with sacra since they appear to be an aspect of the messages conveyed to young people through the media and what might be referred to as "common knowledge." 157 well as the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n i t s e l f and i t s r i t u a l s . 6 What impact do these components of their d a i l y l i f e have on their liminal experiences? In what ways does the formal curriculum impact upon this time i n students' lives? What are some ways i n which their relationships with teachers and administrators enhance or detract from their liminal experiences? How do the routines of schooling and the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n i t s e l f contribute to their passage into adulthood? An exploration of the role of the school, i t s personnel, and i n s t i t u t i o n a l r i t u a l s i n this passage can render an evocative portrayal of the liminal experiences of grade twelve. Sacra provide the framework for the t h i r d exploration i n my examination of the liminal experiences of the students at Eagle S p i r i t . Using Turner's notion of sacra to develop this frame-work, sacra i s seen as those ideas and messages that are pres-ented, intentionally or otherwise, by parents, peers, the i n s t i -tution, and the media and which, i n turn, influence the ways i n which students experience this time i n their l i v e s . As stated above, this includes the unintentional messages that students infer about their present as well as future place i n the world. What do these messages t e l l students about confidence i n the 6 While i t could be argued that comments about schooling and i t s r i t u a l s from the broader society are c l e a r l y associated with ideas conveyed to students and therefore should be included as part of the sacra overlay, I have elected to include those comments as part of the exploration of the i n s t i t u t i o n a l sphere of influence since their impact reinforces long held b e l i e f s about the i n s t i t u t i o n . 158 future? About success? About failure? As students prepare to enter adulthood, what do these messages t e l l students about the be l i e f s and values shared by many i n the broader society? How do these messages affect their liminal experiences? Clearly, i t i s sometimes d i f f i c u l t to completely separate sacra from the expec-tations of others and the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n . However, given that sacra are rooted i n the messages given to those i n trans i t i o n i n order to prepare them for the next stage i n l i f e , i t i s important to consider this sphere of influence separately. The f i n a l explorative frame i s developed around the notions of 'communitas' and 'flow.' While i t could be argued that these last two notions described by Turner do not have the same degree of influence on the grade twelve liminal experience as do some other components (for example sacra), comunitas and flow are an important component of the exploration. In particular, they are helpful when examining how peer relationships influence liminal experiences and identifying those symbols selected by students as " f l o w - e l i c i t o r s . " In addition, they are important for their potential as the basis of long l a s t i n g memories of the liminal experience. As stated previously, rather than having a direct influence on the liminal experience, the above outlined components gener-ate c i r c l e s or spheres of influence, spheres of influence that ebb and flow throughout the school year. Undeniably these c i r c l e s sometimes overlap. However, the four explorative frames of expectations, structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n , sacra, and 159 communitas and flow provide a useful heu r i s t i c for understanding the stories of the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary as they describe how they experience this time of l i m i n a l i t y . Exploring how expectations influence liminal experiences While students do not, themselves, i d e n t i f y the influences that colour or contribute to their liminal experiences, their comments provide insights into this aspect of l i m i n a l i t y . For example, even as students begin their f i n a l year of secondary schooling, the influence of expectations on the liminal experi-ence i s evident. As described i n the previous chapter, many students enter the year with very clear expectations about what grade twelve i s going to be l i k e . As Heather (interview 004) says, " i t isn't anything l i k e my ideal, what I thought i t was going to be l i k e , at a l l . " These expectations are often b u i l t upon "folk lore" about adolescent l i f e . La Shonda (interview 005)• says that, when she was younger, I b a s i c a l l y pictured my grade twelve year as an epi-sode from Degrassi High 7 . . . [but i t i s l i k e you 7 a Canadian television program that began i n 1986. It followed a group of teenagers from junior high through to their senior high school years. Although the program ran for only fiv e seasons, i t i s currently shown around the world. Now considered a cult program, by 2000, more than 40 web sites devoted to the show had been created by fans around the world. A 1999 reunion show taped i n Toronto drew fans from as far away as San Francisco — an indication of the impact the series had on teens and twenty-somethings who grew up with the show (Atherton, 2001, 160 think] when you turn sixteen you w i l l automatically have this cherry red Mustang parked outside of your door but then you get there and discover you're driving your mom's station wagon. That's r e a l i t y . Expectations and r e a l i t y . Sandy (interview Oil) thought that when she got into grade twelve, "everything would be perfect, . . . I would have a car," she laughs when she adds, "I would be t a l l e r . . . . and have a huge group of friends. We would be partying a l l the time." Sandy realizes now that that i s not who she i s , that she does not l i k e to party a l l the time, and, while she does not have a car, she does have the friends she wants. Some students begin the year expecting to 'be on top' i n the pecking order: they expect that younger students w i l l show them more respect, that they w i l l have a new, higher status and a changed relationship with teachers. The fact that their expec-tations and the r e a l i t y of grade twelve do not always coincide, colours the early phase of the liminal experience. Not noticing that they are beginning an ending, many students enter the year with the expectation that this i s the beginning of something new, a new status and with i t a new way of being i n the world. What many fin d i s that, for the most part, there i s l i t t l e change i n their status (with younger students or with teachers) and the days are much l i k e a l l the other days for the past twelve years. As Drudi (interview 010) says, " . . . you want everyone to bow down to you. Which used to be the case but I February 19, p . B l l ) . 161 have seen grade 8s t e l l i n g off Grade 12s! L i t e r a l l y twice their size! Society has changed." True, there are a few students who would agree with Bruce (interview 014) who says that because "teachers are r e a l i z i n g that students are becoming adults . . . they treat us d i f f e r e n t l y . They talk to us as people where before they would talk to us as i n f e r i o r people, l i k e you're i n f e r i o r to me so I don't have to l i s t e n to you." However, for the most part, students begin the year with the let-down feeling that often comes with unmet expectations about how a long-awaited time w i l l unfold. Although not everyone has a let-down feeling about their status as senior students, others have expectations about the work load i n grade twelve. Some, l i k e Bruce (interview 014), had been led to believe that the work load i n grade twelve would be much lighter than i n other years. He found, out otherwise. Some are pleasantly surprised. Megan (interview 034) began worrying about grade twelve when she was i n grade ten; worrying that i t was "a huge deal" but " i t ' s been so easy, so easy." Beth (inter-view 035) also found grade twelve "easier than I thought i t would be." For Megan and Beth, their expectations were the opposite of what they found and, rather than feeling let-down, their self-confidence increased. This increase i n s e l f -confidence cannot help but have a positive influence on the liminal phase of the transition from secondary schooling to the adult world, cannot help but foster positive feelings about the future. 162 Another aspect of how students' expectations influence their experience of grade twelve was revealed i n a discussion group conversation early i n the year. Talking about the choices students make in grade twelve, Rachael comments, " I t depends on the kind of l i f e s t y l e you want . . . what you expect for yourself" (from f i e l d notes, January 5, 1998). The role that their own expectations play i n the tra n s i t i o n from secondary school was inherent i n Phaedra's suggestion that a question on the student survey be framed around the fact that by grade twelve the future i s already set for students, that what they are l i k e now i s what they are going to be l i k e for the rest of their l i v e s , that students know whether or not they are going to be successful i n the future (from f i e l d notes, October 16, 1997) . That this i s a deep-seated conviction shared by many i s i l l u s t r a t e d when, six months later, Jane comments, "You become the person you're going to be, i n grade twelve" (from f i e l d notes, A p r i l 2, 1998). The idea that the successes you have to date experienced are indicative of the level of success you can expect i n the future must be reassuring for those students who have been "winners" i n a system that rewards high academic achievement. As one student (survey 049A) said, "I feel quite prepared for my plans because I have always done well i n high school." On the other hand, what of those who struggle or do not meet curriculum expectations? As Patrick comments, "Every f a i l i n g grade i s l i k e one more n a i l i n the c o f f i n " (from f i e l d notes, November 13, 163 1997). Glynis, Sophie, and Sean are three of the people who w i l l not be walking across the platform on commencement night. They are among the number of students who have not earned the required 52 credits. Although each of them describes their feelings about graduating d i f f e r e n t l y , there i s a sense that each has not l i v e d up to expectations — their own or others. Sophie (interview 031) wants desperately to graduate. She feels sorry for her parents as she feels she has l e t them down. After a l l , this i s her "second t r y . " As well, she i s embarrassed because she sees herself as l i v i n g i n a "good" area where everyone graduates from high school. She has t r i e d to bargain with the administration i n the hopes that she w i l l be able to graduate but, so far, to no a v a i l . She thinks that, i f she could just participate i n the commencement ceremonies, no one would know that she has not actually graduated, no one would know that the "piece of paper" that she received was blank. Time i s running out as we approach the f i n a l six weeks of school. Sophie i s feeling the pressure of unmet expectations — hers and others. Although our conversation i s a lesson i n contradictions, Glynis (interview 015), on the other hand, has struck a defensive pose as a way of dealing with unmet expectations. One minute our conversation focuses on how I'm frustrated with myself. If I had not had a l l those problems [with my mother] i n grade eleven, I wouldn't be where I am. I needed to start with a clean slate but i n grade twelve I didn't feel l i k e I had a clean 164 slate because I was already behind and had to catch up in the grade eleven courses I had screwed up. I just f e l t l i k e what's the use, here I am, I don't f e e l l i k e f i x i n g i t , i t ' s not that important to me. She then argues that what she i s angry about i s that no one cared about what she wanted, that a l l everyone cared about was what she should be doing. I don't care about [graduation]! I don't want i t ! So why i s everyone shoving i t on me. [Who i s shoving i t on you, I ask.] My teachers, my friends, people, society, everything i s expected of us. I fee l that we don't get to do what we want. Later i n our conversation, Glynis says, "I don't have a l o t of expectations of people and a l o t of people.... no, I have expec-tations of what the world should be or could be and other people have expectations of what I should be. They have expectations of what I should be and I have expectations of what the world could be." Then she adds, "My mother always wanted me to be myself yet she had her expectations." I sense a crack i n Glynis' defensive pose when she concedes, "I thought I would graduate," then quickly adds, "but I never thought i t would be the most important thing." Sean (interview 032) speaks vaguely of salvaging his secondary schooling, a plan, I sense, that i s driven by unmet, although unarticulated, expectations. Although he has no definite plans, he talks of a teaching career or perhaps something where he works with young people. He t e l l s me he i s going to come back i n September to f i n i s h off English 11 and English 12. " I t doesn't feel too great because i t i s something I 165 should have passed." This year, Sean i s attending "regular school" as well as night school for Math 11A and Socials 11. Even though Sean has problems with English - "It's the structure of the writing I have trouble with. I have a l l these ideas but..." — he expects to graduate next year and eventually go to university. To a large extent, Sean's liminal experiences are on hold. Around him, his friends are graduating but i t w i l l be at least another year before Sean accumulates the necessary credits. And what of those students who w i l l accumulate the necessary credits to graduate but who have struggled and compromised i n order to maintain passing grades, especially i f those compromises have meant selecting less challenging courses i n order to graduate? Do some of these students see themselves moving into a lifetime of s e t t l i n g for less? Was the student (survey 044A) who commented, "I won't ever get a good job. I didn't get good enough marks i n high school to go into the classes I want to go to i n college," anticipating a l i f e of s e t t l i n g for less than expected? It i s d i f f i c u l t to say whether or not Ed (interview 002) would agree that he has compromised i n his career decisions. He expected to become an aeronautical engineer, but the r e a l i t y of his grades forced him to r e f l e c t on those expectations about his future. His expectations have been changed and he now speaks p o s i t i v e l y of pursuing a career i n business after obtaining a post-secondary degree. Perhaps because of his e a r l i e r disappointment, Ed has 166 readjusted his expectations to f i t the r e a l i t y of the situation. As a result, he i s extremely focused on excellence i n his new career choice. He believes that the more adaptable a person i s to the system, the more successful you are. This self-imposed pressure has a great impact on how Ed experiences this i n liminal experiences as evidenced i n his comment: I don't give myself much slack. I can spend too much time doing stupid things l i k e that. I get some pleasure out of jogging but I don't have time for things l i k e extra curricular a c t i v i t i e s , besides student council. I can't afford i t . I don't have enough time. I wish there were 36 hours i n the day. Sometimes I take a l i t t l e time at night. But tonight I'm not expecting to go to bed before one and I get up at 5:30. Ed i s determined to be 'successful' and sets his expectations accordingly. , While students' own expectations no doubt take shape as they see themselves reflected i n others eyes, envisioning a future based on the successes or failures i n thirteen years of schooling can only add to the uncertainty and pressure students speak about. What part do expectations about the future play i n the January survey (112A) comment, "I'm a f r a i d of . not being successful. Ending up nowhere, doing nothing." I am reminded of the young man who I saw waiting i n the counselling suite and, later, saw s i t t i n g with other obviously disengaged students i n the "less challenging" Law 12 class. I remember that he said his father wanted him to go to university but that he did not think he could do that. I wonder what part his own expectations for the future have played i n the decisions he has 167 made and the part this i s playing i n this time of l i m i n a l i t y . Expectations about the future and, i n particular, expecta-tions about knowing what you are going to do with your l i f e by the time you reach grade twelve are expectations that are held by both students and adults. Tara (interview 024) t e l l s me, I know people who have gone to this school and grad-uated when I was i n grade eight. And what are they doing now? They went to different schools and they s t i l l don't have a job. And i t i s l i k e , i n five years from now, [am I] going to be l i k e that? I thought I would know what I wanted to do. "'What are you going to do with your l i f e ? ' people ask you," says Val, "and you say you don't know and they say 'How can you not know, you're i n grade twelve!' There's so much pressure" (from f i e l d notes October 16, 1997) . In these two comments, there i s a sense that students perceive there i s some grand narrative expectation that they are supposed to l i v e out. Glynis says, "Education i s about conforming to everybody else, i t ' s about expectations" (from f i e l d notes January 22, 1998). Yet no one has told them precisely what the grand narrative expectation i s nor how to l i v e up to i t . Just that i t has to do with being successful. As Glynis comments, " I t feels l i k e everyone i s against you when you don't do well" (from f i e l d notes January 22, 1998). Students describe i t as pressure but what they are experi-encing i s the confusion inherent i n what they perceive as unspoken expectations that.appear impossible to meet. In other conversations, also, the expectations of others 168 are apparent. Although not s p e c i f i c a l l y named as expectations, what students describe are the feelings brought about by their own and others' expectations. At the mid-October discussion group meeting, when talk turns to the kinds of survey questions that would uncover influences contributing to the ways i n which students experience this part of their l i f e journey, Val comments that there i s a l o t of pressure from peers about university (from f i e l d notes October 16, 1997). Although she cannot explain exactly what i s creating the pressure, her comment perhaps connects with a later comment by Heather (interview 004) that people go to university "because either everyone else i s or a l l their friends are or they f e e l that they have to because everyone else i s . " This idea i s reflected also in Sophie's (interview 031) comments about why 'everyone' says they are going to university next year: " . . . you want to say that. Your parents want you to go and you want to say that because everyone has a r e a l l y smart friend that you kind of want to top." Also i n the discussion group conversations, the expecta-tions of parents frequently surface. Sometimes the expectations are embedded i n a seemingly innocuous comment, such as Jane's that parents expect a l o t of you, that they expect you to pay for things now (from f i e l d notes, October 30, 1997) . In her comment there i s a sense that students are now expected to assume adult r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s that she, as a young person, feels unprepared to take on. As I r e f l e c t on her 169 comment, I am reminded of Julia's comment (interview 012) that there i s a l i t t l e part of her that i s "not ready . . . i s scared." Other ways i n which parents influence the liminal experi-ences of grade twelve students have to do with their expectations about students' post-secondary choices. Tara (interview 024), who wants to take some time off to travel, says that her parents keep saying "go to school, go to school. If you don't go to school, you're paying rent!" Some students seem resigned to having to l i v e up to their parents expectations. As one student (survey 091A) who plans to attend university put i t , "It just seems l i k e something I'm supposed to do . . .." Another student (survey 030A) , also university bound, explained, "My parents have always just expected this of me." Family expecta-tions are also at the heart of Cherie's (interview 003) com-ments : As far as the family [is concerned] I was the quiet one. I was the academic one. I was the smart one. My brother didn't graduate u n t i l he was 20 so there was no real hope for him to be super successful i n his l i f e . . . so right there i t creates an image that I have to f u l f i l . My mom says the same thing and my grandma sees me as the perfect one and i t ' s always been that way and I don't think i t ' s ever going to stop. I'm just r e a l i z i n g that now and I've thought about that this year, about what am I doing, what are my expectations but because of them building me up to be that person or setting that image i n my own mind, I feel that I have to go to university and I have to get a degree. I might have to go to medical school so I can be better than the average university grad. Now i t ' s become something of my own. I think I've made i t a part of me. I feel that I have to do that to s a t i s f y myself now as well. That's not necessarily a bad 170 thing, i t ' s just the way i t i s . Frequently students comment that their parents expect them to attend university even though the students themselves either do not want to follow that path or know that th e i r grades are not high enough for acceptance into university. Jeff (interview 009) says that he just wants to have a job that he wants to do but his father wants him to become an accountant. "There's no way," says Jef f . His dad " i s an accountant, kind of, used to be and [his] si s t e r ' s i n accounting." I am again reminded of my v i s i t to the counselling suite and the young man I met i n the waiting room. He has no firm plans although his father wants him to go to university. He says he i s not sure he could do that. Does knowing that he cannot l i v e up to his father's expectations make him reluctant to make a decision about choosing a different path? The way i n which expectations influence the liminal experi-ence varies from student to student. If the expectations come from the students themselves, there i s often a time of readjust-ment as expectations come head to head with r e a l i t y . While some students experience a let-down feeling, others quickly switch their focus to their newest expectation. Although there are a few exceptions (Ed being one of them) , students' own expectations seldom produce a high degree of stress. This i s not always the case when the expectations are those of others. Some students feel as i f they are under enormous pressure — a pressure that i n t e n s i f i e s and decreases at various 171 times of the year. As deadlines for scholarship and university admission applications approach, expectations about getting into 'the best' universities heighten and the pressure increases. As commencement nears, i t rises again. Between times, the pressure to make the right decision, to do what others expect you to do, is lessened but never disappears. Val's comments and those of a student who responded to the survey (survey 030A) depict the pressure students feel to meet parents' expectations. Some stu-dents, l i k e Cherie adopt parental expectations as their own. Others approach the expectations of others with a feeling of resignation, perhaps as a way to decrease, or altogether elimin-ate, the pressure. S t i l l others, such as Glynis, work to convince themselves that they do not care, that they are going to r i s e above the petty expectations of others. The sphere of influence created by expectations has a signific a n t impact upon the liminal experiences of the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. During this i n -between time, students may re-evaluate their goals as they begin to realize that their expectations are l i k e l y to be u n f u l f i l l e d . They may resign themselves to f u l f i l l i n g the expectations of others. However students deal with expectations, most experience a change i n the way they see themselves or the way i n which they see their future. 172 E x p l o r i n g h o w t h e i n s t i t u t i o n i n f l u e n c e s l i m i n a l e x p e r i e n c e s Given the number of hours each day that students spend either i n the classroom or involved i n school related matters (including homework), the i n s t i t u t i o n cannot help but impact s i g n i f i c a n t l y on the liminal experiences of grade twelve stu-dents. The influence of the i n s t i t u t i o n emanates from several different sources, among which are: the routines and r i t u a l s of the i n s t i t u t i o n , the relationships between students and teachers, the attitudes of administrators and other non-teaching personnel, and the courses offered and chosen. As with expectations, these aspects of the i n s t i t u t i o n are often intertwined (e.g., the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n may deter-mine the courses offered and regulate, or at least colour, the relationships between students and teachers). How these various aspects of the i n s t i t u t i o n impact on the students' liminal experiences varies from student to student. To begin an exploration' of the ways in which the i n s t i t u t i o n impacts on students' liminal experiences, i t i s important to b r i e f l y look at the structure and purpose of the secondary school. In somewhat oversimplified terms, 8 the purpose of secondary schooling i s to educate, so c i a l i z e , and otherwise pedagogically support adolescents on their journey to adulthood. The intended outcome of this endeavour i s to produce young adults capable of becoming productive members of society. But 8 terms that admittedly do not address a l l aspects of secondary schooling 173 given that adolescence, or youth, i s an h i s t o r i c a l construct (Irwin, 1995, p. 3) closely linked to the period of time between childhood and fin a n c i a l independence, and given that the weakening of the labour market has prolonged t r a n s i t i o n into adulthood (see chapter 2), secondary school becomes a place where, for some grade twelve students, l i f e i s on hold, a place that exacerbates the feeling that you are waiting for the future. W i l l i s (1985, In Irwin, 1995, p.20) described i t as a "frozen t r a n s i t i o n . " This i s certainly true for the many students who already have mentally l e f t this stage of their l i v e s and are merely putting i n time while they wait for graduation. "Can't wait to get out of here and start my l i f e , " writes a student (survey 005A) i n January. "This time right now means nothing to me," comments Claude (interview 027) . "I've been ready to graduate since last year," says Rachael (interview 001). "I'm so glad high school i s almost over - I'm so sick of i t ! " writes another student (073A) on the January survey. "Mentally I've finished . ." says La Shonda, although "I'm s t i l l p h ysically here, writing my exams to try to get the best marks I can to get scholarships" (from f i e l d notes, March 26, 1998) . In May, Sam (interview 029) t e l l s me that he has been ready to be finished for over six months. The hardest part of school now, according to Bruce (interview 014), i s coming every day. Part of this feeling of disconnectedness stems from the fact that many students are increasingly involved, at least on a 174 part-time basis, i n a world that does not include school. A large number of students have part time jobs, some more than one. In this other world, they are treated as adults, given adult r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . 9 Here, i n the i n s t i t u t i o n a l setting, a place of attendance checks and late s l i p s 1 0 , they usually are not. It i s l i t t l e wonder that many feel that their 'real' l i f e begins once they leave high school, that what currently i s has less and less importance i n their l i v e s . As one student (survey 019) puts i t , when you are out of school, "The real world begins." While i t can be argued that students choose to stay i n school i n order to ensure a more f i n a n c i a l l y secure future, i t is also true that, because of this extended schooling phase i n their l i v e s , many students are "held back and shielded from the adult world" (Brown, 1980, p.9), the real world. As students come closer to feeling that they have 'mentally' l e f t school, there i s a gradual change i n the way students speak of the i n s t i t u t i o n . From the survey comments and my many conversations throughout the year, I sense, for many grade twelve students, a growing 'love-hate' relationship with 9 Often these r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s include such things as opening and/or closing the business for the day, working without supervision, supervising other personnel, having the combination to the safe, and other managerial r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . 1 0 It i s interesting to note that many students who admit to a somewhat irregular attendance record, claim that they never miss work or arrive there late. While i t can be argued that employees know that such behaviour would result i n dismissal, there seems to be more at play here than fear of losing one's job since students often speak with pride of the re s p o n s i b i l i t i e s they carry out i n the workplace. 175 the i n s t i t u t i o n . While many s t i l l appreciate the structure and routine that school provides i n their l i v e s , others are beginning to feel the incongruity of having to follow rules and regulations meant to f a c i l i t a t e the management of children while being t o l d that they have to begin making adult decisions. As I r e f l e c t on this I am reminded of Lang's (1984) contention that our home i s our second body and I wonder i f , for young people, school i s not also a second body. If so, i t appears that many of the students have outgrown this second body, that this body no longer f i t s . Evidence that many grade twelve students have outgrown the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n comes through i n various conversa-tions. Patrick (interview 022) comments that "you are at a point i n your l i f e where you think you are an adult and everybody else thinks you are a kid." This feeling i s further highlighted when, in a discussion group conversation, talk turns to how school makes you f e e l impotent, how school keeps you down. It i s not just that "some teachers treat you l i k e you are a l i t t l e kid," but that i t does not allow you to be creative (from f i e l d notes, May 6, 1998) . On the surveys, a number of students write that, other than teaching them d i s c i p l i n e , the school has not prepared them for l i f e as an adult. As one student (survey 003) puts i t , "Everything I've learned has been from outside of the school, from talking to other adults and learning from them." Jason (interview 033) goes so far as to say, "I think our school system needs to be changed. We're working to complete high 176 school instead of preparing for our future and I think i t ' s supposed to be the other way around . . . . For those of us who know what we want to do, we're wasting an incredible amount of time." Few feel that school i s s t i l l an important part of their l i v e s which, for some, results i n mixed feelings of both empowerment and abandonment — empowerment because of the decisions they make for the future and abandonment because they feel the school has not l i v e d up to i t s mission. Perhaps, i t could be argued, students are i d e a l i s t i c and naive and that these feelings of disillusionment are a natural part of growing up and learning that i n s t i t u t i o n s cannot always meet the expectations of the people they serve and are made up of individuals with varying degrees of commitment. This view that a necessary part of growing up, as well as the tr a n s i t i o n inherent i n that process, i s to re-evaluate our perceptions would be supported by Turner's contention that during the liminal phase young people "are 'being grown' into a new post-liminal state of being"(1977, p.37). It also could be argued, then, that there needs to be a range of support for students within the i n s t i t u t i o n such as the s p i r i t u a l guides and mentors provided to young people i n pre-industrialized societies. Perhaps this i s what one student (survey 075) has i n mind when, in response to the question about how school could better prepare students for the next phase i n their l i v e s , he/she writes, "Not be so hard on students and try to understand them more." For, at a time when grade twelve students are faced with 177 uncertainty and pressure, lack of support from the people who structure the day-to-day routines of school, cannot help but have a negative impact on the liminal experience. As I r e f l e c t on this, I am reminded of a conversation with one of the secretaries i n the o f f i c e at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. I have just finished a number of interviews during which I l i s t e n as students speak of the turmoil i n their family l i v e s . Coming out into the main o f f i c e for a break, I mention to Greta that I am astonished at how d i f f i c u l t l i f e i s for many students. She catches me off guard with her reply. Even though she deals with these students on a daily basis and i s l i k e l y privy to personal information about them that most are not, she responds with the usual comments about choices and how d i f f i c u l t l i f e had been for her but she had had to make hard choices. As I l i s t e n to her I wonder how many more adults i n this school feel the same way? How many feel that, for those students who are struggling, i t ' s just a matter of getting your act together? How many are oblivious to the emotional stress that many students are under? And how i s this experienced by students? (from f i e l d notes, May 14, 1998) From my conversations with students, i t becomes apparent that the ways i n which the personnel of the i n s t i t u t i o n impact upon the liminal experience are often d i r e c t l y connected to the student/teacher relationship. At a time when many students are experiencing feelings of uncertainty and pressure, few seem to feel that their teachers are 'there' for them. Infrequently some 178 speak glowingly of teachers who have been very supportive. La Shonda (interview 005) speaks of Alex Webster, her English teacher, and Ashley Gorham, her History teacher, who "sort of set a f i r e i n my heart for history." But one i s l e f t wondering whether or not she would have f e l t the same i f she had not shared their passion for those subjects. On the other hand, Jim Martin, another English teacher, has been instrumental i n encouraging Jeff (interview 009), a student who t e l l s me he i s good with his hands, to go on . the BCIT after graduation to become an e l e c t r i c a l technician for airplanes. However, without naming s p e c i f i c teachers, many students do not feel that teachers are supportive. Crystal says, I don't know, i t ' s not r e a l l y the courses i t i s the way the teacher treats you, the way they put i t to you, see who you are, judge you and everything . . .. One teacher, whose name I would rather not mention, didn't take me seriously because me and a couple of friends don't put ourselves out academically and he feels that who your friends w i l l be, you'll be l i k e that. If you ask for help, this teacher w i l l not help you. [He has actually said that, I ask.] Ya. I've t o l d other teachers and they say, 'you don't know how much that hurts us to hear that because there are teachers who love their job.' It makes [them] look bad. If you don't l i k e your job why are you doing i t ? Don't make us feel l i k e garbage and feel down on what we are going to do i n l i f e . [Teachers] are supposed to help get us to know what we want to i n our l i f e , not put us down. Crystal's feelings are echoed by another student (survey 084) who, commenting about teachers, writes, " A l l but one make me want to be a better person. That one makes me fee l l i k e nothing." Jason (interview 033) comments that while some teachers f i l l the role of a mentor, "some, I think, are just waiting for their retirement so they can get a f u l l pension and they have no care for the job at a l l , " a feeling echoed by a number of other students. Two people students should feel are 'there' for them are the counsellor and the p r i n c i p a l yet, even here, many did not feel supported. Rod (interview 017) says that he can't speak for a l l the students, but he doesn't feel that he has received support from the administration at the school. He admits that when he does not l i k e a teacher, he has a tendency to show i t , so he can understand the teacher's attitude. They're there to teach and they get paid to teach you but they' re not there to cop an attitude toward you, at a l l . They' re not there to s i t on their high horse and go 'I'm teacher, do what I say.' When you go to see the p r i n c i p a l about i t he doesn't understand at a l l , he just says, 'you should l i s t e n to your teachers'— end of discussion. [Rod t e l l s me that he does not l i k e the way things are dealt with at school.] If you get i n trouble, Mr. Lee c a l l s the parents and the parents come in to talk. I think i f i t can't be dealt with between the person and Mr. Lee, okay, then bring the parents i n but just notifying the parents so you get i n shit, that's not the way, that's going to solve nothing at a l l , i t ' s just going to open a whole can of worms at home that you just don't r e a l l y want to deal with. At a time when students are being t o l d that they are about to enter the adult world, the i n s t i t u t i o n s t i l l r e l i e s on the parents to enforce the p o l i c i e s and rules set up to manage children. In a very candid discussion group session i n January, students, stressed out over semester f i n a l s and university 180 applications, voice a li t a n y of complaints. While i t can be argued that these complaints stem from their own angst over exams, there i s group consensus about information not being passed on to students i n time, undue emphasis on attendance, having to "nag" about getting reference l e t t e r s i n time, and lengthy waits while the person they are waiting to see converses on the telephone with a friend. One student b i t t e r l y comments, "Ms Taylor i s more interested i n her golf swing than she i s i n students." In a l l , the general feeling of the group i s that s t a f f members, who because of their position should be viewed with respect, seem more interested i n their personal l i v e s or own agendas than i n being there for students (from f i e l d notes January 8, 1998) While, other than students' comments, there i s no evidence to support their claim that teachers are more interested i n their personal l i v e s than they are i n students, my observations in various classrooms and the school i n general do suggest that, even with grade twelve students, some teachers hold firmly to the power that their position offers and are not eager to share that power with these 'near-adults.' In a Science classroom where almost a l l students are extremely attentive and hard-working during the lesson, a teacher threatens to "hold" these grade twelve students at the lunch b e l l because they are not 1 1 One week after this conversation, the counsellor, Diane Taylor, t o l d me that she knows " a l l the students i n the group and has a r e a l l y good rapport with them." Needless to say, given the conversation outlined above, I was surprised by her comment (from f i e l d notes, January 15, 1998). 181 paying attention when, near the end of the period, an endless stream of announcements comes over the P.A. system (from f i e l d notes, February 10, 1998). In another, a modified English class, the students are marginally engaged — some are eating and drinking, some talking, some simply stare into space, a few take notes. When a student asks a question, before responding the teacher says sar c a s t i c a l l y , "It's amazing that I can hear you when Tina and Lisa are talking to each other so close to me. Amazing!" Yet a few minutes la t e r when another student complains that she i s not getting any help, the teacher says firmly but with a smile, "Be careful what you say. I'm r e a l l y sensitive." There i s an a i r of good-natured bantering and students seem to enjoy the back and forth, yet there i s a definite sense that the teacher holds the power and sets the rules about what he can say and what others are allowed to say. This perception i s reinforced when near the end of the period, a student on academic probation asks to have her contract signed. The teacher looks at i t and reads aloud, "Application," then says to the student, "you don't even know what that means!" "Yes, I do!" the student responds. The teacher continues, " I t doesn't mean carrying coffee around, i t means actually doing some work!" (from f i e l d notes January 19, 1998). While i n many grade twelve classrooms students are taken seriously and treated with respect, that i s not so i n a l l cases. From my observations, i t appears that the higher a student's academic level of achievement, the more respect they receive 182 from teachers. Teachers do not appear to take into consideration the fact that students, who are not hard working, may be dealing with other problems i n their l i v e s . For the most part, academic achievement and good work habits determine how students are treated. This observation i s supported by the difference i n comments about teachers made by IB students and 'regular' stu-dents. For the most part, IB students claim that teachers treat them di f f e r e n t l y , a claim that i s supported by a comment from one student (survey 020) who writes, "Make teachers [be] involved with every student, not just IB students." Cherie (interview 03) a p a r t i a l IB 1 2 student, says that " i n other courses, I don't think the teachers respect you as much." There i s a sense that the university-bound students i n these classes are dedicated and hard working with c l e a r l y defined goals, therefore are deserving of respect. In other classes, such as the business class Crystal describes, the modified English class and the previously mentioned "less challenging" Law 12 class, students are not taken as seriously and many students along with many teachers "put i n time" u n t i l the end, neither seeming to re a l l y want to be there. At the other end of the spectrum i s Wilf Mackenzie, better known as 'Chef to students i n the Cafeteria Program. In every interview with students from the Cafeteria Program, students sing his praises. Todd (interview 013) t e l l s me that Chef has 1 2 Some students, not enrolled i n the f u l l International Baccalaureate Program, may register for one or two classes i f their marks are high enough and space allows. 183 had a l o t of influence on him. "When I see him teaching i n a classroom, he gets frustrated with kids but at the same time, he loves i t . It's great to see him." I ask Rod (interview 017) i f any teachers have been an influence on him. "No," he says, "they pretty much did their job. They didn't go out of their way to show me the joys. It was more here i s some stuff, this i s what you learn, do i t , and l i k e me or not, you've got to be here. [However,] Chef takes his time- and shows you, spends time with you. [It's] a more personal relationship." Chef has been an influence, " i n a big way," on Rod. In our conversation, Rod goes on to say that Chef "does whatever he can to help you out i n any possible way, shape, or form. He's an a l l round nice guy. He understands where us teens are coming from, surprisingly enough . . .. It's l i k e family down there . . . . Without Chef things pretty much wouldn't get done and we wouldn't have a program." Perhaps Megan (interview 034) speaks for a l l of Chef's students. " I f I hadn't gone into Cafeteria, I probably wouldn't be here," says Megan (interview 034) . I ask her i f Chef i s l i k e a s p i r i t u a l guide or mentor and she replies, For sure. Anything you need h e ' l l give you or try to give you — whether i t ' s mental health or physical health. I had a friend pass away la s t November and a l l through that time Chef just wanted to know that I was okay and he would say 'just go back to the bakery section and s i t by yourself and have your time,' and I think that was the best thing for me. He doesn't work on a class basis but individually works with you. Once you get to know him and know where he's coming from i t ' s no problem to discuss anything with him, he's a very t r u s t f u l guy. He'll put energy out to help anybody who goes to him wanting to get help. He's there to make people feel good about themselves. I have to say he's kept me i n school this year. At the 184 beginning of the year i t was kind of hard . . . . I have to say the Cafeteria kids feel l i k e family . . . . At the beginning of the year I wasn't into l e t t i n g people know how I was feeling because I wasn't secure with what was going on and Chef said, so many times, 'come in, even i f i t ' s not your block, and you can s i t in my o f f i c e , or you. can cook, do whatever you want.' And that's what I did. I think that's what kept me i n school because I was at the point that I just didn't want to be here anymore because for some of the teachers at this school, school i s s t r i c t l y school and do the work and you'll get your mark. If you're interested i n the subject and put the energy but, you'll get i t back, but i f you're not... Every school should have a Chef. Yesterday he t o l d me, 'we'll have to s i t down and talk about what you want to do next year. What do you want to do?' He wants everyone to have goals to accomplish and be happy. He's helped many people get through culinary school. A student from l a s t year had financial problems and he gave her the money. I'm sure s h e ' l l pay him back, but to do that for somebody i s amazing, to have someone not have what they need to get where they want to go and to give i t to them, that's amazing. There can be l i t t l e doubt that Chef, acting as a s p i r i t u a l guide and mentor, has a signif i c a n t impact on the liminal experiences of students fortunate enough to be part of the Cafeteria 'family' c i r c l e . The impact of the i n s t i t u t i o n on the liminal experience extends beyond the relationships between students and teachers. As part of the structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n , r i t u a l s play an important role. For grade twelve students, the most important r i t u a l s have to do with graduation. While students may celebrate in ways not connected to the i n s t i t u t i o n , the public face of commencement/graduation i s controlled by the school. Not only does the school determine who w i l l graduate, 1 3 i t sets the tone 1 3 While the Ministry of Education determines that students need 52 academic credits to graduate, outside of the provincial government f i n a l exams, the individual school determines stu-dents' grades and therefore who w i l l receive credits for 185 for the r i t u a l s surrounding this milestone i n students' l i v e s . Jt i s the day before graduation and I am meeting with the 'regulars' in the discussion group. After preliminary banter, the talk turns to Commencement. Vincent Cheung has been chosen Class Valedictorian, not by the students, but by the Principal and the Grade 12 Counsellor. At first, most cannot put name and face together. Finally someone identifies Vincent as "that computer geek" and the others make comments of recognition. Several in the group voice their disapproval. It seems Vincent was chosen because he is the 'best' student. However, several point out that Vincent has no social skills and is not even going to Grad. The Class Valedictorian, someone who is supposed to speak for all the grads, according to the students, has announced, "I am doing my duty by giving my speech but I don't care about anything else." Mixed in with the grumbling is the comment that the definition of Class Valedictorian should be revisited. "This is representative of how this school has worked for a long time," is the final comment on the subject, (from f i e l d notes, June 4, 1998) Obviously students feel that something i n which they should have had some input, has once again been decided by those i n power. As one student (survey 056) states, "I think the gradu-courses. 186 ation a c t i v i t i e s . . . should be planned more for what the students want to do,' not the s t a f f . " In view of the fact that so many students t e l l me that they feel l i t t l e connection to the commencement ceremony and have l i t t l e or no interest i n i t — a f a i r l y commonly held view that, surely, has not escaped the attention of teachers and administrators — i t seems strange that student input has been ignored. It i s June 5, 1998, Grad Night, 6:45 p.m. When I arrive at the church that has been rented for the Eagle S p i r i t Commencement Ceremonies, I cannot help but notice that the negative feelings voiced over the past several months seem to have disappeared. The Commencement Ceremonies are being held i n the sanctuary of a loca l church since there i s no space at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary large enough to accommodate such a sizable crowd even though each graduate has been limited to three guest invitations. As I arrive for the ceremonies, graduates are milling about on the parking lot. Everyone is in a celebratory mood as families take photos of the grads dressed in their caps and gowns. Although i t was printed in the various grad newsletters (and also noted on the pro-gram) that, out of respect for the church, there was to be no smoking on the premises, including the grounds, I notice one g i r l (who looks l i k e she may be about 19 and not one of the grade twelves I recognize) smoking on the parking lot. 187 Even though most students said they felt that Commencement was not something they were looking for-ward to, most seem very excited. Phaedra is wearing small white flowers tucked behind her ears. Since it is a very warm evening, a few are wearing shorts under their gowns. There is much laughter, many hugs, an almost visible sense of bonding. Perhaps, I think, the excitement is contagious. Many of the students with whom I have developed a close relationship over the course of this study — Phaedra, La Shonda, Jane, Ed, Drudi, Erina, Cherie, Briana, Rachael, Heather (to name a few) — greet me warmly and we hug. They seem delighted that I am here to share this moment with them. I am presenting one of the scholarships tonight and, as I watch them, I cannot help but hope that one of them will be the recipient. I realize that, after spending a year together, I almost feel as if some of them are my own children (so much for the 'objective researcher'!). Inside, some family members have been here since 6:00 to 'reserve' seats for other family members. Diane Taylor, the Grade 12 Counsellor, and Rochelle Bayfield, the Vice Principal, are busy arranging last minute details. The Senior Jazz Band is entertaining the waiting crowd. It strikes me that there is some-thing strangely incongruous about the Jazz Band and the red, white, and blue helium-filled balloons under the large "I am the vine, and you are the branches" banner to the left of the stage. Other than the alternating blue and white letters that spell out 'Eagle Spirit Grad', there are no other decorations or flowers. It occurs to me that this is strange, given the profusion of flowers in gardens right now. There does not seem to have been much attempt to make this space their own. I wonder if that was a requirement of the church or an excuse on the part of the organizers. As the thought crosses my mind, I wonder, too, if the cynicism of some of the grads has been contagious. Looking at the program, I notice that of the 270 grade twelve students, only 247 are listed as grad-uates. I notice, too, that Sean, Sophie, and Patrick are not listed. I reflect back on our conversations and wonder what they are feeling tonight. Obviously, Sophie's bargaining and cajoling did not pay off this time. Given her comments about not wanting anyone to know if she did not graduate, I wonder what she is doing this evening. And Glynis? It occurs to me that Chad seemed reconciled to his fate but surely Patrick, now recovered from his lengthy illness, must be feeling a sense of loss since none of this was his doing. Finally, the evening begins. After the staff e n t e r s , to applause, the graduates file in, in pairs, to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance. As I listen, I wonder how many graduates over the years have processed into their commencement ceremonies to this tune. The selection is played over and over, with pauses in between, since no one has thought to tape the music to have it run continuously until all of the graduates have entered. I am not sure why but it is strangely disruptive. After the singing of 0 Canada, Principal Bob Lee gives the Opening Remarks. He tells students that all of their experiences at Eagle Spirit Secondary have been a means for learning about themselves. After congratulating the students on their accomplishments, he leaves the students with five things to think about: "Know, value and appreciate yourself; choose your mistakes; choose to be present and fully alive in this moment; be kind;" and finally, "take risks." The usual greetings are offered by district per-sonnel, followed by the presentation of awards and scholarships. Seventy students share in scholarships worth over $40,000. As the names are called, most of the students in the discussion group receive scholar-ships of varying amounts, a number of them more than one. A number of other students with whom I've been in conversation over the past few months are also called forward. Ed, who was worried about not receiving a scholarship, receives one for $500 and I know that he w i l l be disappointed that i t i s not more substantial. I am delighted that Cherie i s the r e c i p i e n t of the scholarship that I am presenting. Vincent Cheung, the Class V a l e d i c t o r i a n , wins a scholarship worth $18,000 (over four years), awards from both the Math' and Science Departments, and the Governor-General's Bronze Medal. He r i s e s to give his Valedictory Address. He thanks the administration and teachers at Eagle S p i r i t as well as his parents and grandparents for "their devotion" over the years. The remainder of his speech i s about "the valuable tools and t r a i n i n g " and e x t r a - c u r r i c u l a r experiences students have received during t h e i r time at the school. He concludes with remarks that students should not neglect t h e i r humanity as they move out into the world. As I l i s t e n to his speech, i t occurs to me that t h i s i s a very good speech for a public speaking competition but offers l i t t l e connection to how the students have experienced t h e i r f i n a l year of secondary schooling. There i s nothing that speaks of memories, of h i g h l i g h t s of the year, of personal connections. I cannot help but remember the comments made by various people in the discussion group. After a musical presentation, the graduates are presented. I j o i n several s t a f f members taking turns c a l l i n g out the names and reading a short message about each graduate that parents have submitted in advance. Is anyone r e a l l y l i s t e n i n g , I wonder. Some graduates are greeted with loud cheers, whistles and applause; others subdued, p o l i t e applause. Naomi, victim of a recent car accident, i s wheeled across the platform in her wheel chair and receives a standing ovation from fellow students. As students cross the platform, receive handshakes and c e r t i f i c a t e s , i t i s obvious that, for many, t h i s moment i s something to be celebrated. And then i t i s over. Caps f l y everywhere. Ken Nevins, one of the vice p r i n c i p a l s , wears a cap from one of the students. The Recessional i s over very quickly and students are m i l l i n g about, greeting friends and family, shout-ing to be heard over the loud din — Ed and his mother; Jane, Phaedra, La Shonda, Drudi, and Ken; Kareena and Crystal; Briana and her dad — not a trace of the cynicism so apparent at the l a s t discussion group session, (from f i e l d notes, June 5, 1998) When i t i s over, I r e f l e c t on the r i t u a l i t s e l f . I cannot help but notice how similar i t i s to every high school commence-ment ceremony I have ever attended, including my own a l l those years ago. I am struck by how l i t t l e the ceremony has to do with students. Certainly many students, over the past several months, 192 have contended that commencement was for the parents not for the students. Megan (interview 034). t e l l s me "I'm not going to commencement. Getting a piece of paper that says I've done something means nothing to me. Knowing that I did i t and being able to say I did i t , means something. A piece of paper saying that you've completed grade 12 means nothing." Yet i n this space tonight, students are tr u l y l i v i n g i n the moment. Is i t that, i n the end, i t r e a l l y does not matter that the i n s t i t u t i o n controls this r i t u a l and students have l i t t l e or no input? It appears that students suddenly get caught up i n a l l those t r a d i t i o n a l , 'tried and true' pieces of this r i t u a l and forget their claims that commencement i s r e a l l y for the parents. It appears that the feelings of disconnectedness common i n those days leading up to commencement feelings that may have a negative influence on l i m i n a l i t y — are replaced, that evening, by feelings of connec-tedness — feelings that may have a positive influence on li m i n a l i t y . Another way i n which the i n s t i t u t i o n impacts upon the tran s i t i o n a l experiences of grade twelve students i s through the courses offered. For some students, i t i s a matter of the una v a i l a b i l i t y of programs that w i l l lead to their career f i r s t choice. At her previous school, Megan (interview 034) had taken fashion courses and Spanish. Her goal was to become a fashion designer. Eagle S p i r i t Secondary does not offer either fashion courses or Spanish so Megan switched to the Cafeteria Program. This f a l l , Megan plans to enrol i n the one year baking course at 193 Vancouver City College although she does not have de f i n i t e plans about where that might lead and s t i l l speaks o p t i m i s t i c a l l y of a career i n fashion designing. It i s not just the courses offered but the lack of f l e x i -b i l i t y with course requirements that some students f i n d frus-trating as there i s l i t t l e consideration of students prior knowledge. Wendy (interview 023) t e l l s me that she w i l l be glad to be out of school and be able to do what she wants, not what the school thinks she should do. The school puts you i n things without asking you, they just put you i n i t , she t e l l s me. Wendy wanted to take Sewing 12 since she learned to sew when she was eleven years old. She has even sewn wedding gowns. When I ask her why she i s not taking Sewing 12, Wendy t e l l s me i t i s because the school w i l l not l e t her. In Sewing 11, she i s making "the l i t t l e things that [she] has already done. I'm used to making formals and stuff. I made my brother a tuxedo vest and bow t i e and now I'm making him a jacket. I'm used to making hard things. Now I'm making l i t t l e shirts and stu f f . [There was no consideration of the fact that you already know how to sew well? I ask.] No. My parents came i n and said, 'well, look at what she has made,' and i t was 'don't care, she's taking t h i s . ' They see one thing and one thing only." What could have been a positive experience for Wendy as she worked on her grad gown i s a semester of putting i n time. Along with the courses offered, the content of the courses also has an impact on how students experience this 'waiting' 194 time. Sophie (interview 031) t e l l s me that school prepares you for going to school and that "the reason you have to take a l l these courses i s just to learn to do essays and just to actually go to class." Sophie, who i s almost nineteen, i s frustrated with school. "I'm this close to just pitching i t this year," she t e l l s me. Do you want to know what I'm learning right now i n my science and technology class? There are sixteen year olds i n the class. We read for 15 minutes and then we study words. We read a word sheet and answer questions or watch a movie. I'm learning nothing. In cooking class I'm learning [to cook] different things . . .. In math, i t ' s just l i k e xduh' to me. It just seems l i k e everything I'm learning i s so stupid to me. I'm doing i t anyway but I don't see the point . . . . It's just that kids who aren't doing well have so many options. There's always a dumber class you can take but those dumber classes are actually pointless. The kids i n this school who are going to actually learn something are the kids i n IB or some of the regular classes where they're actually doing work but a l l the dumber classes, you learn nothing, i t ' s just to get you by. Maybe a l l those kids should go into work experience. The one course that has the most impact on the liminal experiences of grade twelve students i s a compulsory course. While various students hold strong views about different courses that they may not l i k e or be struggling with, the course about which students save their most v i t r i o l i c comments i s the CAPP (Career and Personal Planning) course — a course whose t i t l e suggests that i t i s meant to prepare students for post-secondary l i f e . When asked on the survey about the courses that have prepared them for l i f e after graduation, one student (045A) responds, " . . . certainly not CAPP!" Another (survey 052A) puts i t even more bluntly, " . . . CAPP i s crap!" "CAPP doesn't do anything for you. It's a waste of time and i t takes up time and gives you less options for classes," writes another student (survey 068). Perhaps the comments by this student (survey 005) sum up the feelings of most grade twelve students about the CAPP course: "CAPP i s a useless course taught by bafoons [ s i c ] . The fact that i t i s a required course makes me nautious [sic] and the idea that i t could keep me from graduating makes me angry." Heather (interview 004) t e l l s me that she does not think students have been prepared for grade twelve whether i n the area of course selection or l i f e i n general. "Every second day of the last semester of grade 11 we had CAPP and that's the perfect opportunity to learn different things and [instead] i t ' s a waste of time, [does school miss out on an opportunity, I ask] I think so. We need more hands on things. Lots of people learn out of textbooks but lots of people don't. School only teaches you book smarts, l i f e teaches you common sense. I've learned that i t ' s common sense you need for l i f e . " The idea that the school misses out on an opportunity to teach students about l i f e i s echoed by a number of students who t e l l me that the CAPP course could have been helpful i f i t had been better planned and point out several areas i n which the course does not meet their needs. One student (survey 114A) suggests i t should include a "money planning course, a course that prepares you for l i v i n g on your own, affording everything, preparing you for real l i f e situations." "Have courses on every-196 day l i f e things l i k e balancing a chequebook, how mortgages work, etc., and other things adults deal with," writes another student (survey 080). "Hold courses on independence and how a person should start off after grade 12," writes s t i l l another (024). Although work experience i s part of the grade eleven CAPP course, many students think that work experience is.one of the things that would help them be better prepared for l i f e after secondary school. One student (survey 022) suggests, "Give a l l students work experience, not just Co-op students." Another (survey 037) says simply, "Mandatory co-op." While a certain amount of the anxiety students f e e l as they move through the liminal phase of their t r a n s i t i o n from secondary school i s to be expected, there i s no doubt that many students do not feel that they are prepared to deal with everyday adult l i f e . While the grade twelve CAPP program does include such things as making career choices and writing resumes, students do not appear to feel prepared for l i f e on their own. School should "teach [students] more about what they actually need to know in l i f e , " writes a student (survey 003) i n May — a statement that implies school should offer more than academic support. In e a r l i e r times, young people,learned these things by being part of the adult world through a more gradual transition process, not one that has the a r t i f i c i a l i t y of a r i t u a l at the end of years of being "shielded from the adult world." 1 4 1 4 i t i s interesting to note that the argument could be made that young people grow up much faster today, sexually mature Certainly i t can be argued that students have access to the Choices Program i n the Career Centre as well as counsellors to help them make career choices, 1 5 although many do not feel they have the information to make the 'right' decisions for their future. But i t may not be information they lack. Given the many less than f l a t t e r i n g comments about school personnel, i t seems more l i k e l y that, although they may not realiz e i t , students do not feel they have the guidance they need to be confident about their decisions. And this i s part of their anxiety about not being prepared to deal with l i f e i n the adult world. "How might the school system better prepare secondary students for leaving school?" question number six on the survey asks. "Be a l i t t l e more creative and s p i r i t e d . Let us leave with hope and p o s i t i v i t y , not worries and pessimism," responds one student (survey 010). This highlights that fine l i n e between treating grade twelve students as children and assuming they should be responsible enough to make adult decisions. From my many conversations throughout the year and from the survey comments, i t would appear that many students f e e l that, for the most part, the i n s t i t u t i o n and i t s personnel, namely teaching staf f , are not 'there' for them when they need understanding and ear l i e r , have far more privileges and material goods than previ-ous generations. Yet, other than those adolescents who have re s p o n s i b i l i t i e s i n the work place, they are not seen as 'ready' for a place i n the adult world. 1 5 However, i t should be noted that a number of students completing the two surveys complained that they did not have any information about courses needed for particular jobs or post-secondary i n s t i t u t i o n requirements. 198 support. With some exceptions, namely those students who excel academically and those who are fortunate enough to have Chef as their mentor, a large number of students seem to f e e l abandoned by the i n s t i t u t i o n they have come to depend upon for thirteen years. While disconnecting, whether from the i n s t i t u t i o n or parents, i s part of the process of adolescent transition, the perception of lack of support creates a somewhat negative impact on the liminal experiences of these grade twelve students. E x p l o r i n g h o w sacra i n f l u e n c e s l i m i n a l e x p e r i e n c e s Sacra, the things that are shown or otherwise conveyed to those i n tra n s i t i o n as a way of guiding the passage and preparing them for the post-liminal state, are transmitted i n a number of ways. Sacra provide those i n t r a n s i t i o n with opportun-i t i e s to r e f l e c t on their culture and society, revealing the culture to the liminary and changing the inner-most nature of the person i n transition. For adolescents, the messages are conveyed not only through the instructions of those already part of the adult world but through their actions as well. Certainly the expectations of others are intended to guide young people toward successful adult l i f e . The i n s t i t u t i o n , also, through i t s course offerings, r i t u a l s , and relationships presents a picture of what i t means to be successful i n l i f e i n the adult world. The media, too, t e l l students how certain pathways w i l l lead to acceptance i n the adult world. 199 But what i s presented and what i s received or understood may be vastly different. For example, referring to the conversations about student/teacher relationships recounted previously, i t i s most unlikely that teachers intentionally conveyed negative messages to students. Yet, i n a number of situations, this i s exactly what was received. When these actions are seen as sacra, what messages are conveyed to students about the adult world? For some students these particular sacra raise questions about whether or not they are capable of being successful as adults and, i n a time already coloured by uncertainty, some do not feel hopeful about the future. As well, since sacra are intended to prepare a young person for l i f e i n the adult world, w i l l these students take into their adult l i f e , the idea that most teachers do not care about students and are only interested, as several students claim, i n their pay cheques and pensions? If so, as adults w i l l they be supportive of increasing funding for education should that need arise? As parents, w i l l they be supportive of their children's teachers? And w i l l these particular sacra then be passed to their children? Another of the messages conveyed through the i n s t i t u t i o n i s that, i f you do not go to university, you w i l l not be successful in l i f e . "Make students feel that university i s not a pressure and the 'most signifi c a n t issue.' Let students f e e l free to make their own decisions without post-secondary being the ultimate 'right' choice i f you want to be successful." Heather (interview 200 004) t e l l s me that when she f i r s t t o l d her teachers that she was not going to university, they asked, "'why not?' not as in, 'what's wrong with you,' but almost; l i k e why are you getting such good grades i f you aren't going to use them . . . The a t t i -tude i s that you must be f a i l i n g or you would be going to university." "There i s too much pressure about attending u n i v e r s i t i e s , " writes one student (survey 013). Crystal (interview 018) t e l l s me that, i f you are not academically inclined, people think we w i l l never do anything with our l i v e s . . . . We're just out to have a good time . . ..We a l l do work hard i n our own way; some of us are more academic than others. I am not a good academic person but I have other talents. It may not look l i k e we're working hard but i n our own way we are working extremely hard . . .. A l o t of people don't take me seriously because I am not a very academic person. That idea that anything other than university i s of lesser importance i s inherent i n Jeff's (interview 009) comments when he says, "I never r e a l l y wanted to go to university. I always wanted to learn a trade, not go into the big things, [big things? I ask] Doctor, dentist. I want to work on cars, electronics." Jeff and many other students receive the sacra that only academically inclined people are taken seriously. Implicit i n this message about the adult world i s the message that there i s only one pathway to being successful as an adult. Implicit also i s the message that those men and women who work in the trades and services necessary to maintain the society are not doing "the big things." 201 Certainly these sacra present the message that the adult world i s far more 'black and white' than i t i s , that there i s a right way to do things. This i s a message frequently reinforced by the media, as the following newspaper e d i t o r i a l attests. "When i s a grad not a grad" reads the headline of the e d i t o r i a l i n The Chilliwack Progress (June 8, 1999, p. A4) . The writer i s upset that a l l members of the grade twelve class of one of the loc a l secondary schools have taken part i n the graduation ceremonies. " I t i s wrong," i s the pronouncement. " I t i s a dishonour to the students who did study, learn, and pass the challenges of 12 years of school, to allow those who did not, to walk across that hallowed stage. They didn't earn i t . Not yet." As I read this, I note that many secondary schools are now c a l l i n g the end of grade twelve ceremony 'School Leaving' rather than 'Commencement' and I think of Sophie and others who may not be graduating but are leaving. In School Leaving ceremonies, 'the piece of paper' coveted so desperately by Sophie, does not proclaim that the student i s graduating but that he or she i s a member of the graduating class. But what i s the message i n an e d i t o r i a l such as the above? The writer at The Chilliwack Progress says that i t t e l l s students they can put l i t t l e e f f ort into school but s t i l l "be disguised as a graduate." The argument i s that such an approach does not prepare students for "the proverbial 'real world'." The f i n a l contention made i n the e d i t o r i a l i s that "we need to create a true Commencement for our young adults where they 202 actually are starting another phase of l i f e . " Is the tra n s i t i o n from secondary schooling to the adult world tainted or somehow diminished without that "piece of paper," as so many of the graduates referred to graduation? Does this mean that those less academically inclined students who have completed thirteen years of schooling but not acquired the necessary credits to graduate are not prepared for the 'real world?' It i s during my conversations with students about graduation that the idea of the messages about the adult world become especially evident. Jt i s early May and this p a r t i c u l a r day, many of the regulars in the discussion group have other commitments. As well, our regular meeting space i s in use, so the f i v e g i r l s and I move around u n t i l we find an empty room. This i s r e a l l y informal and we don't bother to put the desks in a c i r c l e as we usually do. We are just kind of grouped together, some s i t t i n g on top of the desks, others s i t t i n g backwards in the desks. Graduation i s less than a month away. The discussion begins with comments about school and how school makes you feel impotent, how teachers treat you l i k e an adult one minute and a c h i l d the next, how "school keeps you down" and graduation w i l l bring freedom. As talk turns to graduation, I ask how most people feel about the whole idea of graduation. Perhaps because none of the guys are here, the 203 discussion is open and frank. Erina and Rachael tell me of girls they know who are planning to lose their virginity on Graduation Night. The boyfriends of these girls have rented hotel rooms and bought champagne. The rooms will be lit with candles. When I ask why, Briana says that it is one night that the girls don't have to be home all night and they want losing their virginity to be a special occasion, something planned, rather than a sudden moment of passion. As I listen, I reflect on the number of girls who, in the interviews, have talked about finding the perfect dress ("like a ball gown"), the shoes that match, the hair and nail appointments, and I comment that it almost sounds like some people are planning a wedding and wedding night without the actual wedding ceremony. There is a general agreement that, for some, this is what it is like. Listening to the discussion, I cannot help but wonder if this is one more of the inflated expectations surrounding graduation. Where, exactly, does this fit in the transition from adolescence to adulthood? (from field notes, May 6, 1998) As I r e f l e c t on this conversation, I remember that every year the large d a i l y newspapers feature a r t i c l e s and photographs of young women from various secondary schools shopping for the 'perfect' graduation gown along with young men renting tuxedos 204 and limos. Recently an organization has undertaken the task of ensuring that young women of limited means can afford a gown li k e everyone else. I remember also that i n previous times young g i r l s from families of wealth and position made their debut into the adult world. The events that were part of this r i t u a l included teas and parties. As well, the 'perfect' b a l l gown was an important part of being presented to society. While this r i t u a l was not part of the l i v e s of those g i r l s outside of this c i r c l e , i t was something that many g i r l s dreamed of even though i t was not part of their r e a l i t y . I remember also that, i n many families, a young woman's wedding replaced the debut as a r i t u a l connected with a g i r l ' s t r ansition into adulthood. How do the r i t u a l s around graduation impact on the liminal experiences of grade twelve students, I wonder. In a world more sensitive to stereotyping gender roles, a world that has moved beyond seeing women as property, a world of 'frozen t r a n s i t i o n , ' what r i t u a l s do young women seek that w i l l be a sign that they have moved into the adult world? For some young women, i s losing one's v i r g i n i t y (in a setting that includes candle l i g h t and champagne) seen as a r i t u a l to s i g n i f y entrance into adulthood? E x p l o r i n g h o w c o m m u n i t a s a n d f l o w i n f l u e n c e l i m i n a l e x p e r i e n c e s A fourth sphere of influence i n the liminal experiences of grade twelve students originates i n the connections that are formed between those i n transition — communitas. Turner (1967, 205 1977) described communitas as the communion between liminaries. Also within this fourth sphere of influence i s flow, those moments of t o t a l involvement when action and awareness merge. It would appear that some of the highlights of the liminal experi-ences are those moments of flow, which are turned into memories through communitas. Although flow may be transmitted and shared through commnunitas, ultimately flow stems from an inner response. As noted e a r l i e r , the influence of communitas and flow i s evident predominantly toward the end of the liminal phase of the tra n s i t i o n from secondary schooling to the adult world. In particular, i t i s noticeable as graduation approaches and the school year ends. During this time, i t i s possible to i d e n t i f y what Turner describes as " f l o w - e l i c i t o r s . " Early i n the school year, there i s l i t t l e evidence of particular connections being formed between students, other than those formed i n some cases because people are i n the same pro-gram. In particular, students i n the IB Program have a c t i v i t i e s outside of school time that encourage a s o l i d a r i t y within the group. Teachers of IB subjects usually j o i n i n these a c t i v i t i e s . Similarly, students i n the Cafeteria Program come together for out-of-school a c t i v i t i e s although, while Chef sometimes helps with the organization of these a c t i v i t i e s , he does not attend. However, for the most part, since school days this year are much l i k e the ones i n previous years, early i n the school year, friends are no more or less important than i n other years. Into the second semester, this seems to change. 206 While the influence of friends on the liminal phase varies from student to student (as with a l l aspects of liminality) , conversations with the students reveal a noticeable change i n the desire to make connections once we are into the second semester. In A p r i l , Wendy (interview 023) t e l l s me that "friends are more important now [than they were i n grade 11] . I guess maybe because we'll be graduating . . ..We won't be seeing one another, and i t i s l i k e the last chance to be with them a l l . " Before this year, says Crystal (interview 018), "I didn't r e a l l y care about having friends. But this year i s my l a s t year of high school and I want friends when I'm out of high school. I have become r e a l l y close to them." Todd (interview 013), also, notes the change that has taken place. "Last year I had a couple of close friends and the rest were just acquaintances that I would see out on the weekend. My acquaintances are now friends; we have a good time together." Bruce (interview 009) t e l l s me that you get to know your friends a l o t more i n grade twelve. "Before they were [people] I grew up with, went to parties with once i n a while but now I am always with them. We have done so many things i n groups — camping, fishing, things l i k e that." As i f to explain why friendships are different this year, he comments, "We might not see one another for a long time," then adds, "We took our friends for granted before." Acquaintances, once taken for granted, become friends as the end nears. That longing to make more permanent connections seems to extend beyond one's immediate social c i r c l e . 207 At a discussion group session, students lament the fact that, i n this school where there are so many different pro-grams,16 i t i s impossible to bring the grad class together. Glynis notes that at her previous school, where there are fewer programs, everyone was r e a l l y "together." Both La Shonda and Glynis note that they have found themselves becoming friends with others i n the grad class. "People I wouldn't even have talked to before," says Glynis. The problem i s , says, La Shonda, "everyone i s so spread out" (from f i e l d notes, A p r i l 2, 1998). The lack of unity i n the grad class i s a comment that i s repeated many times i n both the interviews and on the surveys. A student (survey 043) writes, "I think that the [grad] a c t i v i t i e s would be a l o t more fun i f our grad class was more of a unit and more enthusiastic than i t i s . " Another (survey 062) comments, "Our grad class does not have enough s p i r i t and most grad activ-i t i e s have been a waste of time because of i t . " During my conversation with Sandy, I mention that other students have t o l d me that the grad class i s not very unified. She agrees, saying, "People don't mingle. They stay i n their own l i t t l e groups." In our conversations, students frequently indicate that their friends are becoming more important than they were i n the past, although this i s not the case with a l l students. There seems to be both a pu l l i n g away from friends — becoming more of 'your own person' — and a coming together — seeking the support that peers can offer. J u l i a (interview 012) says that 1 6 e.g., IB, Cafeteria, Co-op, etc. 208 l a s t year she had r e a l l y good friends, "but this year everyone i s kind of spreading apart." On the other hand, her friends are becoming increasingly important to her.. As she explains., "Your friends are the only ones who are going to be there. The teachers aren't going to be there but my friends w i l l be. So I'm kind of sticking with them." Students begin 'sticking together' partly because of the support this brings during this time of uncertainty. The idea that friends become more important i n your l a s t year of high school because, after this year, you may be l i v i n g on your own and i t w i l l be friends who are around next year, not family, i s echoed by several students, including Sam (interview 029). As Tara (024) explains, "We're a l l i n the same boat. At least you know that everyone i s feeling what you're f e e l i n g . " She further comments that she i s sorry that she didn't get to know more people. Perhaps she thinks that a larger c i r c l e of friends would offer even more support. Students seem to look for ways to connect to their peers i n an e f f o r t to establish something that w i l l l a s t longer than the dwindling school year. Yet, strangely enough, graduation a c t i v -i t i e s , which one might view as a r a l l y i n g event for student connections, are both a connecting and a disconnecting event. Sandy (interview O i l ) , who i s on the Grad Committee, says that the committee has " t r i e d to get people to do a c t i v i t i e s , not parties but a c t i v i t i e s , and that didn't happen and that was disappointing." To Sandy, grad i s important because i t i s a 209 chance to get "everyone together for a last time before we a l l go our separate ways." On the other hand, students t e l l me that, unlike other years and at other schools, no grad events have been planned this year. "Last year they had a l o t of s p i r i t , " says Beth (interview 035) . "They went to a -basketball game, a hockey game, went bowling, went ice skating. This year we went to a basketball game but . . . the turnout wasn't great. We went bowling one day and i t was horrible." She does not mention other events that the Grad Committee has t r i e d to i n i t i a t e . What I hear i n our conversations i s a sense that students are feeling as i f something important i s slipping away, a sense that connections must be made before i t i s too late . As a result, graduation becomes the focal point for connecting. Graduation i s to be the culminating moment that w i l l l i v e on i n remembered friendships. On the survey, a student (070) writes that the plans for graduation are "pathetic, we're summing up the l a s t 5 years i n one evening." To the same question, another student (025) replies, "[It's] o.k., but I have too many expectations that i t w i l l probably not l i v e up to." Yet, perhaps surprisingly, i t i s at graduation that I see evidence of flow, as described by Turner (1967, 1977). While there are obviously moments throughout the year when individuals are t o t a l l y involved, when action and awareness merge, these are moments few others witness. However, Commencement Night i s the f i r s t time I see almost the entire graduating class exhibiting flow. Thoughts that this i s an event for the parents only have 210 vanished. A l l of the negative comments about the ceremonies uttered over the past several months are history. Now i s the moment of arriving i n a new place, of celebrating, of feeling confident. Now i s the moment of recognizing that you have made i t , you have grasped the brass ring. On the faces of the students I see none of the uncertainty voiced i n our conversations. Instead beaming faces r e f l e c t pride. As students greet each other there i s the sense of belonging that many have been searching for a l l semester. By accident or design,. graduation becomes a f l o w - e l i c i t o r . The r i t u a l s of graduation serve as the fl o w - e l i c i t o r s that create or bring into being the shared moment. That graduation i s a moment of flow i s further evidenced when, several days.after graduation, talk of graduation i s less enthusiastic as students 'objectively' explore the events. The moment i s gone, to be reliv e d only i n memory or at reunions. R e f l e c t i n g o n t h e s p h e r e s o f i n f l u e n c e Throughout the school year, the four spheres of influence: expectations, the i n s t i t u t i o n , sacra, and communitas and flow combine i n different ways to produce spheres or c i r c l e s of influence affecting liminal experiences i n different ways. These spheres of influence resonate throughout the stories of the grade twelve students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. Expectations may be those of the students themselves but 211 most frecruently they are the expectations of parents, teachers, the broader society, and, occasionally, friends. These expecta-tions impact on the decisions students make about the future and are often transmitted by the use of words l i k e 'should' or phrases l i k e " i f you don't . . .." Expectations underlie much of the pressure and uncertainty that students f e e l during the liminal phase. Partly because school i s such a large part of the students' day, the i n s t i t u t i o n and i t s r i t u a l s impact s i g n i f i c a n t l y on the liminal experiences during adolescent tra n s i t i o n . The routines of the school, courses available, attitudes of school personnel, and r i t u a l s associated with graduation a l l have a direct influence on how students experience this time i n the i r l i v e s . The media r e f l e c t s and reinforces many of the i n s t i t u t i o n a l practices and b e l i e f s . The status that students have within the i n s t i t u t i o n plays an important role i n how students experience l i m i n a l i t y . Another factor that s i g n i f i c a n t l y contributes to the liminal experience i s the sacra communicated to students. These messages conveyed to students to prepare them for adult l i f e include those things not intentionally presented — those unspoken ideas and messages students interpret for themselves. Two other aspects of l i m i n a l i t y that impact on students' experience of this time - 'communitas' and 'flow' — are evident in the second half of the school year. Connections between students become an important part of their t r a n s i t i o n and many 212 students actively seek out those connections. Graduation becomes the culminating moment — those moments of flow, of t o t a l i n -volvement, when action and awareness merge — and, i t would appear, the r i t u a l s surrounding graduation become flow-e l i c i t o r s . As stated repeatedly, liminal experiences are an individual experience and therefore a l l elements or factors do not have the same influence on a l l students. However, the four spheres of influence provide a useful frame for uncovering how students experience this time i n their l i v e s . By exploring liminal experiences through expectations, the i n s t i t u t i o n , sacra, and communitas and flow, the influence of the four spheres becomes apparent. 213 CHAPTER 6: CROSSING THE BRIDGE: THE MYTHS AND REALITY OF GRADUATION AND ENDINGS This Bridge This bridge w i l l only take you halfway there To those mysterious lands you long to see: Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab f a i r s And moonlit woods where unicorns run free. So come and walk awhile with me and share The twisting t r a i l s and wondrous worlds I've known. But this bridge w i l l only take you halfway there — The last few steps you'll have to take alone. Shel S i l v e r s t e i n As I r e f l e c t on the grade twelve students from Eagle S p i r i t Secondary who are crossing this bridge, I, along with them, feel a range of emotions. This past year has been an interesting journey for a l l of us and these students have helped me come to a new understanding of what i t i s l i k e to be crossing the threshold into adulthood, i n particular, as the 1990s end. I share their excitement at having reached the end of this part of their journey, but I, too, feel a sense of loss since I have come to know some of these young adults well over the past year and w i l l miss them and wonder about them as they move on with their l i v e s . As I watch them move forward, I r e f l e c t back on the year. I was with these students when they arrived at the beginning of their grade twelve journey — a time of elation mixed with disappointment. It was understandable that many of them would be excited about having reached grade twelve. For at least two thirds of their l i v e s , they have been attending school. After this last year of secondary schooling, they w i l l be faced with new choices, new beginnings. What a feeling of triumph! As J u l i a (interview 012) said, "I made i t ! . . . i t ' s l i k e a t o t a l accomplishment." Others, too, expressed pride i n having reached this milestone on their l i f e journey. Many spoke of having waited their 'entire l i f e ' for this moment. But perhaps years of anticipation are destined to end i n at least a measure of deflation. For i t seems that, mixed with the feelings of pride and excitement, many students f e l t that the importance of the accomplishment, at least as they saw i t , was not recognized by others — others i n the school community did not acknowledge their newly acquired status. Some complained that the younger students did not 'look up' to them; others that teachers treated them as they always had. After a l l this time they had f i n a l l y climbed to the top of the ladder; yet i t did not f e e l any diffe r e n t . What i s behind the disappointment, I wonder. Why i s this so important to many students? Why do a l l the years of achievement f a i l to bring satisfaction, or, at least, why i s there a feeling that something i s missing? Surely i t i s more than the fact that grade eight students do not show respect. Surely i t i s not just the power d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n i n the teacher/student relationship — something that has always been a part of their schooling years. 215 Besides, while many students spoke of this 'let-down' feeling, not everyone did, although there did not seem to be a pattern among those who did and those who did not. Students who were unsure of their plans for the future talked of feeling disap-pointed, as did those who had firm plans. Turner (1967, p. 94) said that tr a n s i t i o n i s a "process, a becoming, . . . even a transformation" and that those i n transition "are 'being grown' into a new postliminal state of being"(1967, p.37). Is the disappointment experienced by the grade twelve students related to that transformation? Is i t that many grade twelve students, l i k e many people of a l l ages, form an opinion of who they are but need that view of s e l f to be reflected back to them by others within their c i r c l e s of interaction? /And i s this opinion related to how they visualise their new status i n the adult world? These and other questions run through my mind although i t is d i f f i c u l t to know for certain any of the answers. What i s apparent, however, i s the sense that many grade twelve students begin the year with the feeling that there was supposed to be more to i t than t h i s . As Glynis (interview 015) said, " . . . this i s good, but not that good." I am reminded of a Peggy Lee song from many years ago that asked the question, "Is this a l l there i s ? " It occurs to me that the media, the i n s t i t u t i o n , and adults outside of the school community play an important role i n how students view themselves i n their f i n a l year of secondary schooling. The message from the media seems clear: your senior 216 years of high school are the best of your l i f e . Several students spoke of their e a r l i e r expectations of what i t would be l i k e to be i n grade twelve - "an episode from Degrassi High" i s how La Shonda (interview 005) described the visi o n she had had when she was younger. As u n r e a l i s t i c as that may have been, i t was clear: grade twelve was going to be a time of adult p r i v i l e g e s and freedoms but few r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . Even before students reached grade twelve, they began to re a l i z e that their senior years would not be l i k e those of the characters portrayed i n the media but many s t i l l held on to the hope that l i f e would, at least, be different than i t had been. Reality t o l d a different story. The message from the i n s t i t u t i o n seemed less clear. Many students commented on the fact that the school seemed to expect them to make adult decisions while, at the same time, i t expected them to follow the i n s t i t u t i o n a l rules of attendance checks and late s l i p s as they had when they were younger. Nor did the i n s t i t u t i o n always take into account the pressures many students deal with outside of the school setting. As Sean (interview 032) commented, "School expects you to be there no matter what. They think school's the whole worry, not your family or problems." Sean was not the only student who spoke of family burdens (including parenting younger siblings) that frecruently impacted on attendance or school performance. None of those who did seemed to feel that the school was w i l l i n g to "cut them any slack" when i t came to school rules. Yet, as several pointed out, school personnel would do that for colleagues or 217 other adults. 1 As one student (survey 075) remarked when asked how school could better prepare students for the t r a n s i t i o n from secondary schooling, "Not be so hard on students and t r y to understand them more." On the other hand, most adults outside of the school community (with the exception of parents and other family mem-bers) treated the students as young adults, offering students both privileges and r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . How do these mixed messages impact on the liminal experience, I wonder. For as long as most can remember, the i n s t i t u t i o n has defined for many their level of a b i l i t y or potential. 2 What do a l l of these messages t e l l students about the confidence others have i n their a b i l i t y to be responsible adults? In what ways do the messages contribute to the feelings of disappointment described by so many? Although feeling 'let down' about the present, many s t i l l f e l t that their " r e a l " l i f e was f i n a l l y about to sta r t . While few described i t as passing over a threshold, many talked of fi n i s h i n g something that needed to be done, of passing into another stage of l i f e , of entering the real world. "So much l i e s 1 Levin (1994, p.98) i n an a r t i c l e that considers the treatment of students i n schools, questions why the issue i s so frequently overlooked. He contends that "To treat others as we would ourselves be treated i s one of humanities oldest moral maxims; no i n s t i t u t i o n should be more aware of i t than the schools." 2 This i s borne out by the number of students who either based their future plans or altered current ones on the marks they achieved during secondary school. 218 ahead," wrote one student (survey 047), "what's behind i s nothing." "Graduation i s just a barrier to be overcome," wrote another (survey 005). Yet there was a sense that crossing the bridge to their 'real' l i f e brings them to a dangerous place, a place of uncer-tainty, a place where the wrong decision i s 'forever.' Why, I wonder, i n a time when few people stay with the same job long enough to receive the proverbial gold watch, a time of l i f e l o n g learning and multiple careers, do the students who are about to enter adulthood feel that the decisions they make now w i l l determine the rest of their l i v e s , that those decisions " w i l l set [their lives] i n stone"(survey 042)? Why, too, did more students seem more w i l l i n g to write about those feelings than speak them aloud? Was i t simply the anonymity that a survey afforded that a face-to-face conversation did not? Or was i t that students who wrote of their fears f e l t as i f they were alone? What part does a l l the talk about the 'necessity' of a post-secondary education play i n these feelings, I wonder. If students' own expectations had led to disappointment about their f i n a l year of schooling, the expectations of others about post-secondary education created a different kind of feeling — frustration. Many students, both on paper and i n person, voiced the concern that they f e l t pressured by the view that a post-second-ary education i s the only avenue to a successful future. What would happen i f adults involved with students i n t r a n s i t i o n from 219 secondary schooling helped young people explore a l l options (including no further formal schooling at present)? How would the liminal period of the transition from secondary schooling be changed i f adults provided the space for young people to voice their concerns, to talk about how disconcerting i t i s to reali z e you are leaving behind the only structure you have known for thirteen years? 3 Bridges (1980, pp.91-92) remarked that the reason people i n transition experience confusion i s not fear of the future, "but rather the termination of the old l i f e they had previously led." Many students voiced such concerns about leaving behind the familiar. "Your safety net," said Jeff (interview 009); " . . . almost l i k e losing your parents," said J u l i a (interview 012). That i s not to say that a l l students spoke of moving into the future with trepidation. Many were very focused on their plans — the student (survey 030A) whose parents have "always just expected" that s/he would attend university or Crystal (interview 018) who had 500 hours to complete before becoming a licensed hair dresser did not seem to be facing the future with uncertainty. Neither did Bruce (interview 014) who was anxiously waiting to begin training as a missionary. Obviously having firm plans eased concerns about what l i e s ahead. But for those who were uncertain about the direction they wanted to follow, the future seemed to loom somewhat ominously, 3 Certainly this seemed important to the students i n the discussion group and many of the students who were interviewed. 220 exacerbating the pressure many already f e l t . It was a pressure that started i n the f a l l and increased as the year progressed -"People ask you what you're going to do with your l i f e and you say you don't know and they say 'How can you not know, you're i n grade 12?" (Nicole, from f i e l d notes, October 29, 1997). As the months passed, the number of students who decided to attend a post-secondary i n s t i t u t i o n increased. It seemed as i f those students needed an answer to 'the question.' While deciding to continue their education may have provided an answer, i t i s uncertain how many of the l a s t minute decisions actually became the f i n a l answer. It i s l i k e l y that many were waiting out the time, hoping that a vi s i o n of the future would become clearer. Ed and Phaedra ca l l e d this waiting time "a slushy area" i n their l i v e s (from f i e l d notes, October 29, 1997). Like slush, that mixture of rain and snow that i s not c l e a r l y either one, this period of the l i f e journey i s a mixture of adolescence and adulthood. Turner (1967, p.94) contended that t h i s was a time that had few of the characteristics of the past or the coming state. And Bridges (1980, p.96) noted that "most people i n transition have the experience of not being quite sure of who they are anymore." As well, Bridges (1980, p.95) noted that events that "disengage us from the contexts i n which we have known ourselves . . . break up the old cue-system which served to reinforce our roles and to pattern our behavior." This feeling of uncertain identity was borne out by the number of 221 students who spoke of being treated as a c h i l d one minute and an adult the next. The students themselves seemed less than certain where they f i t i n the two categories. Nor were they always certain as to whether that would change. "Sometimes I f e e l that the day after grad I ' l l be an adult and a different person. But other times I feel l i k e nothing's going to change," wrote one student (survey 064). Is there something about the way we educate young people that contributes to the uncertainty connected to moving into adulthood? Uncertainty i s a feeling that seems common to young people as they leave secondary schooling. I r e f l e c t back on my own adolescent transition time and remember that, for several years after leaving secondary school, the uncertainty continued. I f e l t as i f I was merely pretending to be an adult, that I knew how to be a teenager but not an adult. Other adults with whom I have spoken have said much the same thing. Why, I wonder. Could i t be that when our society moved to a time of extended school-ing, we made transition more d i f f i c u l t for young people than i t had been when they were involved i n the adult world throughout their lives? How was i t different for young people when they were not separated from adult d a i l y l i f e for extended periods of time, associating only with other young people? Is being part of the da i l y l i v e s of adults the reason why young people who are homeschooled appear to make a seamless t r a n s i t i o n into the adult world? 4 How would secondary schooling look i f , while completing 4 This i s based on my own previous research into the peda-gogical practices of a group of non-sectarian homeschooling 222 secondary school, young people increasingly spent more time i n the 'adult' world and less time i n the i n s t i t u t i o n a l setting? And who might pedagogically guide these young people? Do we need to return to a time of mentoring young people as Mahadi (1996) suggested when she said that " . . . we need wise men and women ready to provide perspectives and meaning for the responsibil-i t i e s ahead"(1996, p.xvi). As these questions come to mind, I am reminded of a comment made by several students over the course of the year when talking about our conversations. The general feeling was that what I was doing [the research project] was r e a l l y important, that this kind of thing [the conversations and discussions] should be mandatory for a l l grade twelve students, although that comment was often followed with the r e a l i z a t i o n that, i f the conversations were mandatory, i t probably would not work. But obviously the discussion group conversations (as well as the interviews) served a purpose for many students as I was often taken aback by how open and candid students were during our conversations. Ed's (interview 002) comment was that I had raised some interesting questions. "It's kind of helpful for me, actually, believe i t or not, getting some of this s t u f f out into the open, admitting to some of this stuff that I've been hiding from myself. It's part of a step I can take towards eliminating problems I've been having." My perception that our conversations were mutually benefi-parents as well as li t e r a t u r e related to homeschooling families. 223 c i a l was reinforced by a comment Phaedra made when we met for lunch a number of months after the study ended. When I mentioned that, throughout my time at Eagle S p i r i t , I had f e l t honoured by the way i n which students had confided i n me, she replied, "You were not our mother, but you mothered us by bringing us food and making sure we had lunch. You were not our teacher, but you were somehow connected to school. You were someone we could talk to and who listened to us" (from f i e l d notes, A p r i l 24, 1999).5 What i s apparent i n a l l of this i s that during the liminal phase of transition students appear to need an outsider who l i s t e n s without judging, someone who cares without controlling, a mentor. Shel Silverstein's evocative i n v i t a t i o n , at the beginning of this chapter, speaks of guides and mentors. Certainly Chef served i n that capacity for the Cafeteria stu-dents . Was the young man waiting i n the counselling suite looking for someone who would listen? My mind frequently returns to that scene. In some ways that waiting room became a metaphor for grade twelve. While a token e f f o r t had been made to give the space some degree of importance, i t was not an i n v i t i n g place. At a time when students struggle with changing i d e n t i t i e s , this space was i n s t i t u t i o n a l , not personal. It seemed to me that this was a place to be given information. It was not a place to 5 The importance of these conversations to the students was reiterated i n a recent conversation with Rachael. Talking about the group she said that when those who participated i n . the discussion group sessions get together, even now, they often speak of "the free therapy sessions [they] had i n grade twelve." 224 search for the future. It was a waiting place, a place where one did not want to stay, a place to be i n limbo, a place that reinforced a waiting time. In some respects, so was grade twelve for many students. If the counselling suite was a place to receive information for the future, many students did not say the same thing about the classroom. As the end of schooling neared, students increas-ingly voiced concerns that school had not prepared them for what lay ahead. In particular, CAPP (Career and Personal Planning) — a course apparently designed to help students prepare for l i f e i n the adult world — was the most revi l e d of a l l courses. Most thought i t was a colossal waste of time, that i t did not teach them how to deal with p r a c t i c a l matters, and that, i n fact, i t missed an opportunity. Many said that they had learned the important things i n l i f e outside of school. For the most part, the students who thought school had taught them anything useful were those who said that their academic courses would prepare them for advanced courses, i n the same subject areas, i n their post-secondary education. Many students voiced concerns that they would not know how to do everyday tasks i n the adult world. Handling money matters (such as earning money, budgeting, writing cheques, applying for loans) loomed large for many students. Given the degree of anxiety about assuming r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , i t would appear that CAPP had, indeed, missed an opportunity. How might courses i n 'everyday l i f e ' impact upon the liminal experiences, I wonder. 225 Would easing some of the concerns about how to handle responsi-b i l i t i e s i n the adult world make the tran s i t i o n a l i t t l e less d i f f i c u l t ? If students had p r a c t i c a l information about dealing with l i f e situations, other than how to write resumes, would the future seem less ominous for some? Certainly, i t would not be possible to anticipate a l l of the l i f e situations students might encounter i n the future. On the other hand, i t seems that stu-dents i n tran s i t i o n feel a strong need to be better prepared for adult l i f e and that 'preparedness' i s many faceted and not solely related to courses required for further education. During the months I waited out this liminal time with the students, we frequently reflected on what i t means to travel this part of the l i f e journey. We talked of looking back, of turning points, of changing i d e n t i t i e s , and of leaving behind old ideas. Bridges (1908, p.98) wrote that a person i n t r a n s i -tion often goes through a feeling of disenchantment — a time when "the subtle strands of assumption and expectation" that t i e a person to the old world are broken. Further, he contended that disenchantment " i s the signal that things are moving into transition"(1980, p.101). While not a l l students spoke of an event during this liminal time that caused them to see themselves or the world diff e r e n t l y , many described a time near the end of grade eleven or the beginning of grade twelve when they l e f t behind some old patterns and attitudes. For some i t was the ending of an import-ant relationship or the death of someone important i n their 226 l i v e s . For others i t was a brush with the law and/or the r e a l i z -ation that their behaviour was hurting people they cared about. For s t i l l others, i t was an assessment of academic achievement, sometimes followed by a re-evaluation of career goals. For Patrick, i t was an extended serious i l l n e s s that cost him his graduation and caused him to rethink what i s important i n l i f e . As La Shonda (interview 005) said, "everyone has their own s i t u -ations ." It i s not clear whether or not young people i n tr a n s i t i o n need to be able to identif y a turning point that allows them to see themselves d i f f e r e n t l y . Nor i s i t clear whether or not students would id e n t i f y a turning point i n their l i v e s i f they were not asked to do so. However, those students who reflected back on the past year and a half and who spoke of an event or series of events that brought about a change i n attitude were among the students who spoke with the most confidence of the future. It seemed that, as with Janus, the Roman god of the doorway, being able to look back as well as forward, offered a clearer view of the future. Whether students had a clear view of the future or not, as the year progressed, their feelings about leaving school began to change. There were moments of wanting to get the most out of grade twelve before i t was over, to get to know as many of the other graduate students as possible. Glynis spoke of starting to "talk to a l l these people that [she'd] been ignoring for five years" (from f i e l d notes, June 4, 1998). Many spoke sadly about 227 the friends that would be lost when everyone l e f t the routines of secondary schooling. As La Shonda (interview 005) said, " . you say that you are going to see them and write once a week, but I know i t ' s not going to happen." Mixed with a feeling that friends, old and new, were about to be lost was a feeling of disconnection, a feeling of disen-gagement. Many commented that they were so ready to leave, that i t should be over by now. As Glynis (interview 015) commented, "It's not my place . . . anymore." This disengagement i s an important turning point for students for as the end of the old system nears, they are forced to devise a new one. Bridges (1980, p.96) wrote that "with disengagement, an inexorable process of change begins," although he also noted the importance of support during the change process. What kind of support do we, as a society, offer students during this period of disengagement, I wonder. As much as grade twelve students began to 'mentally' leave secondary schooling, the one area of their school l i v e s i n which they re-connected was grad. Even though many voiced mixed f e e l -ings about the a c t i v i t i e s , some even questioning whether or not they would participate, i n the end, most students were caught up in the moment. It was the one time throughout the year that I saw students completely engaged, seemingly unconcerned about pressures, about leaving the known and heading into the unknown. In the end, a l l of the uncertainty and fear seemed to give way to celebration. 228 It i s true that I can speak only of those students who actually attended the events. Perhaps those who stayed away, for whatever reason, would t e l l a different story. Nor can I say that this moment of what Turner (1967, 1977) described as "flow" was never evident at other times when I was not there. But I can say that, when the grade twelve students gathered for the graduation a c t i v i t i e s , the building was f i l l e d with a palpable energy that was not apparent at other times during the year. However, this energy may, i n fact, be just one facet of this somewhat double-edged celebration. For, i f the waiting room was a metaphor for the l i m i n a l i t y of grade twelve, graduation could be seen as a symbol of the1 ambiguity i n this l i f e journey tran s i t i o n . The competing conceptions of what graduation represents are apparent i n the graduation a c t i v i t i e s and the talk about them. With the exception of the students who began making graduation plans many months i n advance, most students were ambivalent when talking about graduation. When they did, they spoke of i t as a celebration of l i f e changes. Yet, from the inst i t u t i o n ' s perspective, graduation seemed to be about achievement and honours and an optimistic future. The message was clear: the highly successful are celebrated and praised; others provide the backdrop for the event. As usual, the prevailing message i n the media continues to be mixed — on the one hand, graduation i s the celebration of an ending, on the other, graduation i s the acknowledgement of achievement and a higher status. Mostly, however, the media perpetuates the myth 229 that graduation i s predominantly an exciting, elaborate (and costly) celebration — a once-in-a-lifetime event. Given that many adults, i n r e f l e c t i n g on their own high school graduation, also speak of i t as a time of confusion and anxiety, i t seems strange that the prevailing narrative of secondary school graduation portrays i t as an exciting, o p t i -mistic, and very positive time i n the l i v e s of adolescents. This interpretation of graduation i s further promoted every spring when the media features stories about grade twelve students buying b a l l gowns, renting tuxedos and limousines, and worrying about dates for the big night. Missing from the narrative are the stories of confusion and anxiety, as evident i n the following newspaper a r t i c l e : . ' Lisa Love's entire 17 years of l i f e have been leading up to this one all-important date on the calendar. Graduation. 7And i t promises to be a remarkable 24 hours on June 29. The day w i l l start with a history exam, follow with a hair appointment, lead into a formal banquet and dance, then culminate with an a l l -night gathering at Dry Grad. Diligent study and l a s t -minute cramming aside, for Lisa, much of the frenzy about graduation began i n February and March - the start of the o f f i c i a l Search for the Perfect Dress . . .. The perfect earrings and necklace are yet to be found. They must be something simple. Perhaps pearls. (Lett, 1999, June 8, p.A7) 6 The problem i s , by focusing on the celebration i t s e l f , i t i s 6 Such a r t i c l e s are not uncommon. In a f u l l page spread e n t i t l e d "The Prom Queens" i n The Vancouver Sun, V i r g i n i a Leeming (2000, February 15, p.Fl) wrote, "Should she wear a f u l l - s k i r t e d b a l l gown or opt for something sexy and figure-hugging? W i l l satin do the t r i c k or would t a f f e t a be best? For Grade 12 graduates of 2000, the question of what to wear on grad night i s a l l important." 230 easy to see the end of secondary schooling as a time for celebrating endings and new beginnings, losing sight of the fact that, by i t s very nature, this i s a time of passage, of transition, of l i m i n a l i t y . True, for many, grade twelve i s a time of celebration and r i t u a l . However, i t i s also a time of contradiction and paradoxes: optimism mixed with apprehension, confidence often overshadowed by doubt, independence sometimes tinged with a sense of loss, a combination of ju b i l a t i o n , pres-sure, pride, r e f l e c t i o n , and uncertainty. When others place the spotlight predominantly on the celebrations, i t devalues the inner turmoil that many adolescents experience at this time. How would the liminal experience be changed, I wonder, i f the narratives of graduation included stories of uncertainty and loss. Would knowing that they are not alone provide a measure of support for those students crossing the bridge to adulthood? As I r e f l e c t back on my time with the students at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary seeking to understand how grade twelve students experience the transition from secondary school to the adult world, one thing becomes obvious — the importance of time. Temporality i s a central feature of narrative thinking (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p.29). Graduation i s an event that most adults have experienced i n the past. It i s an event that most children w i l l eventually experience. As well, the participants, the grade twelve students, each bring their own history and expectations of the future to the prolonged event. A l l of these aspects of temporality impact on how students 231 experience this time i n their l i v e s since, although i t i s their experience, others contribute to i t . However, i n this case, i t i s more than thinking of an event as an expression of something that "has a past, a present as i t appears to us, and an implied future" (p. 29). While that i s certainly true of liminal experiences, i t i s equally as, i f not more, important to think temporally about adolescent t r a n s i t i o n from secondary school to the adult world within the context of a moment in history. The liminal experiences of grade twelve students at the end of the 1990s are vastly different from those of e a r l i e r generations just as they w i l l d i f f e r considerably from those of students who come after them. For, as noted e a r l i e r , "'normal' paths to adulthood" (Wallace, 1987, in Irwin, 1995, p.21) established during f u l l employment i n the 1950s and 1960s are no longer possible. While there may have been fewer choices for students, such as myself, who graduated several decades ago, no one doubted that they would find employment, with or without a post-secondary education. We a l l believed (and s t a t i s t i c s supported that belief) that, with hard work, most would succeed and, with careful management, many would own their own homes. When my own children graduated, there were far more choices (especially for women), and, while education was known to impact upon future employment, few would not f i n d steady employment. But, as the 1990s ended, there was less certainty about future employment beyond part-time entry-level jobs. Many stu-232 dents with whom I spoke fear they w i l l not find suitable employ-ment and, as a result, w i l l not have a secure future. Perhaps this i s why so many students have bought into the notion that, unless they graduate from university, they w i l l 'never amount to anything' — an expectation that i s u n r e a l i s t i c for many. No wonder students f e l t anxious about the future! Where i n this narrative are the trades-people, the people i n the service industry, the caregivers, to" name only some. As educators, many of us come from that time when the future was less uncertain. If we are to t r u l y walk pedagogically with those young adults who are making the t r a n s i t i o n to the adult world as the twenty-first century begins, we must leave behind our own preconceived notions about success and see the world i n the students' "time." We must help them see that they l i v e i n a time of change where the decisions you make today may not work tomorrow; where most people w i l l have multiple careers i n their l i f e t i m e ; where education i s not just a university degree but means l i f e l o n g learning; where, at times, one may have to be f l e x i b l e enough to create his or her own employment. In other words, we need to prepare them for l i f e i n their time, not ours. And this does not just mean an increase i n computer technology courses. Perhaps we also need to ask these young adults what they need as they prepare to leave secondary school-ing instead of only looking at our own experiences and t e l l i n g them what they should know/have/do.7 Perhaps we need to walk 7 Brady (1996, p.253) i n an a r t i c l e arguing that we should be educating young people for " l i f e as i t i s l i v e d , " maintains that 233 pedagogically beside students rather than always i n front of them. This study sought to uncover how students i n the late 1990s experience the l i m i n a l i t y of grade twelve. It explored how students i n an upper-middle class secondary school i n the suburbs of a large metropolitan area experience this time i n their l i v e s . Listening to the stories of these students, i t became clear that grade twelve i s a mixture of myth and r e a l i t y . In t e l l i n g the co-constructed stories of these young adults, I have endeavoured to separate the myths of the grand narratives t o l d about the f i n a l year of secondary schooling from the r e a l -i t i e s of the personal narratives of the students. I have t r i e d to t e l l the stories that, too often, have been and continue to be obscured by the loud voices t e l l i n g the grand narrative. At the time of the study, the student population of Eagle S p i r i t Secondary was predominantly Caucasian although there were already signs that this was rapidly changing. 8 Further study i s needed i n schools with an ethnically diverse population, as well as schools with a less affluent population, i n order to determine whether or not those students experience less or more uncertainty, and also the factors that may contribute to those "We teach what we think i s important, and we think i t i s import-ant because i t i s what we were taught." 8 The senior grades at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary were s t i l l predominantly Caucasian at the time of this study. However, a growing Asian population i n grades 8, 9, and 10 w i l l undoubtedly impact on how students i n this secondary school experience the liminal phase of the transition to adulthood. 234 differences. As well, further study i s required i n schools that offer some form of mentorship program and/or more p r a c t i c a l l i f e - s k i l l programs. Such data would prove useful i n developing curricula that lessened students' uncertainties and anxieties about their future — uncertainties that frequently lead to depression i n the f i r s t year after secondary school graduation. 9 As I r e f l e c t on what I have learned about crossing the bridge to adulthood i n the late 1990s, i t occurs to me that we, as a society, need to acknowledge that the l i m i n a l i t y of grade twelve i s a time of transformations as well as endings, that students are undergoing the unsettling process of redefining themselves, that they are leaving behind the old cue-system which has served to reinforce their roles and to pattern their behavior. We need to look for ways to support these young adults during this time of uncertainty. When adults undergo tr a n s i t i o n a l times as a result of job loss, marriage breakdown, death of a partner, or l i f e - a l t e r i n g i l l n e s s , we offer support and expect them to take time to 9 A study conducted by Gladstone and Koenig (1994) found that although adolescent and adult females have consistently been found to experience depression at twice the rate of males, a notable exception was the college population where equal rates of depression were reported for males and females. However, by their nature, such studies do not include those students who do not attend post-secondary inst i t u t i o n s i n the year following graduation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that large numbers of young people spend the f i r s t year after school leaving i s o l a t i n g themselves from others, sleeping excessively or struggling with insomnia, overeating, and "staring at the walls" — a l l reported to be c l a s s i c signs of c l i n i c a l depression. 235 adjust. The liminal phase of the tran s i t i o n process i s a time of uncertainty. We know that i t takes time to redefine ourselves. One "Executive i n Passage" wrote: As I moved forward, I entered a period of confusion, disorientation, and chaos. But some inner sense of rightness kept pu l l i n g me on. Finally, after a torturously d i f f i c u l t time, I was delivered into a new way of l i f e — o n e f i l l e d with inner quiet, joy, and renewed success—an experience I can only describe as "uncommon fulfilment." This i s . . . a remarkable journey. The story i s mine, but the passage i s universal. (Marrs, 1990, in Mahadi, 1996, p.xv) He could have been writing about adolescent t r a n s i t i o n from secondary schooling to the adult world. If we understand that adults i n transition need our support and compassion, do adoles-cents crossing the bridge to adulthood deserve less? 236 CHAPTER 7: BEYOND LIMINALITY: NEW BEGINNINGS After being so closely connected with these students during their f i n a l year of secondary schooling, i t seemed 'only natural' that I would keep i n touch with as many of them as possible. During the summer after graduation, I met twice with six of the discussion group for conversation and pizza. Mostly the contact has been i n the form of long telephone conversations. Several times I met with one of the members for lunch or long brisk walks followed by bottomless cups of coffee. Those with whom I have not had personal contact are usually mentioned i n the on-going dialogue with the various former students or i n conversations with their parents. Some members of the discussion group and I are planning to meet for another pizza night this summer where we w i l l once again 'catch up' on everyone's news. Since, from early i n the study, a l l of the students became more than 'subjects' (yet not exactly friends because our situations were so differ e n t ) , I have wondered about them, worried about them, and hoped their t r a n s i t i o n into the adult world was not f i l l e d with too many obstacles. It occurred to me that others, too, might wonder. Hence, a chapter seemed appropriate. There i s a saying that suggests, " L i f e i s what happens when 237 you had other plans." Some of the students who were part of the graduating class at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary during the time of this investigation would, no doubt, agree. For others, the plans they made as they neared the end of grade twelve are s t i l l intact. Although i t has not been possible to contact a l l of the young people who were part of the study, recent contact with a number of the former students has provided snapshots of their l i v e s since we last met as a group or i n interview conversations. Phaedra i s i n her t h i r d year at university. As well as her studies, an important part of her academic l i f e revolves around the student newspaper. She has contributed numerous a r t i c l e s and this year she i s the culture editor at the paper. Recently she prepared and presented an opinion piece on CBC Radio which won a listener's choice award. She i s currently working on two pro-jects. With a professor and a poet, she i s working on an anthol-ogy of mixed race (half Asian) writing. A publisher has been found for the project. Under the support of the Asian-Canadian Writers' Workshop, Phaedra has completed two chapters of an autobiographical novel. While s t i l l i n grade twelve, Phaedra planned to be a lawyer although she says that "deep down" she knew she wanted to write, wanted to communicate somehow, and she is moving steadily i n that direction. After setting aside his plans to become an aeronautical engineer, Ed decided to follow a career i n business. Since leaving Eagle S p i r i t , he has been attending a university i n 238 Ontario. His friends say that i f Ed seemed l i k e a workaholic i n high school, he i s even worse now. He i s currently enrolled i n a prestigious school of business at the university, completing an honours business degree. After graduation, Ed hopes to follow a career i n investment banking and f i n a n c i a l consulting. Eventually he would l i k e to work in the area of business process redesign, perhaps for a regional a i r l i n e . In a recent conversation, Ed voiced concern that, although he has an W average, his marks w i l l not be high enough to f i n d the kind of work he wants. Obviously Ed has not lost his drive for perfec-tion since leaving secondary school. As for Rachael's current career plans, " r e a l i t y plays into i t , " she said recently. While s t i l l at Eagle S p i r i t , Rachael was torn between going into law and following her f i r s t love — acting. Now i n her t h i r d year at the university, she i s i n the International Relations Program completing her B.A. with a minor in p o l i t i c a l science. At the time of this writing, she was preparing to leave for a conference i n Washington, DC. The conference i s modelled after NATO and w i l l be good experience as w i l l the other two conferences she i s attending this year. But drama s t i l l c a l l s . Last year she appeared i n a theatre production at the university and, after graduation next year, Rachael i s considering moving to Bombay, India, where she has contacts, to work in independent film. However, sometimes we have to choose between our f i r s t love and what seems prudent, and combining law and p o l i t i c a l science seems very p r a c t i c a l . 239 La Shonda i s also i n the International Relations Program at the university. She and Rachael do not have any classes together since La Shonda's minor i s Russian. After graduation next year, she and her boyfriend hope to go to Russia to teach English for two years. Their long-range plans are to return to Canada to complete a Master of Arts i n Russian and Slavic studies. La Shonda i s considering two options for her Masters — combining law and Russian p o l i t i c s or Russian p o l i t i c s and l i t e r a r y i n f l u -ences. In some respects, La Shonda's current career goals are not a l l that different from those she had i n grade twelve. At that time she was considering a career teaching university level History or English Literature. She i s s t i l l interested i n history and li t e r a t u r e — she just switched languages. Cherie i s another of the members of the discussion group who i s very focussed on her career goals. She i s i n t h i r d year Engineering at the university and i s currently completing an eight month co-op program i n Ottawa for one of the top telecom-munications companies i n the world. Last summer she completed another co-op program with a company i n the west. But l i f e i s not a l l work. Cherie i s currently training for her second marathon race — the 44 km Nation's Capital Marathon. After graduation Cherie hopes to work at designing medical or physical re h a b i l i t a t i o n equipment. She remains focused on the goals she set i n grade twelve. Briana entered university after graduation, planning to complete a degree i n English. The year after graduation, she and 240 her high school sweetheart — a young man who was almost finished his degree i n philosophy — married. Briana completed another term at the university before the two of them moved to Alberta. U n t i l this past October, Briana worked at a resort. At the time I write this, Briana has just given b i r t h to "a beautiful baby boy." Recently she began submitting poems and short stories for publication. While continuing to write, she i s also learning to speak, read, and write Norwegian and plans to f i n i s h her undergraduate degree then work toward her Master's and Ph.D. degrees i n English. Her eventual goal i s to teach at a university. Although she wanted to be a writer when she was i n grade twelve, Briana says that "deep down" she knew that she "wanted to do something academic." Although thoroughly convinced that he wanted to be a doctor who combined western medicine with alternate medicine, Drudi has chosen a path that surprises some of his friends. After two years at a college, he i s now attending university. A couple of months ago, he talked of becoming a high school geography teacher because he loves Geography. However, he says, "History, does not l i k e [him] ." Since i t i s the stories that interest him most, he i s thinking of doing a Master's degree i n psychology and becoming a high school counsellor. Obviously, Drudi i s s t i l l exploring his options. Glynis i s also exploring her options at the moment. After grade twelve, she toured around the province for over a year with a theatre group that gave presentations to school children. 241 The productions focussed on issues important to young people (e.g., drugs and r a c i a l tensions, etc.). The group was under the auspices of the Attorney General's Office. Eventually a r t i s t i c differences between the group and the ministry arose. When her contract was up, Glynis chose not to renew i t . Currently she i s l i v i n g i n a small community on the Sunshine Coast and talking about going to Wilderness School. She has always been interested i n the outdoors and thinks she would l i k e to take children on wilderness outings. Because of his extended i l l n e s s , Patrick did not graduate with his friends at Eagle S p i r i t . The following year, he attended a secondary school i n a nearby town, picking up the one semester he needed i n order to accumulate the necessary credits. Before graduation, Patrick had considered joining the U.S. Navy although what he r e a l l y wanted to do was attend university to study drama. His parents were not prepared to f i n a n c i a l l y support that decision, so Patrick moved to Saskatchewan to attend Christian Bible College, a decision his parents supported. He has been there for the past two years and recently (at the end of December) was married. Unable to afford university when she f i r s t graduated, Kerry was not certain of the career path she wanted to follow. She had considered training as a massage therapist but thought the f i e l d was becoming overcrowded. Before coming to Eagle S p i r i t Second-ary, she had attended a Fine Arts High School. When I f i r s t met Kerry, she was i n the Co-op Program studying tourism. As gradu-242 ation loomed, she thought she would work for a while and perhaps take Spanish and some computer courses at night school. The one thing she knew for certain was that, later i n l i f e , she did not want to look back on her l i f e and say, "When I was young, I didn't do that" (interview 030). When I spoke with Kerry a year after graduation, she was s t i l l thinking of going back to school but had no definite plans — journalism, perhaps. Everyone kept suggesting jobs that would offer some kind of security but she was looking for a career path that would tap into her creative side. At the time, she was working i n a showroom but was bored with her job. Shortly after our conversation, Kerry struck up a conversation i n a bar with a man who offered her a job as his assistant. Since that time Kerry has been working long hours as the Personal Assistant to the Director of Catering Services at a large suburban hotel and i s taking courses i n Business Management at the B r i t i s h Columbia Institute of Technology i n the evenings. Some months ago, i n a conversation during which Kerry and I looked back on her graduation year, she said, " I t was a time of anxiety. You just don't know what you want to do, what you're supposed to do, and where the money i s supposed to come from" (from f i e l d notes, May 27, 2000). Now, Kerry i s happy with the career path she i s presently following although, as I write this, she i s struggling with a l i f e decision dilemma. Recently engaged to be married to a young man who has found work in Edmonton, should she stay here u n t i l they are married i n a few years or move to Alberta now? Here, she contributes to the 243 support of her family and she feels g u i l t y at the thought of not doing so. There, she would be f i n a n c i a l l y secure, not have to work, and would be able to go to university, which has been her dream. If she moves to Alberta to l i v e with her fiance, her mother w i l l l i k e l y not speak to her for several years but she r e a l l y loves this man. If she moves to Alberta, she w i l l be better off f i n a n c i a l l y but w i l l she be able to tap into her creative side or w i l l that be lost forever? Kerry t e l l s me that she i s at a crossroad and does not know which way to turn. From our conversation, i t i s obvious that she i s experiencing the liminal phase i n another of the transitions on her l i f e journey. Making the transition into adulthood was not an easy passage for Sophie. I remember how desperately Sophie wanted to graduate with her classmates and how that just did not happen. In a recent conversation she t o l d me that the night of Commencement she arranged to work so that everyone would think that she had not been able to make the ceremony, but no one would know that she had not graduated. Immediately following grade twelve, Sophie held a variety of jobs, none of which proved to be long term. Less than a year after her f i n a l year of secondary school, Sophie met a young man and became pregnant. This proved to be a turning point i n her l i f e . While she and her boyfriend had previously partied hard, he t o l d Sophie, "partying in not what I'm about and i f that's what you want, you w i l l have to find someone else." She now says, "A l o t of who I am has to do with James." Sophie turned her l i f e around and i s now a 244 xstay-at-home-mom' to her "beautiful" one-year-old Samantha. Remembering how disappointed she had been about not graduating from high school, I was delighted to hear that, while she was pregnant, she attended a nearby college and completed her grade twelve. Finally, she has that cherished c e r t i f i c a t e ! Eventually Sophie would l i k e to have more children. In the meantime, she plans to take a Career Planning Course i n May of this year and begin working toward her as-yet-to-be-determined future goals. While she has thought about a career i n nursing, after attending an information session, she realizes that she has a l o t of upgrading to do before that could become a r e a l i t y . Whatever her goals turn out to be, Sophie has come a long way — i n her voice you can hear a new confidence, a feeling that she i s f i n a l l y becoming comfortable with herself. As grade twelve was coming to an end, Bruce was waiting to leave to serve as a missionary, expecting to begin his training within a few months. He did not leave as soon as he had expected and^ worked here for a large clothing r e t a i l e r , working his way up to assistant manager. Just over a year ago, he f i n a l l y was able to begin his training for the mission f i e l d . When I spoke with his mother recently, she said that he i s doing very well, serving his time near the headquarters of the church. Bruce has a l i t t l e more than a year of service l e f t and the family hopes that he w i l l return to this area and continue on with his schooling. While s t i l l i n grade twelve, Bruce had talked of becoming a Chartered Financial Planner when he finished serving 245 with the church. That s t i l l appears to be an option. Thanks to a scholarship, Rod was able to carry through with his plans to successfully complete the f u l l culinary course at Vancouver City College when he graduated from Eagle S p i r i t Secondary. Unfortunately, i t i s very d i f f i c u l t to fi n d full-time work as a chef i n this area, and after facing the prospect of several part-time jobs, Rod made the decision to move to Alberta where he i s currently working at laying fi b r e optics for the o i l industry. While he i s pleased to be working full-time, he i s waiting and hoping to eventually find employment doing what he loves best — working as a chef. When I spoke with Rod's mother recently, she said that Rod was greatly affected by the sudden death of his friend and mentor, Chef, this past December. Like people of a l l ages, some of these young people have had to adjust their plans when confronted with l i f e ' s often unexpected events. As Rachael said, " r e a l i t y plays into i t . " I am reminded, also, of Rod's comment (interview 013) when he was in grade twelve, "There might be a set-back but that just means you go i n a different direction. You have to deal with i t the best you can." When I think about these young people with whom I had the pri v i l e g e to work, I think about how many of the students who took part i n the study worried that they would not be successful as adults and I am reminded that there are many different kinds of success, most of which have nothing to do with the success that translated into scholarships and awards on 246 Graduation Night or money and prestige since. 1 A l l the young adults who 'made i t ' through the liminal time of grade twelve, who crossed the bridge to adulthood, and who are working to make sense of their l i v e s are the success stories of the Eagle S p i r i t Graduating Class of 1998. Now, i f only we could help a l l students believe this while they are experiencing the liminal phase of grade twelve! 1 As Nel Noddings (1992, p.34) pointed out, " . . . success comes i n many forms and c a l l s on many capacities." 247 EPILOGUE As I r e f l e c t on this year-long study and the people with whom I became connected, I am reminded once again of Peshkin's (1992, p.720) contention that "qualitative researchers . . . are so palpably present that they cannot delude themselves that who they are w i l l not make a difference i n the outcome of their study." Before I entered the f i e l d , I considered when and how my "Subjective-I's" (Peshkin, 1988a, p.18) might emerge. I considered my own high school graduation and those of my three children; my forthcoming graduation and resulting t r a n s i t i o n from graduate school to another stage on my l i f e journey; my years as a teacher; and my l i f e - l o n g career as a mother and, i n recent years, grandmother and thought about how those various roles might affect my research. I was aware that my "Subjective-I" was moulded from my experiences as a mother and teacher of young children, from my own experiences as a female student i n male-dominated institutions, and from my s p i r i t u a l b e l i e f s . And while Peshkin (1988c, p. 278) was correct that my subjectivity narrowed what I saw and shaped what I made of what I saw, I believe that my subjectivity "can be seen as virtuous" (Peshkin, 1988a) given the purpose of this study — to explore how students experience this 'in-between' time of their l i v e s . Before I began working with the students, I realized there might be times when, i n conversation, I would be swept back to 248 my own seventeen-year-old uncertainty or the angst (that translated into often, at the time, seemingly unreasonable behaviour) of my three children as they experienced the l i m i n a l i t y of grade twelve and I t r i e d to prepare for those times. However, I must admit that there were times i n the discussion group or i n the interviews that I had to remind myself that, as much as the students' stories seemed the same as my own, our experiences were separated by several decades — decades that changed the context and, therefore, the experiences considerably since the challenges the students at Eagle S p i r i t faced were very different from my own.1 How did this connection affect my research? I believe that, although my experiences were not theirs, the fact that their stories triggered memories of my own seventeen-year-old uncertain and changing identit y allowed me to hear their voices with greater c l a r i t y than i f I had heard them as a dispassionate researcher. To paraphrase an e a r l i e r quote (Peshkin, 1988c, p.280), I have t o l d the stories I was moved to t e l l . Another component of my "Subjective-I" that I believe had a "virtuous" effect on this study had to do with my experiences as a mother and elementary school teacher. As a result of those experiences, i t never occurred to me not to bring muffins or pizza to the discussion group sessions after I noticed that 1 I was reminded of Ken Dryden's (1995, p.7) comments that, when doing his research i n a high school, he " f e l t l i k e a stu-dent. Older, but not the three times older [he] was. [He] f e l t enough l i k e them that i t never occurred to [him] that they wouldn't see [him] as [he] saw [him]self." 249 several students were going without lunch because they had l e f t home i n a rush i n the morning and did not have money to buy something from the cafeteria. F i r s t and foremost, I cared about whether or not the students were 'alright' — just as I had done with my own children and young students i n the elementary class-room. As a result, we ate together, laughed together, and some-times cried together. In retrospect, I believe that this created a bond between me and the students that resulted i n a r e l a t i o n -ship based on trust allowing them the freedom to speak openly. A second aspect of this study I have reflected upon has to do with my use of Turner's (1967) notion of l i m i n a l i t y . I re-considered the usefulness of a notion of t r a n s i t i o n borne out of examination of t r a d i t i o n a l r i t e s of passage. Was such a notion a useful heu r i s t i c for me? In i t s o r i g i n a l form, probably not. But l i k e most heuristics, while the core of the idea remained, this one f e l l away as a new, more contemporary, v i s i o n evolved. As a result of this study, I believe that students graduating from secondary school do pass through a period of l i m i n a l i t y , a time of confusion and uncertain i d e n t i t i e s as did the liminaries i n Turner's work. On the other hand, Turner also stated that i n i t i -ation r i t e s exemplify transition since they have well marked and protracted liminal phases (1967, p.95). However, i n the context of the end of the twentieth century, the liminal period i s , perhaps, less easy to define since, for some students i t begins e a r l i e r than for others. As well, for some students, the liminal time extends beyond graduation well into the f i r s t year of 250 l i v i n g i n the adult world. In this respect, Bridges' (1980) work, which was based on Turner's work and which explored how adults experience the various transitions i n their l i v e s was, perhaps, more useful. While Turner's notion of sacra i s s t i l l useful when explor-ing the liminal experiences of grade twelve students, i t , too, has evolved into a 'version' that i s more appropriate for 1990-2000. For Turner, sacra were those things that were shown to liminaries to prepare them for l i f e i n the adult world. Since we l i v e i n a less closed society than did those i n Turner's early studies, my notion of sacra i s also less r e s t r i c t e d and far broader i n scope. For the students i n this study, often the things that were shown to them from which they garnered a view of the adult world were i n the form of hidden messages or unintentional meanings. For example, the intentions of many adults with whom the students interacted were l i k e l y far different from the meanings students took from them. As well, sacra are less easily defined. How can we know which of the thousands of messages young people receive about the adult world through movies, television, newspapers, the internet, r e t a i l outlets, music, professional sports, etc., are the ones which they w i l l take i n to prepare themselves for l i f e i n the adult world? Are they a l l sacral While we cannot know that, i t i s l i k e l y that those messages are stronger than many of the ones adults believe they are passing on i n such places as the classroom, the school, newsletter, or the principal's 251 commencement address. As well, i n our global society, sacra are no longer situation s p e c i f i c . That i s , messages from the larger community may have more influence than many of those we pass on within our own community. A l l this i s to say that, while Turner's notion of sacra, i n i t s o r i g i n a l form, may not be appropriate for the beginning of the twenty-first century, i t i s s t i l l a useful heuristic when considering the many messages we pass on to young people as a way of preparing them for l i f e i n the adult world. Finally, on reading this study some might find fault with the fact that, at times, i t seems c r i t i c a l of many of the adults i n the l i v e s of these students. In response, I would l i k e to point out that this study was meant to re-present the voices of the students as they talked about this time i n their l i v e s . I have t r i e d to t e l l their stories i n a way that honoured their experiences. To soften their c r i t i c i s m , to f i l t e r i t through an adult mind-set, to point out the "error" of t h e i r thinking, would have made their stories someone else's, not t h e i r s . And so, as I r e f l e c t on this time i n my l i f e and the l i v e s of these students, I am l e f t with regrets that I did not hear more of their stories but a feeling of s a t i s f a c t i o n that I have t r i e d to honour their experiences. I think about a l l the voices I did hear at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary School. I think about Sean, sensitive, more than a l i t t l e lost, who did not f i t the mould for what society considers a "successful student." I think about Sophie who could not bring herself to go to school for more than 252 two days i n a row and who, as a result, was dismissed for not being serious about school. And Rod, trying to clean up his act so that he did not end up i n j a i l . And Glynis, unable to focus on school because she was parenting an emotionally i l l mother instead of being parented. And Patrick and Matt and Jeff and so many others. Most of those I think about were not the "stars" of the school and the pressure f e l t by many of them was a kind of violence i n i t s e l f . The students who stayed i n my mind were not the students who were paraded out at commencement to show the world what a good job our school system i s doing, although certainly many of those are s t i l l my friends. Instead, the students who have stayed with me are the students who were trying desperately to find a place, to be recognized. These were the students for whom "the slushy time" seemed to be a lonely time. I am reminded of a children's story my aunt, Josie Beall, used to t e l l i n which the last l i n e was "that's a l l any of us ever wants: to be seen, to be known, and to be loved." And as I think about the students of the Graduating Class of 1998 at Eagle S p i r i t Secondary and write the la s t words to this study, I wonder what the words to the story say about the experience of being i n grade 12. 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Tales of the field: On writing ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London, Ontario: Althouse Press. "When i s a grad not a grad?" The Chilliwack Progress, June 8, 1999, p. A4. Wyn, J. & White, R. (1997) . Rethinking Youth. London: Sage Publications. 260 APPENDICES 261 4. What are your thoughts about the graduation a c t i v i t i e s ? 5. As you reach the end of grade 12, do you f e e l as i f you are crossing a threshold i n your l i f e ? Why or why not? 6. In what ways has your schooling prepared you for the next phase i n your l i f e ? 7. How might the school system better prepare secondary students for leaving school? 8. What concerns do you have about next year? 9. Other information you think might be useful to the study. Thank you for your help. 267 

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