If you want to be a psychologist

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

City year can prepare you for that too. Today in after school I had to manage the step-up room. This is a space where students go when they bully, fight, get 3 warnings, or do something that needs correction. They have to sit out of the fun and reflect on their actions. Reflection isn't easy for middle schoolers and it requires proper coaching and prompting. Twelve year olds aren't very logical and they act out on impulses. The 6th grader I was dealing with was in the step up room for calling a white boy (the ONLY white kid in the school who was adopted by African-American parents) an f-- highlighter. He responded back by saying, "go to the back of the bus." From there hell broke loose and they yelled offensive terms back and forth.
I found it strange that they were so defensive when I had to take them away for their bad behavior. They were upset, but it seemed to me that they didn't understand that what they did was wrong. When they were confronted they automatically started yelling and blaming the other person for their actions. These kids have so much to learn....
The 3 students stayed with me for an hour. There were manipulative tears, threats, and not a lot of sitting still. Yet the 3 of them were able to apologize and I was able to mediate for them so they could work out their differences. Happy day! 
To conclude, all 3 students were suspended from after school for a few days and the dean was informed of their behavior. He was not happy. 

Note: this post was written on the subway on 10/30/13. 


  1. the best thing you can teach a kid is that they are responsible for their own words and actions...they should feel free to speak their mind but know that if there is an offense taken, out of love you really do need to right your wrong. i love following your new york adventures...thanks for putting your life online!

  2. I wish your school could implement something that I had in middle school. It was called SSTOP - Students Solving Their Own Problems. Select students (about 20 of us, maybe?) were trained in mediation and conflict resolution skills. Then, when kids had problems like your example, they had a choice of going to the principal's office/step-up room/detention OR working it out with a SSTOP counselor. The SSTOP student and the 2 students with the problem would meet in a room ALONE without any adults and work to resolve the issue. If it couldn't be resolved, then students would be suspended or meet with adults, etc. I look back on this and am totally amazed that my school had this program and (i think) at how well it worked. It not only taught the SSTOP counselors some amazing skills but it gave the students the responsibility to work out problems w/o adults.


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