SELF-Ex: A Guide to Address Adversity Responsibly

By LEA WOLF

Overview

The SELF-Ex project was inspired by a group of kids in elementary school who shared their experiences with bullying. The kids were resentful and upset by how school officials mismanaged some of these incidents or the advice given to them by their parents. Oftentimes, this advice perpetuates bullying instead of preventing it. Through hundreds of stories collected through a proprietary web application called ‘Share Your Story’ on https://deedsbykids.org, we discovered several root-causes of the problem. The patterns were consistent.

Many of the ‘remedies’ suggested to kids are dysfunctional and ineffective.  Many times, children–both victims and bullies–are further hurt by them. Kids are told “it’s normal,” “suck it up,” “just ignore it,” “get even,” “life is not fair,” or “we will take care of it;” usually, in the case of “we will take care of it,” nothing is done. These responses breach kids’ trust in others, infuse uncertainty, and make them feel unsafe at school. When adversity is not resolved in a satisfactory manner, children are left feeling hopeless and helpless. The negative feelings that emerge hinder their progress academically, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

The SELF-Ex model was developed to equip kids with a systematic-process to resolve adversity based on purpose, personalized principles, and practical solutions. The SELF-Ex model uses critical thinking questions to help children understand themselves, others, and the environment. Through an introspective-process they will learn to identify their own strengths and sensitivities and be guided to accept responsibility for their actions. The model offers a variety of learning opportunities based on their personal situation. Children develop a mental muscle to focus their attention on examining their personal needs while balancing it with group objectives for the collective good of the community. Since we consider schools as closed-community, kids must be given an opportunity to safely explore and practice effective processes to address adversity responsibly.

The SELF-Ex process is a growth module that helps kids to transform obstacles into learning opportunities. Through inner and external examination, they will be able to make value based decisions and take action with assessing potential risks with hope to yield better outcomes.

SELF-Ex offers over 13-solutions of assertive communications to address adversity. The tools are a way to mend differences compassionately to more aggressively depending on the severity of the incidents. These incidents can range from discomfort to blatant misconduct.

 

The SELF-Ex acronym delineates its methodology:

  • Set your purpose
  • Evaluate the situation
  • Learn of all possible solutions
  • Forge ahead to take action.
  • Examine outcomes

The SELF-EX elements are centered on Set Your Purpose. Everything starts and ends with questioning and establishing the number ONE (purpose): Objectives, Needs, and Expectations.

 

We selected 35 stories and classified them based on categories and severity level.  The stories were organized into the following categories:

 

1. Verbal and visual expression

2. Social media and cyberbullying

3. Physical space and personal belonging

4. Authorities who overpower children

5. Physical altercation

 

The severity of many incidents intensifies when kids are afraid to speak up or do not know how to address uncomfortable situations. SELF-Ex guides them with safe tools to inspect and verify the intent of the actions, articulate the impact and injury, and take appropriate measures to address the situation in the right way, with the right people, at the right time, and for the right reasons. Through the SELF-Ex model kids will master communicating assertively, decision making, and acting responsibly to manage interpersonal relationships.

 

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During the pandemic period, student’s emotional well-being deteriorated. As they return to school, teachers and parents can expect adverse situations to emerge. The SELF-Ex training model and ongoing curriculum can provide them a safe space to acquire life skills with growth opportunities.

 

The SELF-Ex program can be offered as a curriculum, a workshop, or both. As a curriculum, students are able to bring their own personal situations/examples to the classroom in an open forum; these discussions can occur on a weekly basis. The consistent educational curriculum will teach students on how to: address diversity, inclusion, acceptance, race, accountability, bullying, sportsmanship, self-image, compassion, team work, intention, self-discovery, confidence, trust, respect, taking responsibility, honesty, overpowering authority, accountability, and a variety of other concepts with practical applications.

 

Our programs are all driven by personalized activities, where each student can select the best solutions based on their understanding of the risks, rewards, and worst/best case scenarios. In addition, SELF-Ex guides students on the right way to communicate at the right time, whom to address, and how to do so with purpose in mind. SELF-Ex expresses a unique process for students applicable to every predicament they come in contact with.

 

Based on real stories from elementary/middle schools throughout the United States, the program offers excellent examples through engaging storybook-like narratives with corresponding exercises. This will ensure that students are made aware and that they will be equipped with tools and resources to overcome the hurdles of in-person school again. With heightened self-awareness, kids will further build leadership skills and ultimately build confidence in themselves.

Expected Impact

We have implemented and are confident that the SELF-Ex method’s into a curriculum or workshop training will benefit kids tremendously. Here are some of the expected outcomes:

 

SELF-Ex was researched and applied among kids and even adults to assist them in managing adversity. The book includes diverse activities for kids to develop their belief systems around diverse values included but not limited to:  honesty, respect, compassion, accountability, sportsmanship, personal responsibility, confidence, acceptance, tolerance, and more. The tools can be tailored to the school culture and environment. The stories can trigger discussions in which kids familiarize themselves with these topics and feel safe to open up about them. We have observed, via our programs’ workshops, that both the students and schools greatly benefit. SELF-Ex will help foster a safe environment in schools by focusing on building students’ personal self-growth by transforming obstacles into learning opportunities by speaking assertively and acting responsibly.

Personal Self-Growth:

 

Students that participate in SELF-Ex learn to understand and address their needs through a variety of activities and open dialogue. This allows for a child to increase their self-awareness, understand their peers’ perspectives, overcome adversity, and promote intersectionality. Kids will better articulate their beliefs with a sense of self-reliance and confidence, thus improving their social-emotional wellbeing and shaping their leadership skills.

  • Learn to understand and address needs

  • Increase self-awareness and understand oneself and others

  • Identify and articulate feelings and beliefs assertively

  • Take responsibility for one’s well-being

  • Improve social-emotional skills and well-being tremendously

  • Become self-reliant and accountable to oneself

  • Build trust and confidence

 

What to Recognize Before You Act:

 

SELF-Ex capitalizes on recognizing the differences between malicious intents and innocent mistakes that children consistently confuse. Awareness of their personal boundaries will translate to their understanding that everyone has different beliefs and expectations, which we must respect. With the specific tools and examples provided, students become capable of evaluating severity and impact. Before taking action, students must assess the risks of every situation which prevents impulsive action; instead, they can act responsibly.

  • Recognize the differences between malicious and innocent

  • Evaluate to understand the severity and impact

  • Assess risks and worst case scenarios before any action is taken

  • Learn to setup boundaries and manage expectations

 

Take Action, Act Responsibly:

 

Though SELF-Ex, students are capable of making value based decisions after careful brainstorming, critical thinking, and problem resolution methods. Children will learn to make responsible decisions and develop the skills to execute them assertively. They will learn specific tools and resources to address each adverse situation they may face.

  • Make value based decisions

  • Acquire various tools to resolve adversity constructively

  • Develop skills to manage interpersonal relationships

  • Brainstorm critical thinking and problem resolution methods

 

Benefits to School & Staff:

  • Establish norms and unify the process of addressing conflicts

  • Create a culture of acceptance, compassion, and accountability

  • Reduce bullying and malicious acts

  • Create a safe environment for kids in school

  • Reduce liability for schools

  • Teachers develop intimate and respectful relationship with students

By implementing SELF-Ex, schools and staff will find endless benefits; not only is there a reduced liability, but students become less involved in bullying and malicious acts. We focus on establishing healthy norms and creating a culture of acceptance, compassion, and accountability. Our tools allow schools to unify the process of addressing conflicts to create a safe environment in schools.

 

Benefits to Parents and Families:

By implementing SELF-Ex, parents and their families will enjoy a better home environment. The SELF-Ex skills that kids develop will help them to understand their parents and siblings,  speak openly about their feelings, communicate respectfully to their family members, and potentially prevent harmful and hurtful behaviors. SELF-Ex is instrumental in empowering kids to engage in healthy behaviors to better interpersonal relationships in school, at home, and eventually as they become adults. The SELF-Ex model and the variety of tools can be applied in any environment since they are driven by process, principle, and purpose to address conflicts assertively and responsibly.

Adopt & Adapt

SELF-Ex is an easily implemented program that directly corresponds and works with school counseling/student support centers. It seamlessly blends into existing policies and offers simple, effective methods for kids and administrators alike.

The program has the flexibility to be integrated as part of the students’ weekly curriculum or, simply, a couple-hour interactive workshop. All is based on the school’s situation. We can customize the curriculum based on the requirements of the school district. If administered as a curriculum, teachers shall be trained to become familiar with the SELF-Ex model and adapt it to students’ needs based on their experiences in school.

 The SELF-Ex tool can be a stand alone training or extended as a curriculum for the entire school year, where the surrounding 35 stories serve as specific learning opportunities in addressing various issues constructively. Verbal expression, social media, authority overpowerment, physical misconduct to altercation, and harassment can all be covered.

The stories can be selected to promote a specific value, concept or virtues based on the state of affairs in school. Our programs are based on purpose, principles, and personal values to address a diverse array of adverse situations by giving everyone an opportunity to repair them responsibly and with compassion.

To best adapt the SELF-Ex model, teachers shall be equipped with facilitation skills, where students are fully engaged in the process, from evaluating their purpose, sharing their personal stories, and practicing their communications skills.

Adopting the SELF-Ex method as a way to speak assertively and act responsibly to address adversity is a foundation to living life with purpose and growth in mind.

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