Is the popular kid the new invisible kid?
According to everytown.org, the October 24 Marysville Pilchuck High School tragedy in the state of Washington was the 87th school shooting since Sandy Hook (http://everytown.org/article/schoolshootings/). This shooting jarred us in a different way: a popular freshman, a student-athlete recently crowned Homecoming Prince, shot five of his friends in their school cafeteria after text-inviting them to join his lunch table. Four are dead, including the shooter. Two remain hospitalized. A review of the shooter’s Twitter page quickly revealed months of accumulative anger and angst.
For us, this tragedy drives home three key points. First, an invisible child is not necessarily a child socially “below the radar” but a child who struggles to process adversity and express emotions in a healthy, resilient manner. Secondly, in our hyper competitive, pressure-packed society, our children’s social emotional skills and positive adult connections matter at least as much as their academic and extra-curricular skills and peer connections. Third, we must intentionally keep a collective, concerned community eye on our children from elementary through high school and from the kitchen table to their social media “kid world.”
Re-introducing The +Connection Inventory. In as August 2013 Houston Chronicle op-ed (http://bit.ly/1p7dPWc), we shared a simple way for schools to visually map and understand the connections our children do (or don’t) have to adults in our schools. The inventory can be conducted at a faculty/staff meeting, and now is a great time of year to do it.
First, create lists of students on large pieces of paer and display them on walls or tables in a private, staff-only area. (Roberts Elementary HISD copied yearbook photos/names and worked one grade at a time.) Kick off your meeting by discussing the importance of connection and being mindful of students across the “popularity spectrum.” Next, ask each faculty/staff member to stick a dot next to the names/photos of children with whom they have a connection. (After hearing Roberts’ approach in a +School Roundtable meeting, Pershing Middle School HISD took the idea further and used different colors to indicate positive and negative connections.)
Counselors/social workers can then use the resulting +Connection Map to help invisible students — and students with an abundance of negative connections — to make positive connections going forward.
For more tools and strategies from our innovative +School Community program, check out our NEW +School Community Guide available here in English (http://bit.ly/1tQZRPp) and Spanish (http://bit.ly/1DN1DlC).