Casey: Supporting their Ups and Downs
February 28, 2020
By Casey Butterfield, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow serving at Laura Jeffrey Academy
“Throughout the month of January Laura Jeffrey Academy participated in a J-Term schedule and things changed in terms of the classes students would be taking. For all of my Focus List students and the rest of the student body, they would be in classes that spark their interests and would allow them to be more creative, alongside a book club class and math. The schedule really provided an opportunity for my Focus List students and I to have some fun and get to know each other even more, thus strengthening the relationships we formed from the previous semesters.
Not only was this a great experience for me to be able to see these students really enjoying their classes, but during my time with my Focus List students who were redecorating the bathroom, I got to engage in a lot of meaningful conversations that highlighted the Caring Adult model. In particular, one student was having a particularly tough day and did not want to engage in any conversations or interactions with other students or teachers. An hour into the class, I found them sitting in a corner of the hallway starting to cry. I gently sat down next to them and began to talk to them about what was happening and why they were crying. The student was eager to talk about how someone said a hurtful comment to them and it resulted in them wanting to isolate themselves from the rest of the class. I stayed with this student for a while, talking about their feelings, emotions, and thoughts about the words that were spoken and what we could do together to get their mind off of the topic. After 10 minutes, we decided that we would go take a walk around the school to re-energize ourselves and head back to the classroom. The rest of the day the student was extremely happy, engaging with their friends, and painting an amazing mural that reflected a moment that brought them joy.
This was a memorable time that I served as a Caring Adult because the relationship that I formed with this student provided me the ability to positively comfort them and allow them the space to talk openly about their experience and realities of mental health. While the circumstance of this interaction was not ideal, given that the student’s feelings were hurt, our interaction and my willingness to help them work through these serious topics displayed that I was showing up for them and validating their experience. The student came up to me a week later and told me that they were appreciative of me being there for them and that based off of our conversation, they wanted to start doing better in their classes. Where this student once did not want to use their planner, read during Language Arts, or even attempt a math problem, they started participating in class discussions, asking thoughtful questions, and raising their hand to answer the math warm up. Although the conversation about the hurtful comment and the change in school attitude are somewhat separate, they work together to show that even the shortest of conversations and interactions with students can provide them with the support they need to make a change, feel supported during the process of change, and be empowered to see it through. This is a memorable Caring Adult moment because it allowed me to engage with this student and be present in their reality, thus furthering our relationship and providing them the confidence in knowing that they can trust me to have their best interests at heart and be there to support them in their ups and downs.”