Let’s talk across blogs today. Marc Aronson has posted an insightful look at Open House and visiting a classroom through the eyes of a parent, nonfiction author, and champion of boys. Take a minute to go read it and then come back here because I want to discuss frustration.
Our boys DO have feelings and these need to be recognized and respected. I have seen boys so angry about abuse they witness at home that they carry this frustration into the classroom to protest ALL injustices. They are looking for solutions and ways to deal with their emotions. You have heard about the stage when boys want to step up and "protect" others. The middle and high school ages are strong training grounds, but we don’t discuss this area anymore. Are we providing the tools to help boys cope? Are we helping them learn "realistic" techniques?
All of our students are learning what is right, what is wrong, and what could be either. They are learning what should be tolerated and what should be fixed. They are learning the "appropriate" responses to issues like bullying, abuse, violence, and protection. Yet, they witness in their homelives adults and children who aren’t coping like the textbook responses. The frustration builds because they see a problem – mom keeps taking abuse from dad – and they have been told the easy solutions – mom should get help, kick dad out, call the cops, etc.
We don’t provide emotional training grounds for teens to deal with their emotions when the world doesn’t act the way they are being trained it should. The frustration builds. The students rebel. They walk around with their emotions screaming out of them. They demand solutions. They need "someone" to swoop in and solve the problems. When this doesn’t happen, more frustration boils.
We need counselors to come on these blogs and give us more concrete ideas how we can help these teens. We need outlets for expression. We need activities that we can do during advisory periods when we can actually help students grow emotionally. We need lists of books to share with all of the students on these topics. Whoops! I guess that’s where I can get to work. There are several new books with abuse at the core. I’ll be dashing into school and grabbing those to chat about this week because I don’t want this discussion to be a one-time blurb.
My "L" story (to be continued the next 3 years)
I have several students who have "reputations." Fortunately the students know I am hearing impaired so they act as if I have never heard these rumors. (I do try to tune them out) The first day of school I met a sister who informed me that she was the good child and that her twin brother L was the demon of the family. When I met L in the next classroom, I made sure my responses to him were positive and I discovered he has a great wit. Throughout this month, I have asked L for help, expressed appreciation for his positive attitude, and taken the time to find out what he is interested in so I can locate things he is interested in.
L is such a treasure to me and a wonderful spokesperson for the library. I know my efforts are worth it because he brought in another student yesterday who needed to get out of the hallway and calm down before some teenage girls created more havoc. The girls seem to like to "egg on" the boys and see just how far they can push them. L asked me, "Didn’t you have a catalog you needed him to look at for ideas?"
Five minutes later they leave with a job, an excuse note, a great attitude, and a catalog to help me choose titles for our new graphic novel section. I don’t feel guilty about the lost instruction. The classroom teacher would have spent those 5 minutes taking role and dealing with an emotional meltdown if this student had walked in as he was. Instead we were able to provide peace, a little reinforcement on dealing with difficult girls, and a challenge that is real. I truly am gathering opinions from students and had "real" work to focus upon.
What I need is guidance counselors out in the hallways and visible during transitions. Kids need to see them not just as the schedulers but also as the people who have quick ideas for handling situations, and as the people who care about them.
Who are you reaching out to this year? Who drives you batty the most? Why? What emotions is this student dealing with that are so overwhelming the child can’t act "human" in middle school? Who do you react negatively to and how can YOU change your own reaction? Can you do something positive and let your grudges go? Don’t make statements to me about this child always blah blah blah. Give the child room to change and then come talk to me. Find frustration outlets. Provide solace. Provide a space to "get it together again." Provide help areas where students can browse and no one knows what they are reading. Put those pamphlets on abuse around tables and magazine areas so students can glance through without looking like they are reading them.
What other suggestions do you have? I’m open to them all. Tell me.