As soon as the 2019-20 school year began, a high school English teacher was very impressed with the maturity exhibited by one of the female students in her class. The student was poised, comfortable in her interactions with other students, and articulate. But when the student turned in her first paper, the teacher was surprised because the student didn’t write or structure her paper well. How could that be, when she seemed so mature?

In another classroom, a different teacher was impressed by how mature one young man appeared to be. While other students were fooling around at the start of class, he was already sitting in his seat, ready to begin. And the teacher thought she observed him smirking a little at the antics of his less mature classmates. So the teacher was very surprised when the student turned in an assignment with passages that had been plagiarized from an online source.

Outer Signs of Maturity Can Be Misleading

If you have been a teacher for long, you have doubtless encountered situations like those, in which seemingly mature students surprised and maybe even disappointed you as you observed them in a number of different contexts.

Here are some considerations about maturity to keep in mind:

  • A student who exhibits maturity in one situation can still be immature in others. For example, a student who is grown-up enough to apologize after treating another student unfairly might not be mature enough to take criticism. Maturity tends to be compartmentalized.
  • Maturity, skill and aptitude are not the same. For example, a student who seems emotionally mature might still find it difficult to master mathematical concepts, write well, or absorb information that he or she has read.
  • Emotional maturity can vary in different social contexts. A young man who is very poised when dealing with other male students might become flustered when put in a study group that contains female students, for example. Or a student who seems to be mature might still engage in risky behaviors when with a group of other students.
  • Students mature on different timelines, so different levels of maturity are apt to coexist side by side within your classroom. Again, this does not mean that some students are more intelligent than others, only that they are maturing in different areas at different times.

The concepts presented in this article are adapted from sources that include The Center for Parenting Education,, and the Association for Psychological Science.

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