"Nobody listens to me." If I had a dollar for the number of times I've heard kids say that as they sat in my office for a discipline referral. Kids need adults to talk with. Adults who will listen to them without passing judgement. Adults who show they care by just being there. Parents, grandparents, older siblings, and extended family often fulfill that role in the lives of children. But, for many kids today, there is no adult actively taking time to just listen and interact with them. They are not given opportunity to tell their own stories. In many cases, these children show this lack of positive attention by acting out in school. Negative attention may appear better than no attention at all.
Earlier this year, I had a student who was coming to my office on a regular basis. Three times a week was not uncommon. I decided to try an experiment. I started meeting with this child for a few minutes a day twice a week. We just walk through the hall and talk. There is no agenda outside of spending a few minutes in conversation. Since we started this routine, I have seen him in my office no more than twice and that was several months back. Obviously, these meetings are not the only thing that has had an impact. He has also developed some other positive relationships, but it is a piece in the puzzle of his behavior change.
So, now I am finding the need to expand this opportunity. A number of other children, mainly boys, have started acting out and getting in trouble in class on a regular basis. As I looked at their records, I see a trend. Single parent family with Mom as the head. Little supervision for several hours at home due to parent(s) working late. Few significant adults, especially men, spending time with them. In a recent post, I wrote about an encounter with a former student who challenged me to find a way to reach out to boys who were struggling. I've taken this to heart.
Already, I've identified three boys who I plan to start meeting with in a similar manner. As with the student mentioned above, this will start with spending a few minutes each week just talking and listening. No getting on to them about behavior.. No bringing up problems unless they start that conversation. After that relationship is built, then we may get into deeper matters, but for now, the goal is to be a listening ear.
Will this work for each of these as it has with the first child? Hard to say. However, it is a start and if it helps them be successful, the effort and the time will have been well spent.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and other ways that have worked to help struggling students be successful.