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5 Top Tips for Concerned Students

Carl Barton shares his 5 top tips to help struggling and concerned students.

He shows you how you can help them achieve their dreams.

Read his blog on how to help concerned teachers, here.

carl rapper

Well, this is my attempt at making the new normal…. Well, more normal. 
As always with every Nexus Education blog post, its a start point for discussion to share best practices and hacks to get the students and ourselves back on track. 
As a part of my EarnLearn mission, I regularly speak about the coping strategies that got me through my school life. At these unprecedented times, I just wanted to share some of the strategies I use to help concerned students and staff who are struggling emotionally. 

One I really take to heart, the simple task of being listened to, without judgement and without providing any solutions.  This simple task really means something, if you are so busy you can’t take the time. Be sincere and state a time you can speak, also at the start of that conversation let the student know you have the exact time you allocate. 
Students feel acknowledged and important when you listen, they trust you that’s why they speak to you. However, before you add your input into the conversation ask the student what would they like to see happen.  This answer gives you a head start on finding a solution or a great reason why the student needs to look again at the situation.
  2. Break it Down
The problem, the solution, the day, the session. The focus on smaller tasks can be a real safe distraction to a distressed student. 
Remind the student, that you ARE interested in their progress and this task and check system once established can be built up into longer periods of time between checking in. 
  3.  9 Boxes  By Dr Susan Jeffers
I wish I had invented this but at least I found it 🙂 
For this, you need to draw two boxes 


In the second box…add their name in the centre and get them to fill in the other 8 boxes with what they have in their lives.

School Work  Student’s Name Future Dreams

This is the genius bit… Dr Susan a big thanks from me…
When a student has an overwhelming issue they feel trapped… Like why bother?
Putting the problem in the first single box and writing it down, gets it out of their head and traps the problem on the page. It’s important that you get them to look at you after writing the problem, this visual break for a second or two will give them the headspace to process the next 9 boxes. 
Start with their name in the centre, this shows that they should put themselves at the centre and control point of their life. Also, this problem is only a small part of life.
Now let’s take exam stress, and rebadge it as School Work. That may be going badly but their Hobbies and Friendships may be going well. This demonstrates that the problem is temporary and can be offset with a good box or boxes. 
Note if the student has a bad reaction to what is written in 5 boxes, refer the student to the next level of emotional support.   
If they are really into this, you can also use the 9 boxes add the problem to the centre box and get the student to show you 8 possible solutions to the problem. 
  4. Future Thinking – This can have some of the funniest times you could ever have taught! 
Great when mixed with the last tip, This task has 3 parts.
Part One. 
Get the student to think about 10 years from now. In graphic detail. Nothing is impossible for the purposes of this task.  
Where do they live, what do they do, how do they get around. (remember most of the jobs these students will end up doing haven’t been invented yet) 
Part Two.
Show them how much money they could earn vs what they will need. Show them how finance works, treat it like a science lesson. (I used to love doing this in music business lectures with rappers) 
Student “I want a Merc, Sir” awesome I say and pull up the latest advert for the car hitting pause at the point where the small print is on the screen. 
It’s so funny to read, £6439 deposit and then only £399 per month and of course, you don’t own the car you lease it. And now let’s go and get a second-hand car and see how much it’s now worth… You can explain depreciation, APR, budgeting. 
Do this and honestly watch the attendance for maths increase 🙂 
The idea is to get them to own their own thoughts about their future.
Part Three
Relate how the qualifications they are studying for will help them to achieve their goal. A Student may hate IT but if you can show them that a good understanding will save them money and also earn them money. They will soon develop a stronger interest!
Use this whenever a student says they don’t like a subject. My favourite example of this from a school in Nottingham… “Don’t need maths Sir going to be a footballer” math teachers response “Nice, but 20% to an agent? When you could be an agent way after you finish playing? Or instead, as a career if you get injured?  Let me show you how to learn this”. 
  5. Class Task Challenge
Expand the previous challenge class-wide, the rules are simple. Anyone can pick anything as long as its legal. The class makes a rule that what is said is supported, suggestions for things they would have to learn encouraged. 
Get them to search for houses, cars, the material things first. 
Then get them to think about why they want that stuff, this always leads to a chat about peer pressure and expectations. 
A good example, and one of my favourites. 
A shy lady declaring to the class she wanted to be a professional snowboarding champion. We were of course in the snowboarding capital of the world, that’s right Birmingham? The class and even the staff had to double-check their giggles (The girl was often in trouble for class disruption, it was obviously a prank). The laughing stopped when she reached into her bag and showed her Team GB training kit. 
We have seen coding geniuses, robot builders, ninjas (seriously twins who had moved back to the UK from Japan). You will be shocked at the dreams and plans, and also how far your students are along with their process.  I once had the pleasure of filling the form in to release a student to compete in the Tour de France. 
You can use this information to help with teaching plans, use famous people from their chosen career/hobby to make impactful points. For example, the head of the snowboarding lady had an amazing realisation. The next time she disrupted the class and was sent to see her, she could simply and calmly say, ‘You are in a position to make your dreams come true if you can’t be respectful and organised here. Team GB will only take the most skilled and respectful athletes to represent the country. If you are going to be an Olympic champion, you have to commit to it 100%. Starting here.’
The student is now a mentor for others who are disruptive in lower year groups.

Hope this helps, also if your a staff member going through anything personally hard the 9 box exercise works as an amazing starting point for you as well. 
Please add tips, comments, hacks, positive and negative feedback. It’s all appreciated.  
So now for the other side of the coin… YOU!

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Following a troubled time in his early teens, he almost made it to daytime Radio 1 before creating a “Plan B” business that left him with a short period of homelessness, serious emotional trauma and financial loss (almost 100k). He started a record label with a friend (and £10 from signing on) and within 4 years turned that into 4 albums, stadium shows, international radio play and used the success to pay off all his debt within 18 months to free himself in order to go to University. He later used the same skills to pay off all his student debt within 2 years of graduating. Setting up a community DJ school and taking back to the stage again to fund the next part of the journey. His business and production partner Damian passed away suddenly on tour in 2004, and Carl made the decision to hand all future royalties over to his family. And to walk away from chasing fame... Soon after he was recruited from a sales role within a major record label to become a Lecturer at Staffordshire University, teaching students how to survive on the rollercoaster of the music industry. Realising that many students were struggling with the pressures of studying, he qualified as a counsellor and joined the Universities trauma support team. 15 years later he realised he was being asked for his personal story and lessons learned, by more and more people. So he decided to leave the University and to create a set of shows to attempt to solve issues faced by young adults all over the UK. As a part of the research for the show he worked on the front line for 6 months, working for a mental health charity, gaining Safeguarding and Mental Health First Aid status along the way. He has also continued his work within the Radio industry helping create studios for another mental health charity. Alongside this he has spent the last decade as a go-to for various Motorsport teams, working with drivers to extract the best from themselves and their cars. This research was the basis of his MSc in Advanced Technology. Away from the stage, he is still obsessed with dance music and old VW’s.

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