An entire book could be written on this… and we’re writing it! It’s due out in October, 2013 – Reach Before You Teach: Ignite passion and purpose in your classroom (Corwin Press) – but until then (when you rush to your computers and order it hot off the press), here are a few words to the wise…
Resistances to learning happen in all classrooms: not just in yours and not just with YSS. However, the content of YSS can make it more prone to resistances from certain groups of individuals (i.e. see first post on gender differences). In all cases, resistances to learning – forgetting to do homework, spacing out in class, being disruptive – happen for a reason and that reason is almost always rooted in fear. Fear that a student will be exposed in not understanding the material, fear in facing material that is too emotional for her, fear in engaging with other classmates and that they will “see the real me.” (By the way, a strong sense of self is the best defense against fear.) Resistances are not personal to you: they are personal to the student. Happening in your classroom, they may feel like a personal attack, but they are not. They are a defense of the student trying to protect himself from something.
With this in mind, your approach to resistances are more likely to be successful when you either “come along side” the resistant student or join forces with a group resistance. “Coming along side” a student means walking beside a student and trying to help him resolve the resistance as opposed to confronting her head on and telling her she needs to change. Think of it this way, would you be more likely to change when someone demands it of you or when someone takes a walk with you, listens and helps you come up with options to the situation? Of course, we know you don’t have the time to go on a walk everyday with each or your students… it’s just a metaphor! But we can look for options that don’t feel like a punishment (did you read the above post?), but feel like help.
For instance, for the child that keeps finding ways to interrupt the class (coming in late, making inappropriate jokes, being noticeably disinterested to other students), take some time to find out what is happening in her life first. Just listen. For the first few times, you may start a discussion without any further purpose. After she feels heard in this way, you may then choose to address her disruptive behavior by saying something like, “You seem to be having a difficult time concentrating on this class… I take it the material is not for you?” This may be validating for her. Providing a safe place is the first step. You may also choose not to address her behavior but to simply connect with her by asking her to help you with the class in some way. “Sara, I have been having a hard time keeping the go-around list accurate. Do you think you could help me keep track next class?” Pull her in with a task that lend towards engagement (but doesn’t put her on the hot seat!).
Additionally, look to praise positive engagement by communicating it not just to the student, but to his parents as well. All too often, parents only receive a call or note home when negative behavior needs parental intervention. When we communicate positive interactions and efforts to parents, we let them know that we see the unique child they have entrusted in our care. Most likely, positive communications to the parents will be transmitted to the student and his resistances may lessen as a result.
A group resistance refers to when you have a small group of individuals in your class, or even your entire class, that just don’t seem to want to engage. With a small group, it may be appropriate to address them privately or with the entire class. In both cases, your approach is one of joining: “i can see that this class is not grabbing you. i hate it when I have to sit through things that bore me. What do you think we can do to make it better?” In small group resistances, likewise, allowing them to understand the consequences of their behavior on other people is essential, “What do you think it’s like for Jocelynn when you don’t participate in her presentation?” Or, “Is the class richer with or without your opinions?” This is a particularly useful approach when dealing with the more “popular” teens who deem themselves “just too cool” to participate. What positive effect could their popularity have on the class? Recognize the power they have. Let them know that you see them and the status they have.
Alternatively, “bridging” may help as well. Bridging is when you ask one student how others may be making the class feel. For instance, “Peter, how do you think Rhonda feels when Eric and Melissa are talking during her presentation?” What makes bridging so clever is that many people are asked to empathize (Peter, Eric, Melissa and vicariously, the rest of the class) while maintaining the integrity of the group and not putting the resistors on the hot seat.
For some group resistances, especially those that seem to be more large scale, address the issue in class. Give it voice. “It seems to me that we are struggling to find our way with this material. Does anyone else feel that way?” Let them express that they are having trouble making the class work for them… self expression is the whole point! Let them know that even the disconnection they may feel is okay – that all feelings are safely voiced in your setting. Once everyone is aware of the issue, let them discuss how the disconnection feels. When teens lament that they are being forced to do something they don’t really want to do, reflect upon the other times in life when they will be called to do the same (Does a soldier really wish to go to war? Does their mom want to work day after day? Does their father ever get tired of mowing the lawn?). How will they handle it then? How will they handle it now?
If they are truly angry and unruly, have them write to us! Allow them to vent directly to the people who have created the “horrible, waste-of-my-time” experience. Use us as the scapegoats and allow the nonparticipating student(s) to express their anger directly to us. This will release some of their emotion in a safe way, redirect their angst away from you and open space for dialogue and connection with you.
Most likely, given the nature of the YSS material, you may have moments that are particularly emotionally charged: sadness, self-loathing, hatred, frustration, anger… these are among the many emotions that may leave your classroom feeling like a hurricane has hit. Rest assured, strong emotional displays – even the negative ones – are actually very positive occurrences as long as they are managed properly. This last part is key. We want teens to feel safe enough in your setting to express their emotions, including the ones that are often “difficult” for others to handle (such as despair) or “ugly” (such as disgust). When they are able to express emotions without judgment and disdain, they are on the right path to managing, accepting and dealing with them.
However, on the rare chance that a student erupts (has lost control of her emotions and can’t manage them, endangering others) then you need to have a plan because your responsibility is to keep the classroom safe. Think ahead about what you would do in such an unlikely incident. For instance, you might quietly bring the raging student to the counselor’s office if necessary. When you return, expect concerned faces and be prepared to bring everyone back to a feeling of safety.
How then do you handle tough emotions in your classroom? What will you do when Nigel tells everyone to “Piss off!” or Jenna bursts into tears saying, “I hate myself!”? As the facilitator, your number one focus is to be a role model. Don’t let their emotions frazzle you, unhinge you, or make you want to pack up the class and leave. if you send signals that you can’t handle the emotions in the classroom, your students will pick up on those signals and it will make the room feel unsafe and reinforce their beliefs that they can’t handle those emotions either. They can. So, stay calm, stay supportive, and stay connected. Empathize and reach for the tissue box when needed. Allow your students to sit with the sadness and to feel it. It sends the underlying message, “It’s okay to be sad. We can handle and get through sadness.” Validate and breathe deeply when appropriate. It sends the underlying message, “We hear you are angry. You can be angry. We are still here when you are angry.” Of course, we are not suggesting that you allow Nigel to become violent but he need not be reprimanded for voicing his very strong frustrations. What you might do is ask another student how Nigel’s vehemence feels to her and this way Nigel will see how his emotions (perhaps a lack of control of them) is affecting other people. Allow students to reflect upon those experiences of strong emotions, either during that session, or during the next session when a “debriefing” might be in order. “Last week, Velin shared with us how guilty he felt when his mother died. I know that was hard for him to share. How did you feel? Would anyone like to share their experience?” Don’t be surprised when you hear, “I thought Velin was really brave to share that with us,” or, “I thought about how guilty I feel when I’ve done something wrong. It really made me understand what Velin is going through.”
Strong emotions have the power to build the connections in your classroom more solidly than almost anything else. Recognize them as opportunities to learning: about your students and about your self. And keep in mind that if those emotions are not allowed to be expressed now, they build over time. Over time, with no skills as to how to manage them, who knows how they will eventually erupt.
Understanding the website: your treasure chest.
The teen portion of this website is pretty much today’s equivalent of a treasure chest. But, you have to open the chest to see what gems are inside to fully appreciate just how rich the YSS program is!! Hence, we’ve set up a small treasure hunt so that you become more intimately aware of what resources are at your disposal while facilitating YSS. Knowing what jewels await you will allow you to make the most out of the site and help you run the program to best suit your students’ needs.
The following seven posts describe the basic layout of the website and some key features of the teen site that will help you to effectively incorporate it into your program. The posts are titled with a question, the answer to which is found somewhere on the teen site. The images in the posts will direct you to your answer and, most importantly, demonstrate the website features discussed in the post. By the end of your four post “treasure hunt” we hope that you will have a firm understanding of how to navigate the site as well as how to use its more interactive features. Your mission (if you choose to accept it), is to find those images in the posts and answer the question provided. This post will self destruct in five seconds… JK.
The YSS website is designed to captivate and inform. We built it with the goal of making navigation simple, the look and feel 100% modern youth culture and the text easy to read.
You have three main pathways to navigate the site: by topic, by activity or by character. If you search by topic, you will land on the teen topics main landing page. There you may enter one of our 6 major topic categories: My Body, My inner World, My Work and School, My Mental Health, My Social World and Drugs & Alcohol. Once in a main topic category, you will find the many subtopics related to that category. For instance, in My Body you will find subtopics such as “Body Image,: “Eating Disorders,” “Nutrition: The Plate,” “Sports Injuries” and “Basic Hygiene” (to name just a few).
Once you have clicked into a subtopic, you will find the first “overview” post on the left hand side, giving you a brief introduction to the sub-topic at hand while on the right hand side you will see all the individual posts, in order, pertaining to the topic. Most sub-post have between 4-9 “posts” detailing important information on the subtopic.
Alas, for your first treasure hunt item allowing you to see this structure, we advise this route to answer the following question posed for this post: How many tips given in “building resilience”?
At the end of every sub-topic post, teens are asked to respond to a question, giving them the opportunity to share their feelings, experiences and viewpoints with other YSS users. In our “Leave a Reply” section, they are asked to fill in their name (which can most certainly be ficticious or a nickname if they would like to remain anonymous) and then to leave their comments to the question pose at the end of the post.
To view this feature, answer the following question by the accompanying the images:
What question do we ask for comment in “why do people bully?”
The “Leave a Reply” feature is meant to engage your students in the material at hand. What do they think about the sub-topic? What have they experienced? What would they do? The “Leave a Reply” questions are are designed to more fully engage the self.
However, often we may have a question for the reader that reaches the student at a deeper more personal level and thus he/she might be less willing to post a public reply. As such, we also have “T4YS” questions at the end of certain posts (along with the public “Leave a Reply” question). T4YS stands for “Think for Your Self” implying both the need to think independently and the need to personally reflect on material to for the self.
Follow this path to find the answer to this T4YS jewel:
What T4YS question do we ask in shift into a new perspective?
As discussed above, each sub-topic category has anywhere from 3 to 9 posts offering information on the subcategory. We have broken the site down into these posts to make sure that the content does not feel overwhelming to the students. As a teacher, you can assign all the posts of a sub-category, or you may choose to read just a few depending on your requirements. However, the posts are written to build on one another so we do suggest reading them in order if possible.
The posts listed are meant to thoroughly cover any given sub-topic. Any quizzes developed on a topic, pull from the material in the main posts. However, sometimes we had additional information that we did not feel was “necessary” to know for a particular sub-topic but that was interesting nonetheless. As such, we created “Bonus YSS” posts. These are always listed at the end of the main sub-topic postings and provide material that will enrich your students’ understanding of a particular idea presented in the main posts. To get a feel for Bonus YSS material follow this trail:
Another way teens may browse the site is by activity. At initial launch, the “polls” activity is the only one that will be operationa. Polls simply ask students for their honest opinion on a wide variety of different topics( all the topics on the site!) When teens post an answer, they will instantaneously be able to see how other teens answered as well. They will soon appear not just in the polls section but in relevant sub-topics on the right hand side beneath the listed posts..
Over the next few months the following activities will be added:
What would you do? – Similar to polls, these questions are posed with the starting point of “what would you do if?” allowing students to imagine themselves in a variety of challenging and sometimes hilarious situations.
Quiz me! – These are super quick, fun quizzes that allow a teen, or teacher, to see if they have retained the information provided in the sub-topic posts.
Whaddaya know? – A different type of quiz where teens post an answer and then receive additional information on the topic at hand. Always informative, always interesting – not your standard quiz, trust us.
Graph me! – A visual wonderland for teens, this YSS exclusive will allow teens to visually see different aspects of themselves : how much time do they spend sleeping, studying, eating playing? How often do they feel sad, angry, perplexed, joyful? Whatever the balance, when teens input their answers, Graph Me! visually displays the results.
Go take a poll to answer this question: Do most teens feel their body is their temple?
(Click on activities and then Polls.)
Finally, you may search the site by character – Harrison, Nicki, Steve, and Taylor – who reappear from the book series. The characters often engage in conversation in the different sub-topics, keeping the tone light and posing questions that teens might be wondering themselves. In each character profile, a few sub-topics are highlighted in which the characters are involved. We update these as we change the featured topics of the month.
Go ahead and find out what Taylor is into these days…..
Click on characters… and then find…..
After that, head onto the last post if you want. It’s where you can contact us anytime!
All about the YSS program
Topics, activities and more...