E.V.S. Series Part 5 – Workshops in the Highschool

Since about a month we started the second stage of our project: Workshops in a Highschool. As in Horea-School we meet once a week for about an hour and facilitate activities to develop together our social-emotinal skills. There is one significant change though, which is very apparent once you have entered the classroom: It is the age of the participants. Our new participants are about sixteen years old. This new situation we are confronted with yields new opportunities, as well as new challenges.

The new age of the participants influences their needs. They might have the same basic needs as the children, but the teenagers are more aware of them. Therefore they understand what our activities aim at and they are able to participate more fully. They are more willing to address topics like emotions or relationships.
Our learning objectives and activities are getting more complex. From my perception, the teenagers enter the classroom with a larger set of experiences, developed skills and deeper questions. This allows us to dive deeper into our topics.

In addition, they are more focused. They respect our tasks, while the children sometimes ignore instructions and do whatever comes to their minds (which is not always a bad thing). Therefore we can dare more difficult activities.
Communication got easier. The majority of the participants knows English quite well. They understand our instructions. Expressing their thoughts in English is still difficult and we experience barriers. However, together with the help of our Romanian co-facilitators the communication gets very efficient and we can share without obstacles.

The behavior in the group is different. They show more respect and kindness towards each other. They reason and decide fairly in the group. This allows us to give them more responsibility and independence. They seem to be more aware about what they want and need. Therefore we give them more space for own choices.

In Horea School the energy of the children was more evident. They run around, chat, scream, shover and hit each other. They have challenged me by being unattentive, by interrupting the activities or by totally changing the process and purpose of an activity. Now in the Highschool, the students obbey and just do what they think we expect them to do: to shut up and sit on a chair. It is easier to give instructions, because we are not confronted with a noisy classroom, but when activities require action it is more difficult to get the group going. The air is filled with hesitation and insecureness.

We are searching for their energy and curiosity, sometimes we wonder where they might be. Sometimes you might even wonder if a student, though physically present, is actually with you in the same room. As a facilitator the challenge is not to guide the energy of the group, but to find the energy of the group, to awake it or to give it to them. We try to guide the group, to create a safe place, to show what they can do and what they can gain, to enable them to have experiences together and of course we use energizers!

During evaluating our sessions we discovered, that among us, the facilitators, different preferences occur. Some of us like the sparkling energy of the smaller children, while others favour the calmness of the older ones.

In the Highschool, I experience the most difficult participants: the ones that are absent. In my group less than half of the students attended the second workshop session. We will see how this phenomena further develops.

So far we have been in the Highschool four times and four more times ahead.I personally prefer holding workshops in the Highschool. The learning objectives are more complex. Planning the sessions is more interesting for me. I have the impression that the students start to understand the purpose of our meetings and that they might actually apply and experiment with our learning outcomes, because they care about relationships, emotions, coping with difficult experiences and their future life.


Articol  realizat de Christina Sassnick

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