Example One The Day the Class Went Silent Death of a Classmate

I entered my assigned elementary school. The principal was waiting for me at the door. He rushed me to a second grade class explaining that many pupils in this class had witnessed a class member fall from his apartment window. He added that I should help them. I entered the class. The students silently stared at me. I asked if all the children knew the boy. A few nodded. No one spoke. I acknowledged that a terrible thing had happened and told them that I was sad even though I did not know the boy (being with them in feelings). I then told them that we would work together to help one another (instilling a sense of cohesion). I told the class to join hands and close their eyes (giving them a kinesthetic sense of cohesiveness). I started by taking the hands of the children on either side of me. I made sure that every child was holding hands. Then I closed my eyes. A few minutes later I felt a jolt go through me. I began to feel stronger. I opened my eyes and told the children to do the same. As I looked around, their eyes seemed to have more life in them. There appeared to be less tension in the room. Several said they felt better but an aura of silence was still in the room. I told them that by holding hands we told each other that we were there for each other and that helped us feel stronger. I gave out paper and told them they could write or draw anything they wanted to and that I would collect their work and keep them all together. When they finished, and the papers were collected, I said, "When sad things happen you will know that others are there to help you."

Example Two: Feeling Demeaned

Eight students, in middle school, members of my third period group, came screaming and yelling into my room. I asked, "Kids, what happened?" They continued to scream and yell. Again I asked, "What happened? We cannot have a session if everyone is screaming." They slowly went to their seats mumbling angrily. I gave each of them a chance to talk. One student said the teacher is a rat. They all shook their heads yes. I asked what happened. Pete says he does not have time for breakfast so he buys it on the way to the school bus. He then adds, "The teacher says I make too much noise and will not let me eat it." Another student: "The teacher always says mean things about me." Still another child complains the teacher always criticizes her work but does not explain how to do it. I tell the children that it sounds like the teacher needs a lot of help. The group in unison says "Yeah, yeah." I then ask them how we can help her. Their first reaction is negative. I tell them that if we don't help her she will continue to be mean and unsympathetic. The general reaction is "maybe." 1 ask them is she really so mean or do they have fun making her angry? They respond, "Well, maybe." I ask if they can try some method of making the teacher feel good. The group should let me know if their methods worked or did not work and we will discuss them.

In this session, the group felt assaulted and demeaned. I focused on the person they were angry at. In another session when they were less enraged, I had them consider their behaviors that might create difficulty for the teacher. By giving the members an opportunity to help the teacher and view their own behavior, they were in a position that would enable them to make positive changes without anyone saying, "You must!"

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