Guide to High School

Unit 2 - Influences
Inside the Teenage Brain:
Teenagers all over the world, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or religion, experience similar mood swings and periods of rebellion. Is this merely a coincidence? Or is there a scientific explanation? As a teenager, our brains go through massive amounts of remodeling and rewiring. The brain is flexible, and consistently modifies itself to best suit our needs. Unused parts of our brains are "pruned" off, so as they say, if you don't use it, you lose it. With so much change going on, it's easy to see why teenagers are viewed as emotionally unstable. Hormones are coursing through our veins, affecting everything from balance to judgment. Decisions must be taken under careful consideration because emotions are going up and down, and risk-taking is out of sync with proper judgment.
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Learning Styles:
Most people have taken a test at one time or another to figure out their learning style. The three simplest and most widely known are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. There are many tips and much advice for each of these three styles, all suited to make learning easier. Visual learners are recommended to use flashcards, use highlighters, take notes, and use charts or graphs whenever possible. On the contrary, it is suggested that auditory learners read aloud, record lectures, and participate in group discussions. Kinesthetic learners can benefit from exercising while studying, doodling or chewing gum in class, taking frequent breaks, and studying in groups. Knowing your learning style is helpful so that changes can be made to adjust to your habits and needs. No matter what your learning style, you can make full and efficient use of your time and energy.
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Unit 3 - Individuality
Gender Issues:
Stereotypes about females and males alike exist everywhere. Unfortunately, they are taken into account much too often. Everyone has heard before that the guy has to be the strong leader; the girl is sweet and obedient. Guys can't wear pink, show pain, or be sensitive. Likewise, girls can't play sports, be the leader, or defy authorities. These limiting characteristics have been in place for centuries. There have been many strong women to denounce stereotypes about females, and progress is slow and steady. Men, in a way, are more boxed in than women because they are shunned as outcasts or wimps by other men when they attempt to break out of the shell.
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Media Influences:
A huge contributor to the problem of gender stereotypes is the image the media projects. Aware of it or not, we are consistently affected by the things we constantly see and hear around us. Advertisements often use women in suggestive poses and outfits to sell completely unrelated products, like wine, jeans, or cigarettes. The fact of the matter is: sex sells. Companies know this, and use it to their advantage. Meanwhile, the population now has constant reminders and signs reinforcing the idea that women are nothing but objects.
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Unit 4 - Health
Believe it or not, stress is healthy and natural. There gets to be a point, however, when it builds up to too much. People respond in different ways to stress, and having a controlled and healthy reaction is important to keeping a balance. Too much stress can affect your immune system, getting sleep, emotions, and nerves. One problem that some people have is overreacting to a small amount of stress. Your body does not understand the difference between real or imaginary stress. The physical reaction is the same. For example, if you wake up from a dream in which you were being chased by a monster, you will be sweating, and your heart will be pounding, as thought the dream had been real.
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The importance of sleep is constantly stressed to teenagers. Experts say teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night, consistently. A key word in that sentence? Consistently. When students sleep 6 hours on weekdays and attempt to make it up by sleeping 12 hours on weekends, a sleep debt is acquired that cannot be "paid off." It is important that students develop a routine they can follow every night, including weekends. For example, reading for 15 minutes every night before bed will turn into a method your body connects with de-stressing and falling asleep. Following the same pattern is healthier for our bodies, and makes it easier to fall asleep each night.
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Unit 5 - Substance Abuse
When people start using drugs, the thought they have in mind most likely is NOT, "I'm going to become addicted/an alcoholic." They may read stories about other people being addicted and unable to stop, but almost everyone thinks, "But that won't happen to me." An alarmingly high percentage of users are in denial about being dependent on drugs; most believe they could stop whenever they wished to. These people don't realize that the longer they keep on using the drug, the less control they have on their own drug use. Eventually, the user may acknowledge his addiction, but by then can't find the strength to quit. Motivation to stop is sometimes canceled out by mixed feelings of the user; they hate and love the drug at the same time.
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Short-term and Long-term Effects:
In the short-term, users of drugs experience a wide range of body effects from blurred vision and loss of balance to headaches or nausea. Bodily processes are slowed down or sped up, and hormones in the body are altered, often affecting rational thinking and judgment. Physical appearance can also be changed; teeth are yellowed, eyes are dilated or sleepy, acne is severe. As bad as the short-term effects may be, the long-term ones are even scarier. Users are put at risk for heart diseases, stroke, lung cancer, liver problems, and more. Memory loss is sometimes evident, and the workings of the brain can be forever altered. Many drugs kill neurons in the brain, cells that are never reproduced. Permanent damage like this can not be fixed.
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Unit 6 - Sexuality
One in four sexually active teens will get an STD. This is a scary statistic to look at. We often don't realize that STDs are so common because we usually can't see it when other people have an STD. Half the time, that person may not even know they have it because the symptoms do not show up. Going too long without treatment can result in infertility, rendering that person incapable of reproducing.
There are four ways to get HIV: getting a blood transfusion, having unprotected sex, sharing needles, and passing from mother to child. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is the virus that leads to AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This virus attacks the body's T cells, weakening the body's immune system and making it vulnerable to any disease. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, which usually starts 10-12 years after the initial HIV infection. The disease is incurable, although treatment is available.
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Teen Pregnancy:
Every year, one million teenagers in the U.S. become pregnant. The rates have gone up for the first time in decades, and the truth is alarming and worrying. In 10 pregnancies, 6 will result in live childbirth, 3 will result in abortion, and 1 ends in miscarriage. There are many teenagers having children, making a minumum of an 18-year commitment to their child, sometimes before they even reach the age of 18 themselves. It is far too early to be having and raising children, and the impact it has on your future and goals just isn't worth it.
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Other Advice
Make a Plan:
Keep realistic goals in mind, and try your hardest to reach them. Set a plan, and follow through with it. When you know exactly what you plan on doing, peer pressure and complications are less likely to influence you and alter your course. Meet with your counselor, and get to know him/her. Talk to your teachers when you need help, and keep your parents involved in how you're doing.

Explore Your Options:
When you're in high school, you don't necesarily know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. Use the opportunity to get to know yourself better, and join clubs and groups you might have an interest in. Don't always do what your friends are doing; you may miss out on something worthwhile. You never know if you'll discover a hidden talent or passion, and the experience of knowing yourself better is priceless.