One of our services at The Acadami includes counseling teens, specifically LGBTQ teens. Throughout the years of serving youth and working with teens in many settings, a few things that our lead counselor Ami does has stood out. We want to share them with you, in hopes that you too, can connect with your students a bit more.
First, Ami shakes the hand and greets every student - every day. She will not start class until everyone has shaken her hand and locked eyes with her for a brief moment. This helps the students feel truly SEEN and acknowledged, appreciated and not just another face wondering around the world. It may seem small but it makes a great difference! Some teachers/counselors even make special hand shakes or dances - Miss Ami just sticks with a classic hand shake and "Hi, thanks for being here!" (We know they have to be there in most cases but we need to still show gratitude, they could have ditched and they didn't. That good behavior, a positive choice should be acknowledged and applauded. This sets a very good tone for the group/class/relationship.
Each student is given a journal, whether they use it or not is up to them. They are also given the option to leave it with Miss Ami under complete confidence that she will never read it or share it with anyone - including their parents! They are instructed that they can draw, write, whatever they want just to make sure nothing that is school inappropriate is drawn or written on the outside. They should keep this safe and protected. It is not to be shared with their friends.
Then, they make an "I love me" card. If you have a wall available to put them up, you can do I love me posters but if you are "guesting" at a school the index cards work well also.
The cards should be designed to have the words, "I love me because" on the front and the left blank. They can draw, color - we always use lots of markers & stickers and encourage creativity.
If you do posters, it would be just a sheet of computer paper, you make 1 sign that says the, "I love me because" and you hang it on a big blank wall. Then for their posters, they simply finish the sentence. This is done each day.
If you are using the cards, they write one reason why they love themselves on the back each day. They have to bring that card with them to each session.
The only instruction otherwise is that it must be positive, it must be school appropriate and if they just really can't think of anything that day they can "phone a friend," so the others in the group can help them.
Before the end of class, Miss Ami again, shakes everyone's hand, tell her their I Love Me, and she lets them pick a positivity card. Some cards she hands out include quote cards you can find at Target and the Notes from the Universe from tut.com are a big hit!
In the room (on the table/accessible) ALWAYS: extra journals, pens/pencils, "fidget things" (Playdoh, slinkies, fidget cubes, etc...); positivity cards they can take with them on the table; pads of paper; markers & stickers; thank you cards.
Optional: thank you cards are put out and it is encouraged for the students to take one each week to give to someone in their life that they are grateful for and appreciate. This teaches them to express gratitude and appreciation as well. Sometimes, young people can get very good at how to express pain, sadness, or "negative" emotions and don't get to practice expressing gratitude enough.
We hope some of these tips can help you with your class/students as well.
Parents, this could be great for you at home as well!
For more tips or if you have any questions, subscribe to our blog/website updates and/or contact Ami directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org