The Notable Nine-Year-Old
Nine is not always an easy age, but it is an age of growing social awareness, of intellectual stretching, wondering, and clamoring. These are the “ing” kids: the kids who are doing, questioning, doubting, arguing . . . sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it, with no clear goals for their actions always readily apparent. There is a deep inner stirring in nine-year-olds as they become profoundly aware of the intricacies and subtleties of the world around them.
Nines need teachers to bring a good sense of humor and a determined lightness to the children’s introspection and challenges. Hyperbole abounds in nine-year-olds. You’ll hear “This is so boring!” (translation: “This is hard!”) and “I can’t believe we have to do this!” (translation: “I don’t get this”).
“Fairness” begins to become a constant issue toward the end of fourth grade and continues into the beginning of fifth grade (check out the children’s book Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements). Teachers: Do not take this personally; the children own this territory! These cognitive challenges are more than mere posturing by nines. They’re signs of a remarkable developing resilience and intellectual curiosity, signs of maturing moral character and independent thought, signs of nines’ industriousness and impatience with the ways adults have made the world they begin to see that they will have the power and responsibility to change.
Nine is an age of learning a lot. Each child’s individual personality and way of presenting himself or herself to peers and adults stands out in clear relief at this age of reflection and beginning awareness of what adulthood has in store. As children enter the preadolescent years and become full-fledged “tweens,” they especially need patient listening and understanding from the adult models in their lives.