Helping students find ways to cope
As City Year AmeriCorps members, we have to fill a variety of roles and play many parts for the students throughout the day. Sometimes we’re tutors, sometimes mentors, sometimes counselors. This flexibility in meeting students’ needs has been a learning curve for me, and it’s something I’m trying to get better at each day. Each student has their own needs, and part of the challenge is figuring out how to best help a student when they’re upset—and when you are able to figure that out, it’s some of the most satisfying work.
There’s a third-grade student of mine who typically doesn’t get too angry, but when she does, she’s very hard to talk down from that place of anger. In the beginning of the year, I tried walking with her around the halls to calm her down talking to her to get her feelings out and coloring with her as a creative outlet. These things would calm her down for a few minutes but were never fully able to help her feel like she could get back to a place of normalcy. Then one day, on a whim, when I had exhausted all other options, on a day she was particularly heated, I offered her a journal. I told her she should write a letter to the person she was mad at. She could write down the angry thoughts she had and get all her feelings out onto the page. Then when she was done, she would rip it up and throw it away.
She was hesitant at first, but then began to write and quickly filled up almost the whole page with angry words. When she was done, she went over to the trash, ripped up the paper into tiny little pieces and threw them away.
She turned back to me and said, “I feel so much better now. I’m ready to go back to class.”
I walked her back to class, and she went the rest of the day without an issue. Now, anytime she’s upset, I just hand her a journal and a pencil, and she writes an angry letter. Her teacher even told me that she does it in class sometimes on her own. I’m so proud of her for finding and utilizing an effective way to calm herself down. I look forward to working with her throughout the year and to helping other students find their coping techniques as well.
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