Well, another year has passed, Spring has come and we are all getting back into the Rhthyms of elementary school life. It is group season here at U.T.E.S. which means I am having my annual ponderings about what exactly makes a “good” group. This year I have aligned the group process with the SEL competencies put forth by CASEL. So, at each grade level I have groups working primarily on one of these areas:
I love dividing the groups in this manner because it is a continuation of what is being taught and used in the classroom and at parenting workshops. These competencies do a great job at covering and categorizing the breadth of skills that we as social workers teach, model and support. Efficient and goal driven groups are paramount in the whirlwind-ish setting of schools– otherwise, as anyone who has ever done school social work knows, your 8 weeks of 20 minute lunch-bunch counseling opportunities will slip through your well-intentioned but data-less fingers.
But, on the other hand….
At times, we,I get too caught up in proving that I acted as the conduit of some overnight, behavior erradicating miracle in a child’s life. Can I show that little Joel has successfully learned each of the 7 1st-grade objectives under Self-Awareness. Is it observable and evident that Luka is now using all 5 of the coping strategies from group in the classroom and beyond? Maybe. Maybe not.
And for this reason, no matter what our group creation process may be, we need to always keep a different set of categories in mind as well.
This is the Resiliency Wheel. It captures 6 common themes identified in the lives of individuals who in their young lives might likely have been considered to be ”at risk” but who have somehow surpassed others with similar obstacles. Resiliency is a framework that investigates lifetimes of mitigating and resiliency-building factors. It does not necessarily produce “better behavior” at the 9 weeks check-point, but if we can put those expectations aside it might just behoove us to think of groups, whatever the goal, in this way.
Boundaries: Am I offering a group in which students feel safe and are permitted to act autonomously?
Care: Have I created a group in which my persona, manner, tone and actions indicate genuine support for the students served?
Meaningful Participation: Am I giving the students in my groups activities that allow them to make decisions, plan, evaluate, and implement?
Bonding: Do I encourage and support rapport-building, laughter-filled, collaborative groups in which children are encouraged to get to know and connect with others?
Standards: Have I created an environment in the group which indicates that this is a space with high expectations according to and maybe even perhaps slightly surpassing the individuals ability and comfort level?
Tools: Am I providing (through explicit teaching and through modeling opportunities) the students with Social-Emotional and practical tools that they will need in their various environments?
In the long run, maybe it is these standards that truly make a “good” group. In fact, maybe it is these standards that make a good program.
Do you think about resiliency in your role at your school? If so, how and when? Share your thoughts, use your words!