Nahla is a 10th-grade student at a transfer high school in NYC. She recently transferred from a selective middle/high school where she had missed more than 100 days of school. Parents and teachers report a high level of school anxiety despite strong grades and test scores in elementary school and strong contributions when present in school.
How can we help her to develop confidence and to attain necessary skills and work habits that would allow her to engage at the high intellectual level she is capable of?
How can we help her focus her passion for social justice in ways that help her more constructively engage her peers and engage sincerely and patiently with alternate viewpoints?
Physical Presence and Gesture
Nahla tends to be very quiet and seems determined to take up as little physical space as possible wherever she goes. She rarely smiles and has a serious expression most of the time. Sometimes she can seem deeply concentrated on her work or what’s going on in class, while other times her attention seems to drift away. At these times, she can droop in her chair and might be looking out the window. However, when classes are discussion-centered and her interest is stimulated, she can speak in an animated and decisive tone in the discussion. When she does speak, it is usually because she feels strongly and she will be quite firm in her statements. Her physical presence and affect in these moments is a marked contrast to her usual posture, which is one that appears shy.
Relationships with Children and Adults
Nahla is extremely well-behaved and polite with adults, but she can be difficult to draw out. Her main infractions revolve around lateness or absences and she can become quite distressed and avoidant when it is raised with her. She has a strong desire to please adults and is upset when she feels that she is not doing so. She is unlikely to seek out help on her own, but will often respond warmly to offers of help.
She sticks to a very close peer group of about three friends. She seems to have thriving and close relationships with those friends and they appear to be a valuable source of support. She is generally liked by other students, but does not form close relationships with them. She is quick to offer support or praise to classmates. However, she is equally quick to offer sharp disagreements and sometimes students feel that they are being judged by her.
Activities and Interests
Since arriving at the school, Nahla has taken up an interest in darkroom photography. She has registered for two classes and she spends a lot of time during breaks and after school in the darkroom. She is also interested in social justice issues and frequently participates in protests. She is often sharing information about social issues in class. She has also expressed an interest in filmmaking and served as the director for the film for one of the school’s mini-units. She is a strong writer, but expresses a lot of anxiety about writing and will often hand in assignments late due to writer’s block.
Nahla has extremely strong verbal and written skills with an impressive vocabulary for her age. She reads widely and ambitiously. She thinks critically and likes to engage in intellectual debate. However, she can have difficulty seeing a problem from multiple perspectives or acknowledging the merit of opposing viewpoints. She struggles to extend her writing despite strong ideas. English and Social Studies classes are her favorites and she does very well in them. After some initial difficulty in Math, she is doing well now that she has added a Math lab. She works diligently and enjoys working on proofs. Science remains her weakest subject and she often struggles with lab procedures. She has difficulty following complex instructions and often becomes confused at directions, particularly when orally delivered. She was recently diagnosed with ADHD and her difficulties with executive functioning tasks and processing speed are apparent. These challenges can make it harder for her to engage in the high level intellectual tasks she gravitates towards and this can be frustrating for her.
Credit for the Featured Image: MedicalNewsToday