I think it's important to empathize with students who feel excluded, but we still must address what students CAN control. While they cannot control their environment, they can certainly control how they respond to it. We, of course, must be mindful of mental health diagnoses and trauma that may contribute to a student's negativity. Therefore, some of my ideas may not apply to those specific situations.
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A few weeks ago, I saw this video (left) on Saturday Night Live. It's about a man dealing with his complicated personal life while starting a new job as a mouse mascot.
This is for comedic purposes, but still shows how negativity and sadness can affect how a person responds to his/her environment. In the movie, whenever someone neglects to wave back, even if it was unintentionally dismissive, the man adds more proof to his negativity bank - "See, you were right. Everyone DOES hate you."
Additionally, this SNL video shows how uncomfortable and frustrating sadness and chronic negativity can be for other people.
So, what do you do? I always give my students the first few minutes of a session to vent. Then, we move on to the positives so that I don't feed into the negativity and make it worse. For kiddos who struggle with identifying happy thoughts, I create a sticker chart to track all of the positives they can share with me. Each session, they have to name 3 good things in their life. Then, if they are able to complete the task, they add a sticker to the chart. We set a goal for the number of stickers we want to earn and once they reach their goal, they get to pick a prize from my prize box.
After a few weeks of tracking positive thoughts, I definitely notice a difference in my students. They come up to me to share good news and smile more. We also reflect on how their positive attitude feels, how it impacts their school day, and how others students respond to them.
In a world of uncertainty, we have to focus on what we can control. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
Let's help our students flip the switch and see the world through different eyes.