Entering week 2, the program’s means of functioning became fairly efficient. Our staff meetings throughout the week became more streamlined and easier to follow by following the general structure of discussing positives throughout the program day, crisis situations, logistics/operation business, and behavioral modifications/management. In segmenting our meetings this way, it required staff to organize what they wanted to add to the meeting and really think about where a certain thought regarding the program, and specifically the kids, belonged. In organizing our thoughts in this manner, it also helped jumpstart the process of brainstorming potential solutions, because where the problem fit into the agenda determined what the course of action could be.
During the staff debrief at the start of the week, we discussed the need for a stronger emphasis on C.A.L.M. expectations prior to transitions so as to iron out any confusion regarding what is expected of kids. This Monday was a challenge, and as the week got off to its start, we realized we had to especially plan on accounting for this at the start of the week since kids may regress in their following of commands during the weekend.
I’ve noticed that all of the instructors (myself included) have gotten stronger at providing behavioral modifications for students during real time interactions with them. This is an area we struggled with a bit last week, but as we’ve gotten to know the kids better, we’re able to create a stronger redirection or modify a task to better insure student engagement and behavioral compliance. My co-counselors and I have also started working together in a more seamless way – throughout the week we often understood each other’s nonverbal signals for a variety of scenarios (addressing a student’s behavior, directing individual instruction to kids who needed it, etc). We also seemed to be on the same page about how to go about interacting with particular students and employing therapeutic intervention (from the types of reinforcement we would disseminate to the way we went about handling conflict) we often would act on our instincts and find that another counselor was about to take the same course of action as us.
After reviewing the data for the week, I started to see general patterns of behavior for almost all of the students with the exception of one particular kid. His behavior did not follow a clear and consistent pattern. He is incredibly bright, but he often had difficulty focusing his attention to our academic coursework despite it encompassing subject content and activities he enjoyed. I had difficulty coming up with meaningful interventions for him because it felt like I could not connect with him as a students, and more importantly as a kid. I noticed another counselor had a more effortless experience when interacting with him, and when I would consult her about strategies she used that I would also try to employ, she always had such positive things to say about this particular student. Going into the third week, I would need a perspective shift, a new means of observing and interacting with students I didn’t always get along with, especially if I was going to be of any assistance in helping him regulate his anger and bullying tendencies.
With every week that passed, I felt more and more comfortable being at the helm of the classroom and basing my instruction, along with my co-instructor, on the strengths and weaknesses of our group. The kids were finally starting to fall more naturally into their routines with less aversion to academic activities. I realized just how much children pick up on when you enjoy teaching a subject; for example, I absolutely love reading, and teaching reading feels fairly easy to me because it’s a subject field I enjoy. My students seemed to pick up on this because they were extremely responsive during our reading periods.
At the start of week three, I got insight into a different side of the program - parent meetings. Every week there was a meeting with all of the parents to go over a section of our process of intervention for their children. Counselors rotated this responsibility with our morning shifts with the kids, so the third week was my chance to sit in and participate. During this meeting we, along with the program director, reviewed the implementation of positive reinforcement, special play time, daily schedules, and house rules, and received positive feedback from all of the parents with how their kids were responding to these structures in the home (after setting up plans from the previous meeting). This particular meeting focused on aggressive behavior and using effective consequences following instances of aggressive behavior. We discussed as a group the kinds of aggressive behavior and gave each one an operational definition so as to have a consistent approach. If a child is aware that they will receive consequences for a specific behavior and the line between that isn’t murky, they’ll be less likely to repeat said behavior. If the behavior isn’t clearly defined but the child receives either too strong or too weak consequences, it’ll be confusing for the kid to keep up with the expectations placed on them.
It’s been interesting to see the integration of the Coping Cat and Coping Power groups in the daily fabric of the program. Coping Cat is centered around strategies to help manage anxiety whereas Coping Power has a stronger anger management core. Both groups run simultaneously for a period of about 40 minutes twice a week with kids broken up into their respective groups based on their needs (if their daily struggles are sparked by anger versus anxiety). One student in particular has been fascinating to observe and interact with because he is triggered by actions that are not targeting him in any way, such as a lead counselor in his group asking the class to double check their work or a him (amongst a group of students) not being able to swing in the park because they did not effectively manage their time. His reactive behavior is typically aggressive, he’ll stomp and yell and he seems to go to a very rigid, distracted place (for lack of a better expression, he begins to see red). I’ve noticed that keeping a very calm demeanor and smiling at him/encouraging him to smile with me sometimes works to get him out of this negative place, but it only works for a handful of counselors, and since I am not this particular student’s academic instructor I wonder if he disassociates me with an academic authoritative figure which thus may make me more relatable/easier to get him to calm down. With all that being said, I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in how this student calms his anxiety down. After speaking with him about taking deep breaths, modeling it for him, and having him practice it with me, I’ve noticed him implement this into his daily battles with frustrating scenarios and it has helped reduce the amount of breaks he has to take.
My attempt at having a more positive mindset when talking to the other student from last week seems to be effective. In paying attention to his positive attributes, especially attending to how the aspects of his personality that might commonly be misconstrued as negative can be positive if expressed in a way that isn’t detrimental to others. He’s been more receptive when I give him instructions and this shift in mindset has helped create a more positive classroom tone during the academic subjects that I lead.