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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Secret Service Group


I'm very fortunate to have a site supervisor for my internship who encourages me to try new things and to make mistakes. I've done a little of both with this group! When I told her about the idea of having a Secret Service group, she was very supportive of the idea. I got the inspiration for the Secret Service group from Dianne Senn’s book, Small Group Counseling, Grades 2-5. After reading about her Secret Service club, my wheels started to turn!

Before the group started, I met with each student. I gave them a manila envelope with “TOPSECRET” printed on it. Inside the envelope, was the official secret service invitation and parent consent to be in the group. I told each student to return the envelope with parent signatures to asecret location outside of my office. I also explained to them that the US Secret Service’s job is to serve and help the country through protecting its’ leaders. This group will serve and help the school by doing random acts of kindness (Intro by Dianne Senn).

Another great introduction to Random Acts of Kindness is a Youtube video by Life Vest Inside- Kindness Boomerang. In this video, one act of kindness causes another person to want to do something kind for another, and so on. This is a great "real life" example of paying it forward, and sparks a conversation about how easy it can be to be kind. Click on the picture to play the video.

Each week, I assign a secret mission to the Secret Service Agents. This could be anything from giving compliments to a classmate, or writing anonymous thank you notes to teachers around the school. I usually print the assignments out on a half-sheet of paper so that it fits into their envelop. Some of the missions may be written in code so that the students have to decipher it first! The students keep track of their service assignments in a journal. After each completed assignment, the students record the responses of the recipient of the deed, or their own responses (feelings, thoughts, other ideas). We use the journal as a springboard for group discussions.

I have also challenged my group of 6 students to do a combined total of 100 Random Acts of Kindness throughout the duration of our group meetings. We brainstormed different things that each person could do to earn extra stars (see list below). My goal in doing this is to encourage them to constantly be on the lookout for kind things to do for other people, rather than simply focusing on one task each week. A quote/motto that we often refer to in group is, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, will go unnoticed" -Aesop. They are not doing the services to get recognition for themselves, but rather for the satisfaction of knowing that they are making a difference in someone's life.

I created a group notebook (below) that is hidden in an “undisclosed location”. This notebook serves as a source of information and a means of communication for group members. If the students have questions during the week, they can refer to the notebook. (This also helps me with the group since I am an intern and am not at school all week to answer their questions). Included in the notebook are some of the most common questions- the date and time of the next meeting, the agenda for the next meeting, our list of ideas for secret service projects, extra copies of handouts, and a chart to keep track of the 100 assignments as they are completed. 

This group has been great for building students' friendship, leadership, and social skills, in addition to promoting students' positive self-esteem. So far, the kids are very enthusiastic about being members of the Secret Service at school. I have already noticed some changes in how the students are treating one another during group time. They were beyond excited to learn that they are the school's ONLY Secret Service, and that the only adults who know about the Secret Service besides me are their classroom teachers and their parents. I am excited to see how the rest of our group meetings turn out!


Extra Stars Ideas:
Pick up trash in your classroom
Be a peer helper to a life skills class 
Read to younger students 
Offer to help someone in your class with an assignment they are struggling with
Say thank you to cafeteria staff 
Smile to someone who may be having a hard day
Say “good morning” to someone you don’t normally speak to
Offer to get extra materials for someone (pencil, paper, textbook, fork, napkins, etc)
Stand up to a bully- don’t just be a bystander
Do an extra chore at home without being asked
Invite someone to play with you at recess who is not playing with anyone
Send a letter to an adult friend (with parent’s help)
Write a thank you note to a parent
Host a collection drive for an important cause
Put up positive posters around school (get adult approval first)
Give compliments to classmates, teachers, or students you do not know
Leave anonymous positive notes in a classmate’s or teacher’s desk
Put out birdseed after it snows
Hold the door open for the next person
Draw a picture for someone
Sit by someone different at lunch
Take time to get to know someone new
Puppet show to teach younger kids about friendship
Offer to help a specials teacher during your lunch time

2 comments:

  1. This is a great idea! I would love to use this to help maintain positive attitudes toward school. what types of things do you discuss when you meet with the group? I know you hand out the next mission. Are you discussing how the previous mission went and how they feel? I just LOVE this! Thanks, Mandy
    mandysue0117@prodigy.net

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  2. Hi Mandy! I am glad that you enjoyed this post! The students each had a journal in which they could plan for the mission and record how the mission went. Each week, we used this as our framework and discussed how the mission went for each Secret Agent, what could have been done differently, and would discuss the next mission.

    We also read and discussed a few inspirational stories about children who have made a difference. This book is great: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Kids-Stories-Change-Courageous/dp/1575423502/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=1XLJGJ5KWIVBZ&coliid=ISG9DLEK6PNPF and Scholastic has some great news articles about kids making a difference: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/collection.jsp?id=504.

    The feedback that I got from my students was that they wanted more code-breaking and investigative work like a real secret service agent might have. Next time I may give them their missions in code and have them break the code to learn what they are to do. Or I could give them clues about where to find certain parts of the week's assignment. Other student feedback was that they wanted it to last all year, wanted to do more as an entire group rather than individually, and they wanted real badges to wear.

    Something else to think about- this group would be great to tie in with a service learning project that benefits the school or the community. My group's focus was on RAK week at school, but other service learning activities would tie in beautifully!

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