What’s Happening at Unique Voice: The Incredible Journey the Children Make
When you work with children every week it is sometimes hard to notice the small steps and progress they make, but every now and again something happens which makes their amazing development impossible to ignore. For this week’s blog, Sarah focusses on one particular child (let’s call him X) and the incredible journey he has made in the past twelve weeks.
When X first started working with Unique Voice he was a very quiet and withdrawn boy. He either sat appearing to be disengaged, spin round on the floor or busy himself messing around with and disrupting other people. He seemed to find it hard to engage in group work, never made eye contact and rarely spoke to me. Upon my trying to involve him or reminding him of the club rules I was met with a blank gaze before the negative behaviour inevitably started up again.
One particular week he was asked to stay behind after the session so I could speak to him about his persistent disruptive behaviour. Wondering why he was the last out, a parent came in to see what had been going on. It became clear to me at this point that X behaved similarly at home and in lessons and he seemed to approach the conversation with an air of ‘I know what you’re going to say, I’ve heard it before’. Until that point I had thought that maybe X was one of the few children sent to the session when he didn’t really want to be there, but then I realised; maybe he behaves this way because he thinks this is what people expect of him. Quite simply I had to change my tactic. It was not going to be enough to repeatedly remind X of the rules, after all, he’d heard them many times before, so I did my best to encourage him that I could see how much he had to offer the club. That the reason I kept asking him to listen was also because I knew how great he could be if he focussed on the activities we were doing and most importantly that I wanted him to be there. Together we agreed that the following week we would have a new method; I was to bring in two cards for X, one yellow card and one red (just like in football!) The yellow card would be a warning that his behaviour was not acceptable, and the red card would mean that he had to take the following week off as a time out. I ended the conversation by saying that I really wanted him to be able to come to the session every single week and that I believed that he was going to show me much better behaviour the following week. X left with a sort of smile on his face and I waited for the next session to see if our chat would have had any impact.
From then on the progress X has made has been phenomenal. The following week he sat beautifully and listened perfectly in the circle. He worked with other children without fuss or silliness and although he was still quite quiet, he was far more present throughout the session. Sure enough, the following week he proved himself again. His behaviour was impeccable and once again he showed how much he could contribute to each activity.
With each week that has gone by X has continued to flourish. Not only has his confidence come on leaps and bounds, but he is also beginning to let go, to really actively enjoy each session and pair this enthusiasm with the sort of behaviour which has meant he takes far more from the session than he ever used to. He clearly still relies on the structure he has created for himself in the past few weeks; at the start of the session he will come and say hello to me, then will place himself near one of the leaders whenever we sit down, before coming over to say goodbye at the end. I make a concentrated effort to praise him at least three times a session, because much of the behaviour we first saw from X was, I believe, stemming from his beliefs that he was naughty, so in many ways he acted up to that reputation. That’s why I believe it has been so crucial to his progress that we continue to remind him of how great we think he is and how much greater he could be. The wonderful thing is that we have since developed a relationship of respect and trust.
Last week the group were creating film trailers and upon supervising their rehearsal time I went and knelt with X’s group and asked what they were doing. X replied ‘a zombie film’ before walking towards me with his arms outstretched in character and then throwing his arms round my neck and giving me a big hug – seemingly a different child to the one I met at the start of September! The fact that he hugged me wasn’t what made me beam with pride, it was what that hug represented; a child feeling confident, comfortable and allowing himself to connect and work with others, all the while continuing to secure his new found belief that he is a valuable and brilliant member of the group, not to mention a kind, clever, funny and wonderfully energetic child. It is a huge passion of mine to nurture and boost a fragile self-confidence and X is proof that it is possible, even with the seemingly least likely of children.
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