The “Club” Atmosphere
Creating a Good Choices Environment
On this page, we will focus on what might be the most important part of setting up your group; the club atmosphere.
For many of your students, the last thing they will want is to feel like they have done something wrong and are being punished with more school as a result. It is important to set yourself and your group apart from school. The purpose of the program isn’t to hammer home the rules of the school, but rather to help students to understand the role they play within that construct and how the choices they make affect more than just themselves. The best way to set yours group apart is to set it up like a club.
The first part of this is the idea that the group is optional. Anyone may join and anyone who doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t need to be there. Hopefully, they will want to be there, at least in part, and there is another sheet that discusses trying to persuade them to give it a chance. It may also help to have the meeting times a little less formal. For example, it may be okay for some of the students to sit on top of their desks. This is a small, but helpful, way of instilling in them that this is not your normal class time. Also, changing the physical layout of the classroom is a great way of getting away from the classroom feel.
Second, call it a club or a group rather than a class. This small nuance is a big deal, not only for the students in the group, but for those who may want to join later as a result of the changes the club has in your current students. It is easier to talk about how cool “The Good Choices Club” is rather than the after school class they have to take.
It may also be beneficial for you to take a more passive role in the class, using role play with the students and other methods to remove the student teacher atmosphere. Or you could have the group elect leaders to help you run the group. It gives them more ownership and helps them to realize the leadership quality they possess. You can still control the situation with questions and established boundaries beforehand, but it gives the children more ownership in what is happening and make the group time more interactive and entertaining. The mood of the meeting time should always be light, even when dealing with a student who is disruptive. Use the same tactic of asking him or her about the choice he is making to disrupt the class and be willing to experience the answers as they come.
There are still boundaries and rules that you have established at the beginning of the group, but when they are broken, it is about how this is handled that helps to keep the “school” environment away from your group. Allow them to name the group or to set some of the bylaws of the group as you are establishing the rules.
This will help the club to group once you have finished with your first group. How fun the group time is will help the word of mouth immensely. So have fun with it and really allow them to take some ownership in the group. You will begin to see how much of an impact they can have when they start bringing friends and spreading the influence of the program throughout the school.