So, you’ve gone to all of the ACT Training of Educators, you’ve taken the online implementation training, you’ve even gone to a training on facilitation, but what if the “WHAT IF” happens? We train educators how to deal with sensitive questions, but what about dealing with sensitive situations that come up in your programs?
Picture this scenario. While implementing your program in a typical classroom setting, you’re facilitating a module that includes a game centered around STDs. It’s one of the more engaging activities and participants usually have a lot of fun doing it, but this time, one of the students gets really upset and begins to get teary. What do you do?
As educators, we can never really plan for EVERYTHING, but we try to be as prepared as possible. In the case of this scenario, having a participant cry during the session can really rattle an educator, but it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with issues that can bring up a lot for people. A strategy for dealing with issues like these is to put that out there up front. Let participants know at the beginning of the cycle what you will be covering, and be explicit. They may not know when you will cover a particular topic, but at least they know what to expect.
Also, let them know about the different strategies that you’ll be using. Inform them from the start that there will be role plays involved, but the decision to participate as an actor is completely voluntary. There will be games involved, but it doesn’t mean that the program or you, as the educator, think topics like HIV/AIDS or negotiating sex are funny or don’t take them seriously.
Without putting them on the spot, check in with them, ask if they’re OK or if they need to take a break (possibly step out of the class/group setting). This will require you to find out the policy of the school/agency regarding students’ leaving the room. It’s also helpful if you have another adult in the class (a co-facilitator, teacher, etc.) who can support you so that you can tend to the class and they can assist with the student. Also, note that checking in with them may require a longer conversation and possibly disclosure of a bigger issue. Be aware of who the social worker, counselor, or on-site support is, if needed.
Lastly, self-care is important. Remind them that your workshop is a safe space. You have to go over all of the material, but if something being discussed is too much for them or hits too close to home, let participants know that they can do whatever is necessary to take care of their needs. Make sure to give them examples (e.g. step out, take a water break, mentally check out, write/doodle/draw in their notebooks, etc.)
This was one example of a challenging or sensitive situation that may arise, but I’m sure there are many more. What are some examples you have from the field of difficult situations that have arisen in your programs, and how have you dealt with them?