What Does Self-Respect Have To Do With Group Norms?

What Does Self-Respect Have To Do With Group Norms?

This year I became an adivsor for our middle school boys. I know it sounds crazy, but as a school counselor in a PreK-8th grade school, I hadn’t been permitted to work with our middle school students until this year. Remember it’s a year of change and I LOVE CHANGE!

Our middle school advisory is basically character education once a week designed especially for middle schoolers. A committee of 5 of us, pick the theme for the month and create lessons for the rest of the 12 advisors. Listen again, I know it sounds crazy, but this is the first year they used me as a resource. All advisors are middle school teachers and up until this point they were asked to create guidance lessons for advisory . . without counselor direction . . . slightly odd if you want my not-so-humble opinion about the subject.

Either way, that’s not the point. The point is . . . I actually work with middle schoolers now. And to be even more honest, they scare me! My mom (a former principal and counselor) was like a middle school whisperer if you will. Some people just have that touch with pre-teens . . . it’s a touch I’ll have to acquire.

As part of the advisory committee, we decided (after my recommendation . . yes, I’m patting myself on the back right now) to align the lower school character skills to the middle school advisory program. That means the month of August we focused on respect.

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This worked out perfectly considering this month we also began developing advisory group norms.

I should have titled this blog post, “The Life of a Middle School Advisor.” Actually, I could make it a book . . .

Self-Respect, Why is it important?

Topics Covered: Interpersonal Skills, Problem-Solving
Character Skill: Respect

Our first week of advisory was spent doing an ice breaker activity to help the boys recognize appropriate and inappropriate forms of interaction that would later help develop our norms.

At the end of last week’s activity, I asked the boys to explain how the activity went. Most said it was fun, but they also commented on how there was too much silliness and too much interrupting or side conversations. I used those concerns this week to help remind them of our troubles during the last activity.

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To begin yesterday’s lesson, we talked about classroom rules they liked having. We talked about how advisory is different than regular class and therefore would have different rules.

Together, we came up with:

  • Not to be critical of one another, to accept and appreciate everyone’s contributions
  • No put-downs, if you give a put-down you must write 3 put-ups and hand it to that person at the end of class
  • What happens in advisory, stays in advisory
  • Have fun
  • Be sure to quietly listen after count down

Then, we begin with a discussion on the following:

1. What is self-respect?

2. Do you have self-respect? How do you know if you do or you don’t?

3. What can you do to improve self-respect?

4. What is respect for others?

5. How do you show respect to the following people: your parents, teachers, siblings, principal, relatives, friends, parents of friends, classmates, peers?

6. We know what to say, how can you show others that it matters?

I really stressed that when we have low self-respect we show others by acting out, being mean, being overly silly, not taking things seriously, etc. I wanted them to really begin evaluating how they act, what that says about their self-respect, and how that corresponds to our group norms.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.46.05 AMScreen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.46.21 AMScreen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.46.12 AMTo practice, we played a game (Respect for self, others, and property Game) I developed that dealt with respect of all sorts, self, others, and property. The game forced them to reflect on various aspects of respect, but also allowed them to practice participating in a small groups.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 9.55.10 AMAfter about 10 minutes, we reflected on what is was like to play the game and we added the rule:

  • Pay attention to others

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We discussed some of the questions from the game (Respect Scenario Cards for Game) and emphasized that we cannot respect others until we first respect ourselves. Why might that be? And how can we increase our self-respect?

At the end of the session, I had them reflect quietly on various self-respect quotes (Respect Reflection).

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To end the class, I asked if there were any last rules they’d like to add before they had to sign their names and we added:

  • Do not find any loopholes to the rules.

Thank goodness they know each other better than I do, because this last rule would have never been on my radar . . . we can add it to, “The Life of a Middle School Advisor.”

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