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Monday, April 24, 2006



Liz, thanks so much for this link. You give me the courage and confidence to proceed with it! I appreciate this so much.


And the problem is, most schools just are not set up for this. Kids don't have any personal space or carved out time in the school day to feel anything (except in EBD classes, where this is part of the therapeutic environment). I struggled with this last year when I had an explosive student in my class, and it was taking huge amounts of time out of his day, my day, my assistant's day, and the rest of the class's day. I think kids resented him more for the disruption of their environment than for the fact that he was angry. It was quite clear to all of us, and him, why he was angry - he felt stupid because of his language and learning problems, which had been inadequately addressed and led to humiliating school failure in his previous placement - but we also found that he manufactured incidents, such as falsely accusing other kids of calling him "fat", as explanations for what was bothering him. (At first we didn't want to believe he was making accusations up, but then he began to accuse kids when there was direct adult observation the entire time, and we knew it couldn't have happened.) He slipped in and out of awareness of what was really going on inside him, and often exploded without provocation. After a while, it became clear than these outbursts of anger were not therapeutic, and that if he was headed off before he got really started, he could have many fewer incidents during the day. In those extremely emotional moments, he got stuck and repeated the same doomsday statements over and over again, and his perception of reality was distorted to the point that he began to think in a paranoid way. As a teacher and not a professional therapist, I felt way out of my league. We handled it as best we could and referred him to someone outside of school. It took a huge toll, though. And of course, this was just one child in my class of 12. There were others who had major emotional issues too.

When you are interacting with kids in a group setting, you have to structure time and space and expression in a certain way, otherwise the group becomes counterproductive. A group setting implies that kids are working on the same things and thus the group has an agenda. But kids are very individual, and so their agenda often runs differently or even countered to the group agenda. I see society encouraging that, but also expecting schools to run as they always have. And that's a problem. You can't have a group without some sort of compromise and commitment on the part of individuals.

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