The Anneliese Odyssey

Honoring the Developing Adolescent 

“The overarching goal of adolescence is to enable children to develop independent thought and independent action. In order to accomplish this goal, adolescents need to complete four major tasks. These tasks are (1) individuation, (2) separation, (3) autonomy, and (4) cooperation.” Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, Author and Internationally Renowned Psychotherapist 

Adolescence is a tender and sometimes tumultuous time, when children transition to a new stage of life marked by growing independence, and a desire to find their place in the world around them. Through experience and experimentation, adolescents are immersed in the important process of developing and defining their unique identity and personal values. As they seek to have more control over their lives, they need to be supported to make independent decisions that reflect their own preferences, even if it means making mistakes.  

Central questions include: Who am I? Where do I belong? What makes me unique? Am I valued? How can I express who I am? 

The process of exploring these questions happens to a great degree through interactions with peers and the immediate community. Because of this, the educational environment is one of the most powerful tools shaping the adolescent’s emerging sense of self.  

Both parents and educators want to see children navigate this transition with joy, purpose, self-confidence, and a sense of belonging. 

Unfortunately, many educational settings view the adolescent’s task as the acquisition of academic skills oriented towards future performance. This can leave students feeling overwhelmed and adrift, lacking a sense of purpose. 

In a radical departure from this, we designed TAO Middle School to honor the many dimensions of this stage in life. TAO is an educational experience where students can explore their own voice, curiosity, and passions, and experiment with independent choice and self-directed exploration, in the context of a supportive community. TAO empowers adolescents by fostering both independence and interconnection. We strive to nurture both healthy autonomy and an experience of belonging.