Pink elephants and cheesecake: My experience in a local high school

Posted on March 31, 2014 by Amy Tolmie
Categories: Secondary, 16-19s,

I've recently had the opportunity to go into one of our local high schools with a colleague who works for LCET's therapeutic team (LCET are the Luton Churches Education Trust who work in high schools across Luton). Over five weeks I was able to join in with three of their groups, two that dealt with self worth and one the worked on anger management, with year 7s and 8s (11-13's).

During these groups we would do activities that helped the students to explore their feelings and the root cause of their reactions be it related to anger or self worth. It was amazing to see the difference in the students at the beginning of each session compared to the end. Some days they would come in claiming to feel anxious or sad but more often than not they would leave with a smile on their faces. On a larger scale, the difference in how the students were feeling about themselves at the beginning of the eight weeks to the end was apparent in the way they carried themselves and how they interacted with their peers. I'm not saying all of their problems were solved and that they're never going to experience feelings of inadequacy again or that they'll never lose their temper but I do think that a difference was made, even if it was just giving them the idea that they could think of a pink elephant when they're feeling frustrated and angry. This technique works as it gives the students something else to think about while distracting them from their feelings and diffusing the situation.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't plain sailing. Sometimes they were difficult and didn't want to talk about anything other than cheesecake and hamsters…

On the whole they were honestly great. I feel really privileged to have had this opportunity, and although at times it felt like I had cheesecake coming out of my ears, I think a difference was made.

I hope that you may also have encountered times that make you feel encouraged. You'll be surprised by how much the students are taking in even when they don't appear to be the slightest bit interested.

And if it all gets too much, just think of a pink elephant…

Hannah Boyle
Project Support Worker for schoolswork.co.uk