Alongside the work to address the needs of girls in school through the GROW initiative, a number of organizations have asked for help with groups of boys displaying a variety of dysfunctional behaviors.
By using a variety of approaches, including OutSmart, Teaching Thinking tools, and Self-Belief strategies, we have been able to encourage the boys to identify, articulate and start to modify some of these so-called “dysfunctions”.
Out-SMART activities encourage awareness of self and team by identifying problems and working through a series of outdoor challenges to foster an awareness of both self and team. The boys have articulated what a successful team might be and are then provided with a practical opportunity to display those skills. Feedback and evaluation are provided by the students themselves, against criteria they evolve.
The use of digital cameras in recording those outcomes has proved an interesting and motivating stimulus for the boys to reflect on their learning. Just By taking part in these energetic activities in the fresh air outside the classroom seems to be beneficial for the boys.
Inquiry plays a key part in the process. Inquiring into what the boys think about team-working, generating their ideas and enquiring about what they mean by “communication” or “working together” deepening their understanding of these terms. Experiencing a practical task with photographs showing the behaviors and a dialogue within the group about what the boys appreciate these words to mean and whether we can adopt the new behaviors away from the Out-Smart task and into the classroom and beyond.
Encouraging the boys to develop targets and goals for themselves and enabling strategies to support them to see their own success along the way. Encouraging the boys to record in some way their experiences and learning and sharing those thoughts and feelings with others. Including strategies from ESB and Teaching Thinking, “anchoring” to maximize their own moments, “future basing” and “timeline” to encourage moving towards our goals, “visualizing“ ourselves in successful states, “Diamond ranking” to deepen and share our understanding of concepts. Seeing possibilities to change if, doing what you have always done isn’t getting you what you need and want.
By experiencing the challenge, exhilaration, confusion and disappointment that all go with life’s journey and having an opportunity within a trusted group to say what effects these feelings have on us, knowing that others share them as well even if they may show it differently seems to have a considerable effect on the boys’ ability to relate to themselves, others, and to everyday situations. Short fuses are lengthening.
Staying safe can mean we must take a risk, taking a risk can be a great place to be if we have the right tools and we have the support of good mates who have shared a similar experience with us.
We continue to work with the boys concerned and look for more evidence of their being able to understand and if needs be adapt themselves to the new situations they find themselves in. In collaboration with the School Sports Coordinators, we are providing training, support, equipment to enable more learners to benefit from the Out-SMART approach.
By providing appropriate support we plan to increase the availability of this kind of experience for the boys and for other learners. Many organizations have seen value in the work, have undergone training and have already implemented a regular OutSmart experience into their current program. Some organizations have invited input to their existing residential activities, with a view to making the experience more thoughtful, challenging and meaningful for their learners.
The ongoing nature of the intervention is provided for within the funding from SSC with teachers committing to 36 hours of experiences with their group which is followed up with a funded outdoor residential at a local center. The program will be self duplicating in that Level 2 (teacher-coaches will also be in place during the life of the program, who will take responsibility for continuing the program and training in the future).