Last year we got a call from the principal of one of the schools where we work.
“The ninth graders are out of control, she said. There’s a big group of girls who just don’t show up half the time. The other students feel that because they’re in class and those girls aren’t, they don’t have to do anything, and they act up and disrupt the class. All our energy goes on breaking up arguments. Last week a girl threw a heavy book at another student right in front of the teacher. My staff don’t want to teach them any more."
Kav L’Noar opened up a social and emotional learning group for some of the 9th graders, including those who regularly skipped classes. When the therapist asked how they would describe their school, she was deluged by complaints.
“No one cares about us here, said Adele. I don’t even think my teachers know my name. Why should I come?”
Talya said that her parents had told the school that she’s dyslexic and the school hadn’t done enough to help.
“I’m not interested in sitting in a class and having no idea what’s going on. They move too fast and I lose my place. I’m better off using the google voice search on my phone, and then I don’t have to read.”
Oriya admitted that she had friends who were spiralling out of control.
“But no one is watching them”, she said, “so they fall through the cracks.”
The therapist realized that there was a massive gap between the perceptions of the staff and the students. In order to have any hope of resolving some of the issues, they needed to be able to communicate and understand each other. She led an eye-opening mediation effort between the two sides, where both staff and students were both given the time, space and respect to share their perspectives. Many participants were surprised by what they heard.
In the group sessions, the therapist helped the girls explore how they could continue to take more responsibility for their own learning and to feel more comfortable in school. In parallel, the school made an effort to accommodate all the students’ needs, even those who avoided attention.
At the end of the school year, the principal said that while there was still work to be done, the staff had noticed a significant improvement, not just in the girls who had been part of the group, but across the 9th grade.