Thursday, December 1, 2011

Students Helping Students

Our Boys Group has a great mix of students this year.  Some boys in the group are shy and introverted, while the rest are outgoing and very confident. Participants in the Boys and Girls groups get very close and the students work hard to support each other.  They learn important life skills from one another such as public speaking, confidence, when to speak and when not to interrupt others. Since the Boys Group is all boys, the group also provides a safe space to discuss issues that only they as boys may face in school, at home and in the community.

One of my fourth grade students, Adam, is particularly struggling because he feels conflicted culturally.  His home life is extremely challenging.  He lives with his mother and siblings, but his father has two wives and has chosen to live with the other wife rather than his mother.  While his father is not around all the time, he still makes a point in enforce his rigid culture.  The father is seen as the dominant head of the household, while the mother and children are expected to be submissive and not express their emotions.  For Adam, it’s like having to be two people at once.  He is expected conform to his culture at home, limiting his emotions and actions, but in school he has much more freedom and is encouraged to be more confident and participatory.  As a result, he bottles up all his repressed emotions from his home life and acts out in class by talking out of turn, being disruptive in class and bullying other students.

He was placed in the Boys Group because we felt being surrounded by other male students might impact his behavior in a positive way.  As he embraces his culture at school and how students are “supposed to” act, he will understand the extent and consequences of his actions and be influenced to change.

Next week we’ll be talking about cultural differences and I see this as a way to discuss Adam’s challenges in the group without singling him out.  Other students might have similar struggles and by discussing the issues as a group it reinforces positive change and brings the group closer together.