Friday, February 24, 2012

BST Procedures and Role Play: Averting the Pressure Punk, Redirecting Him to the Library to Dance like a Nerd

For Discussion 3, read the following scenario from Chapter 12 and answer the questions that follow.

You are a school counselor and you have been asked to teach a group of eighth graders the skills they will need to resist peer pressure to start smoking. Describe how you will use BST procedures to teach these kids these important skills. Assume that you will work with groups of 20-25 kids in each classroom.

Question 1: Define the skills you will teach.

Self-awareness skills - First I would work to raise my students' collective awareness of peer pressure. Often we don't even realize when we encounter peer pressure, let alone when we are being affected by it. I want them to be aware of what peer pressure is, what forms it can take, how and why it forms, and the affects it has. Raising their collective awareness of peer pressure is the first step I would take. While I have never smoked, I can offer them examples of an instances in which I encountered and responded to peer pressure. I would make separate power-point presentations about peer pressure and social skills, and then I would connect the two presentations in a presentation about the ways in which social rules and behaviors form and interact with peer pressure. During these presentations, I would intermittently present the students with media and in-class examples of peer pressure and its social consequences (e.g., popular film portrayals of peer pressure in an adolescent context.

Social response skills - I would provide them with various peer pressure scenarios and ask them to come up with a list of appropriate social responses in small groups. We would then come together as a class, and each group would present their findings. Following that exercise, students would individually come up with a real-life scenario based on (not an exact translation, but BASED on) an experience they had actually had and write it as a script. The following day, we would move through stations in which we would "try on" different roles for size. Afterward, I would require students to reflect upon their role-playing experience. I would, in conjunction, evaluate their progress and offer suggestions that might strengthen their approach or open their mind to another dimension of the issue.

Multidimensionality and critical thinking skills - It is important that my students be able to see beyond their own perception and to be able to put themselves in another person's place (intellectually and emotionally, at some level). I present them with outsider perspectives on the issue of smoking - articles written by smokers, non-smokers, former-smokers, and those dealing with second hand smoke. I would also present them with parental perspectives, medical/scientific perspectives, sociological perspectives, and contemporary teenage perspectives on the issue. I would also have speakers come to our classroom to better represent interactively their perspectives (I might even include someone with experience in the tobacco industry). I would ask the students to complete a research component to What I want for them to gain from this course is not simply to be able to resist smoking but, most importantly, to be able to know HOW and be able to MAKE informed decisions. I would want them to know what an informed decision is, how it is made, what it looks like, what it feels like. I would want them to be see the importance and helpfulness of informed decision making (of going out into the world with an attuned and critically-thinking mind). I would want them to rationally and emotionally understand that healthy and competent decision-making involves critical thought and analysis as well as the ability to choose and act in accordance with that choice. With these skills, they will inevitably go out into the world with more confidence and competence as individual thinkers, doers, and decision-makers.

Self-monitoring skills - As autonomous individuals in the world, we need to be able to observe our selves and be aware of our selves (our emotions, our actions, our thoughts). I would provide students in my class with opportunities to observe themselves and describe their observations in a variety of contexts (in peer-pressure situations at home, at school, at church...). I would allow them room to create self-designed and collaborative projects (make a film, write a poem, conduct a survey, complete a case study,...) dealing with the issue of decision-making.
Self-confidence and initiative skills - It would be important to me for my students to apply this training and learning experience to other aspects of their lives. I would hope that all of it, especially the training, would improve their confidence and allow them to feel like they can handle a variety of social situations with a good degree of calmness, confidence and competence. While taking into consideration their individual differences, I would give them opportunities to improve their assertiveness skills, teach them new skills through those opportunities, require that they take initiative by participating in new and uncomfortable social scenarios, and require that they complete written and oral self-evaluations of their training experiences.

Smoking Resistance skills - After introducing students to peer pressure in its many forms, I would incorporate the subject of smoking and how it plays out in social contexts that they might find themselves in NOW and at various points in life. I would want them to be able to respond to the peer pressure to stop smoking VERY specifically, efficiently and effectively; so I would be sure to give them the most specific information, tools, skills and practice about/with smoking peer pressure. We (the students and I both - working together) would apply the self-awarness skills, social response skills, self-monitoring skills, and initiative skills to the smoking peer pressure scenario - and then, subsequently I would provide them with opportunities to practice those skills in a training situation geared toward the goal of resisting the peer pressure to smoke.

Generalization skills - I would want my students to be able to see that peer pressure is not something that is specific to any one group of individuals, that it affects humans from a young age into adulthood and beyond. I would want them to consider peer pressure cross-culturally so I would provide them with examples of the social rules and pressures in non-Western societies. I would also want them to see how the skill of critical thinking and informed decision-making can be applied to any aspect of their lives. In order to further assist them in gaining confidence as decision-makers, we would -as a class- prepare an hour-long presentation for a group of  *younger* students from a differing cultural, geographical or socioeconomic location. This project would require the class to consider their likely similarities and differences from their educational population. They would design a program specifically for this one population, all the while being aware of some of the limitations and biases of their own world-views. The presentation itself would allow them to teach what they have just learned (and would, therefore, serve as a reinforcer). It would also allow them to see how smoking (or something else) is viewed by other dissimilar populations. It would give them practice communicating and would also provide them with a multi-cultural experience (which would, in turn, allow them to see beyond them own perception). I would hope that through the experience of being in the role of peer mentor that they would gain some additional confidence with the material. The knowledge that they were serving as role models for younger students might build upon their sense of purpose and self-worth.

Reflection skills - I would want students to understand the work we did and HOW it worked. I would want them to understand the process that we went through so that they could see how it all fits together into a cohesive and coherent picture. As a class, we would be going through decision-making process together in order to make individual informed decisions on the issue of smoking. It's not smoking that I necessarily want them to resist: it's peer pressure (which disempowers and diminishes our ability to make autonomous informed decisions). If the students understand the process and understand the importance of critical thought and informed decision-making then I will consider them as having been successful. My evaluation of them would be comprehensive, and would include a very important reflection component.

Question 2: Identify the situations in which the kids will need these skills

Students will be able to use these skills in virtually any context. Students will be able to better handle any situation in which they are presented with external pressure. My goal would be for students to be able to transfer the skills they have learned  to respond to the peer pressure to start smoking into other areas of their lives (when they are presented with dangerous behaviors, when they are being urged to do anything they are unsure about). I would make it make it my goal to teach particular life skills that would assist them in handling peer pressure in ANY situation. I would want them to be able to generalize their skills into other situations that involve peer pressure, as well as to generalize the skill of responding confidently and intelligently to peer pressure into other areas of life. I would hope that the peer pressure skills could transform other aspects of their lives - possibly transforming their interpersonal and professional communication styles in general, the way they think in general, and the way they react in general. The skill I would want for them to gain from the experience would be the skill of informed decision-making. Smoking would be the relevant means through which this skill would be transferred and realized.

Question 3: Create the role-plays you will use in training.

I will use multiple role-plays during training, but mostly role-plays created by the students themselves. I will also invite students from a local high school to come into our classroom and work with the students in role play scenarios and other similarly interactive activities. I think having the students create their own scenarios would be most appropriate, helpful and fun. Here is an example of what an example I would give them might (but probably, given that they are in eighth grade, would not EXACTLY) look like:

Pressure Punk 1 (Puck): Got any smokes on you, babe?
Young Ms. Jessie:  Pardon me, Babe. Smokes? Are you asking me if I have any smoked pheasant or salmon? I prefer my salmon grilled!
Pressure Punk 1 (Puck): Oh yeah, real funny. Seriously. I'm all out.
Young Ms. Jessie: Seriously. I don't have what you're looking for.
Pressure Punk 2: You're in luck, Puck. I do. (Pulls out a pack of pseudo cigs)
Pressure Punk 1: Awesome, dude.
Young Ms. Jessie: Her name isn't dude, it's Parker.
Pressure Punk 1: Parker, your friend here's a real smart one. She doesn't know how to have any fun.
Pressure Punk 2: She just hasn't had a cigarette yet. Once she has one, she'll loosen up. Come on, Jessie, here. Have one (Holds a cigarette out and puts her arm around Jessie)
Young Ms. Jessie: Ummm.
Pressure Punk 2: It's so good. You will love it. Just try it.
Young Ms. Jessie: It doesn't look like something I will enjoy. I KNOW it doesn't smell like something I will enjoy.
Pressure Punk 1: What's with you? You're so uptight. This girl NEEDS cigarette. (Takes the cigarette from Parker's hand and lights it with his lighter)
Young Ms. Jessie: I don't mean to be rude. But I don't like the way cigarettes smell. And they're just not right for me.
Pressure Punk 2: Come on, Jessie. If you try it, I will write you a sonnet tonight AND read it aloud in English class tomorrow. I'll even wear trousers and read it in a British accent.
Young Ms. Jessie: Now THAT is tempting.
Pressure Punk 1: You two are weird.
Pressure Punk 2: So. Will you?
Young Ms. Jessie: As much as I want your sonnet and your trousers and your British accent, I'm not going to smoke. Do you really want to be smoking, Parker? You know, neither of us has to do this.
Pressure Punk 2: I don't know.
Young Ms. Jessie: I don't want to pressure you, Parker, but we could just go to the library instead and read the Twelfth Night aloud in one of the lofts.
Pressure Punk 1: What is going on here? (Is still holding the lit cigarette but hasn't smoked it yet)
Pressure Punk 2: You would like to know, wouldn't you. (Hands Puck the pack of cigarettes and takes Jessie's hand)
Young Ms. Jessie: Wow. Yes!
Formerly Pressure Punk 2, Now Parker: You know, Puck, smoking isn't really that cool. Have you ever even read a Shakespeare play?
Pressure Punk 1: Shakespeare? What's that? Some kind of nerdy dance move.
Young Ms. Jessie: Yep. That's exactly what it is. It doesn't smell bad at all. It doesn't coat your lungs with tobacco. It doesn't lead to lung cancer. It's just the dance of one or two nerds.
Parker: I totally want to go be a nerd with you. Right now.
Young Ms. Jessie: Awesome. Let's go. (The two start to leave, arm-in-arm)
Pressure Punk 1: Wait. You guys are seriously going to the library to do a nerdy dance? Can I come? (Sets down the cigarettes near and ashtray and follows them out)

Question 4: Describe how you will model the behavior and what instructions you will give.

I would model the behavior in ways that are natural and believable. Since I do not smoke, it wouldn't be as believable for me to try to model the resistance of peer pressure to smoke. I would explain to them upfront why I never felt the desire nor pressure to smoke. I was, of course, given opportunities and at times was invited and encouraged to smoke - I never found it tempting though. I did not like the way cigarettes smelled and had absolutely no interest in putting one in my mouth. But I would want to make sure they understand that I am not infallible to peer pressure - that there are some decisions I have made without thinking beforehand and some decisions I have made in response to peer pressure (not many, but some). I think that the students would respect me and would at least be influenced in some small degree by my self-disclosure and self-representation in class. I would interact with them in activities outside of class so that they could see me model informed decision-making in non-academic contexts (and so that they would see that their training can be transferred outside of the classroom).

At the end of the training portion of the course, I would arrange for us (as a class) to meet with the high school students they worked with during the marking period for a pizza party at the end of the semester. At times during the party, I would interact and model assertive and thoughtful decision-making and communication skills. At other times during the party, I would distance myself from my students and allow them to interact with the older students. Following the party, we would discuss as a class how the party went and if anything interesting (*relevant) happened. I would ask that the high school class provide us with feedback on the interaction. And, finally, I would encourage students to choose one peer mentor (high school student from the mentoring class) to continue communicating with throughout the year. Making this connection would also help my eighth grade students transition into high school with greater ease and confidence. In general, I would model confident behaviors and independent decision-making in a variety of contexts and discuss any moments that were troubling in some way for me to them at the beginning of class. I would also offer my confidential assistance to any of them if they privately wished to discuss anything that came up in their lived during the course.

My instructions for them would depend on the day's activities. In terms of resisting the peer pressure to smoke, I would offer them various suggestions (or, "instructions") to help them make an informed decision. For instance, I would encourage them to find a friend they could trust and with whom they share similar values and ideas. I would suggest that they talk about this issue privately with their same-age peer and come to some sort of understanding about NOT smoking. This friendship might come in handy during times of peer pressure. I would make it clear that having a PEER who can both keep you in check when you are wavering or weak will be helpful because you will have your support system already set up (and won't be as likely to feel usurped by the social isolation of choosing to refrain from smoking). In addition, it will provide you with an opportunity to gain more confidence and insight by being the person on the other end who serves as a support person (who offers advice and listens). Feeling needed and feeling helpful are great ways to gain confidence. Of course, I would warn them that having a Bold Buddy might be effective but that there is always the possibility that something might go wrong - that their buddy might let them down or even go so far as to contribute to the peer pressure in a social situation when they least expect it.

As a backup plan, I would suggest that they also discuss the issue with their parents, an older sibling and/or another dependable adult. A Bold Buddy is a great thing to have with you IN the moment of pressure, but it's also good to have a support system OUTSIDE of the peer environment to which you can turn. I would let the students know that they are setting themselves up for success by having a comprehensive support system in place. If a student is alone in the actual moment of pressure to smoke and does not feel equipped to make an informed decision, I would suggest that she either ask for a few minutes to think about it or make up an excuse to distract their peers from the pressuring behavior enough and give herself an opportunity to get out of the immediate moment of pressure (by saying, for instance, "Maybe. I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back" or "I have to check my phone messages. Hold on" or just by saying "I'll be right back"). IF the student does not feel confident and able to make a informed decision in the moment, then separating herself from the immediate situation is the step to take. (Literally: Say something or don't say something beforehand, but the student must WALK AWAY and give herself time to THINK before she returns to the environment of pressure.) If the student does feel confident and able to make an informed decision, then I do not have any further instructions for them - they will have the skills necessary to respond to the pressure.

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