Tasha Moore, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Hedrick Middle School in Lewisville, TX, writes about an "Aha!" moment that occurred during a group discussion.
Group sessions are a great way to work with students struggling with similar issues. The group facilitator prepares before each group meeting by researching the topic, anticipating students' questions and identifying potential rabbit trails. He or she makes a plan to review the topic discussed at the last group session and checks with each student individually on how their week went. In an ideal world, all of the preparation produces a textbook example of group work and demonstrates each individual's path to self-change. As the facilitator, your role is not to lecture or dominate the conversation, but to draw the students together and create a safe place for students to discuss the issues they are facing and develop solutions to address their struggles.
The moment in a group setting that a facilitator works towards and searches for is when the students take ownership of the group. This is the climax. This is the moment a facilitator knows change is happening, no matter how great or small. This moment is exciting to watch unfold.
I had the opportunity to watch this moment unfold while observing an anger and behavior modification group facilitated by my intern, Josh Nunley. Mr. Nunley had been working with this group of five boys for about eight weeks. During the previous session the boys would not stay on task, were disruptive and disrespectful, and displayed inappropriate behavior during the group meetings. Any facilitator would be discouraged after a group session like that, and this was no different for Josh. After talking with Mr. Nunley about options for the next group session, he went to work planning and preparing for their next session.
As I sat in the back observing the group meeting, Josh checked in with each student, addressed the inappropriate behaviors from the previous week , reviewed the expectations, and then started the new topic. As the boys shared their individual thoughts, the wonderful moment happened. One of the boys, Tom, started talking about how much he liked Beth, but he was frustrated because Beth would hardly talk to him. Tom asked Mr. Nunley if he would talk to another student, Beth, and tell her how great he was so that she would like him. While both Mr. Nunley and I were doing our best not to laugh at the request to help participate in the middle school dating games, another student, Aaron, spoke up. He looked right at Tom and said, "You know why she doesn't like you? She doesn't like you because you act crazy in class. She is a good girl and doesn't want to get in trouble." Tom looked right back at Aaron, and all he could say was "Oh." Aaron continued, "If you would pay more attention in class and not get into trouble, Beth might like you." Tom thought for a moment and then said, "You're right."
The group continued on, but the moment happened. The students had grown to a place where they were able to address each other's mistakes and receive feedback without defensiveness or anger towards one another. They were starting to help each other make positive changes. The jury is still out as to whether or not Tom changed his behavior in class this week and if that impacted his chances with Beth, but the group has formed a support system and is holding each member accountable to make positive choices in the classroom.
Nicole Scott, CIS North Texas Site Coordinator at Lewisville Elementary in Lewisville, TX, writes about the informative presentations that Denton County Friends of the Family did for her students.
Last month, Denton County Friends of the Family came to Lewisville Elementary during the Communities In Schools of North Texas 21st Century after-school program and conducted presentations for CISNT students. The students learned behaviors and strategies for staying safe at home, at school and in the community through programs offered by the Mental Health Association entitled Bumbles the Magic Bee, WHO®, and 5S.
Bumbles the Magic Bee is a program that uses an interactive song and magic tricks to teach Kindergarten and 1st grade students. WHO® is a program designed to help fight the victimization of children. WHO stands for "We Help Ourselves" and is designed for 2nd and 3rd grade students. It teaches them basic rules for personal safety, allows them to learn what to do when faced with a problematic or potentially dangerous situation, and gives information on where and who to go to for help. 5S is a program that teaches 4th and 5th grade children about decision making, choices and consequences, peer pressure, self-esteem, communication, boundaries and respect. 5S stands for "Strong Social Skills for a Safer Society" and was presented to the 4th and 5th grade students.
Each presentation was age appropriate, and all of the students really enjoyed the presentations. We really appreciate the information and resources that Denton County Friends of the Family provided for our students!
Nkechi Chibueze, CIS North Texas Site Coordinator at Ginnings Elementary in Denton, TX, writes about the dedication of one of her CIS afterschool staff members.
This month I would like to highlight the diligent work of an Academic Enrichment Specialist. Yandira Teniro, known as "Ms. Yandy" to her students, began working with the CIS 21st Century after school program 3 years ago at Lee Elementary. After graduating from college, she came back to work for Communities In Schools of North Texas and is now at Ginnings Elementary with the first grade and kindergarten students. I have to admit: since the first day of this school year the first grade and kindergarten students have been a challenge. We had a lot of energetic students that could tire out the best principal!
Regardless of the concerns and complaints from others about the boisterous class, Ms. Yandy has patiently worked with the children, gaining their trust, and building a strict routine to for them to follow. Ms. Yandy is constantly working to improve the class. She tries out new ideas, and if they do not work, she moves on to the next idea, and she has slowly changed the classroom to a positive and happy environment!
Another thing that impresses me about Ms. Yandy is her determination to make sure all her students have completed the required homework. She will sit with all students and give them the attention they need while taking care of the whole class which is an amazing feat to watch.
Teachers are acknowledging Ms. Yandy's hard work. They tell me all the time how impressed they are with her classroom structure and the improvement of the students' behavior over time.
Lastly, I am happy to say, students in Ms. Yandy's class improve in their school work! A teacher told Ms. Yandy that two students who recently joined the CIS 21st Century program received perfect scores on their spelling tests for the first time ever! Wow!
I am in awe of the work Ms. Yandy has done in the first grade and kindergarten class and I am looking forward to seeing what she has in store for the future!
Rebecca Page, CISNT Site Coordinator at Evers Park Elementary in Denton, TX, tells us about a volunteer who has become a light in a special education student's life.
I have a special education student who has been in the Communities In Schools of North Texas after school program at Evers Park Elementary for years. He is a well-mannered student with a sweet spirit. This student knows about any and every ship in history. He shows a particular interest in the Titanic. His enthusiasm to study and talk about ships sometimes lead to some struggles in the classroom when he would try to socialize with other students.
I had a volunteer come in with a desire to tutor a special education student. Emilio Garcia is a student at the University of North Texas studying special education. I paired Emilio with this student, and I am so glad that the resulting bond has made a huge impact on this student. This student's mom called the day after their first meeting together and told me about how much he loved having someone take interest in him.
Not only did the mother commend Emilio for his efforts to relate to her student, but she also commended his tutoring abilities as her son began to grasp concepts that he was formerly struggling with. She also said that Emilio helped her son with his handwriting by showing him ways to hold the pencil to make his writing neater. Even though Emilio is here to help this student academically, he talked with this student about his interests in ships, and they even did research on books about ships.
I am so proud of Emilio Garcia for being a light in this student's life. I look forward to seeing this success story through.
CIS North Texas Program Manager Holly Steward writes about a former CIS student who has embraced the chance to give back to her peers and her community.
Holly Steward (third from left) with Northwest High School seniors from the class of 2011.
This month's student brag from Northwest High School is a little different than usual. It is about a previous CIS student who graduated two years ago. Gabrielle was a student who was extremely involved in CIS North Texas at NHS for her last two years of high school. She worked very closely with me and her mentor. She was a very high achieving student who excelled in her classes and was ranked in the top 40 of a class of over 800 students. Though she faced many obstacles in her home life she was determined to excel in college and pursue her dreams of visiting another country for mission work.
Since graduating from high school, Gabby has kept in touch with me and has volunteered her time to help CIS North Texas at Northwest HS on several occasions. I have had the privilege of writing a multitude of recommendation letters for her for scholarships and jobs. She ended up gaining scholarships and financial aid to attend the University of North Texas for the first year for free. During that time she gain the opportunity to go to Honduras with a campus church group and this past fall she traveled to Spain through a study abroad program offered through UNT.
Although Gabby has gained many successes since her time as a CISNT student she has also faced many trials. In November her mother passed away due to illness. Gabby left Spain for a week to return home and plan her mother's funeral as well as support her younger sister. During this time I had the opportunity to meet with her and her family and offer support during a devastating time.
Since then, Gabby has completed her study abroad program and has returned to UNT. She has expressed her gratitude to me on several occasions and has always told me how thankful she was for the CIS program and the support she has received all these years. It wasn't until January that I truly knew how much she appreciated the CISNT organization and how passionate she was about our mission. I was informed that Gabby received a job as an Academic Enrichment Specialist 2 with CISNT's 21st Century after school program. I was overwhelmed with pride and excitement for Gabby to have the opportunity to pay it forward. Her story brings tears to my eyes and happiness to my soul. This is what CISNT is truly about, and I'm so thankful to be able to see her success story unfold in front of me. She truly has come FULL CIRCLE.