INDIVIDUAL COMMITMENT TO A GROUP EFFORT
A SCHOOL GROUP MENTORING STORY
On my first day as a mentor for a school mentoring group, I was blown away. Just after walking into the classroom the girls started shouting at me “you’re a psychologist! We know you’re a psychologist. Don’t lie to us. Don’t worry – we know we are autistic…You have nothing to do here. Go home!”
The second week I was again welcomed with very aggressive and combative attitudes. I was barely able to get a sentence out before three girls got into a physical fight in middle of the classroom. As I was trying to pull them apart, two girls went to where all my material was on the teachers desk and popped an enormous water balloon over all my things, and ran out of the classroom. Before I realized what was happening the entire class ran out in fear getting blamed.
I realized after this incident that the girls were trying to test my limits. With the guidance of Rina Berkus, Kav L’Noar’s clinical supervisor and Akiva Harow, the Group Mentoring Suprevisor I realized that before working on individual social skills issues, I needed to create an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect.
I would bring in different games and activities each week, modeling respectful conversation, and gradually a different atmosphere developed. Impulsive and aggressive behavior lessened as the girls learned to relate to each other with mutual respect. With this new sense of safety in the group, we could then also focus on individual girls.
In one activity, the girls needed to name their own strengths. It was so inspiring to see how when students would get stuck and didn’t know what to say, their classmates would cheer them on and say things like “What do you mean you don’t know what you’re good at,? You are the best artist in our class” or ” you could be whatever you want when you grow up. You are so smart and have the best personality”.
All the challenges in the beginning of the year were worth it just to witness that moment. All the girls were giggling and complementing each other, and even when the group was over they requested to stay longer.
Last week was my last week with the girls and while they told me to leave in the beginning of the year, now they were begging me to stay another year! Each of them made sure to take a picture of me, and one girl said, “I am going to hang this picture up in my room so i never forget you.” I can confidently say that KLN’s presence in this school has made lasting impression on these girls. In addition to learning to respect and care about each other, the girls learned to have a positive relationship with a person in authority.
The picture above was given to Kav L’Noar by the girls in the group. They each drew one square to show and appreciate each other’s individual differences and similarities in a collaborative group effort.