Gefühlsmonsters help students open up

“I am really very happy with these cards. The Gefühlsmonster® Cards helped my students open up and become more willing to communicate. They gave them a starting point from which the situation became noticeably more relaxed, which it just wasn’t before.

On Tuesdays, I only teach during the afternoons, and I am usually still very busy encouraging the boys to pay at least a minimum amount of attention – at this time, after having gone through a full day’s worth of conflicts with fellow students or my colleagues, they have usually built up a good amount of personal frustration.

3 students of mine always have difficulties during this time of the day, and one Wednesday, as a result of their disruptive behavior, I invited them for a conversation with me. Well, they would probably say that I ordered them to appear.

So, there they sat in the classroom, long faces and moody. My group consisted of one boy who was new to the class, another boy and a girl. This was the first time that I had asked them to come to class on Wednesday morning before their regularly-scheduled classes. Thank god for Brenda (my dog, who is always present during class) who can always be counted on to loosen the mood in such situations. While I hung up my coat, she went around to make new friends. I walked back and the faces of my students had become less tense, but it was obvious that the three of them are still unwilling to communicate. The two boys and the girl waited to see what would happen next, and were surprised to hear that I wanted them to sit together in a group, with me joining them. Everybody received a set of cards, and I asked them to spread the cards and pick out the one that best describes their current mood. The student’s faces became visibly more relaxed now.

The three were not supposed to show the cards to each other. Instead, I asked them to describe the feelings of the little guy in the picture so that we would be able to guess which card he or she is hiding.

No. 16

The first boy chose card nr. 16 and quickly begins to rant, describing how the guy in the picture is just angry, and that he is probably angry because he, like the student himself, has to show up for detention. The monster in the image doesn’t like it one bit, and is angry that he has to get up so early. We all guessed that the boy must have chosen card nr. 16, and he confirmed with a grin.

No. 20

The girl picked nr. 20, because she feels agitated and tense and also fearful about what is “going down” now. The second boy chose nr. 9, because he feels a little uncertain and stressed, and also because he is bored and has no interest whatsoever.

We began to talk about morning routines, why it’s annoying to have to show up earlier than usual, and I talked about how an occupied bathroom always causes me stress in the morning. By now, the three have become very relaxed and do not show any anger. We started to talk about disturbances in the classroom, how they start and what could be the cause.

I asked the students to pick a card that would presumably fit my emotions during yesterday’s class. One of them pulls out card nr. 7 (“Maybe you thought, oh, this is just too frustrating!”) The girl picks nr. 9 (“Maybe you were disappointed in us?”) and the other boy chooses nr. 10 (“You were probably surprised and unsettled and a bit angry.”) They were all very surprised to learn that I was incredibly annoyed and tired by the end of the class period, and that I just wanted to have some time to relax. (Nr. 21) The three look at me with confusion.

As a group, we continued to think about how we could find a common ground, and what they as well as I could do to at least try to find a constructive solution. Since the class period was almost over, I asked them to find another card that explained how they felt at this time, and to write down what had actually happened during this class period.

My “angry” student spontaneously chose the hammock, card nr. 5; the girl chose nr. 24 and the other boy nr. 11.

I was especially happy about the texts written by the students, which they wrote in about 5 minutes without any complaining (To give an authentic account, I have decided to re-type the texts complete with writing errors and peculiarities, and share them with you unedited):

“At first I felt bored and stressed and a little bit afraid. But then wha I knew what we are doing, than I already feel a bit beter and so in the end I had decided for the Happy one.”

“During this class we talked in the beginning how we feel and how Ms. Brown felt in the class yesterday. We talked about stuff and how we feel at this time. We talked about how things were.”

“During class I chose cards with Tom and Michel and there were those little monster on them that showed all ways of feeling. In the beginning I chose the angry one, because I was angry for having to go to 1st class, even though I don’t have school until the second class. My 2nd card was a guy who is hanging out on a hammock, because I talked with others about it (my angry feeling) and now I feel relaxed.”

During the second class period, the children were far more cooperative than usual, and although their cooperation didn’t last throughout the entire morning, it did last through the full class period.”