On a typical day during lunch and advisory, when you walk the halls of Leaman Junior High School in Fulshear, Texas, you won’t see your average student interactions. Instead, you will see students spending time together around tables knitting. What started out as a guidance lesson on anxiety for 8th grade students has turned into a service club with over thirty seven members.
Amber Barbee, 8th grade counselor, visited the classrooms during the first six weeks of school to discuss the character trait on Trustworthiness. During this lesson, she shared topics a counselor can help her students with. These included but were not limited to divorce, grief, anxiety, and depression. Mrs. Barbee told the students, “We all have burdens that we carry. As your counselor, I have a lot of tools to help you lift some of these burdens. Come see me anytime you need help. It’s my job to help you.”
Little did Mrs. Barbee know that this would begin a major service project club for Leaman Junior High. Three girls asked to speak with her during lunch. They were seeking guidance on ways to deal with test and school anxiety. Mrs. Barbee shared a variety of options including knitting, a past time she learned years ago from a friend to help her when she had a lot of anxiety, while recovering from knee replacement surgery. “Can you teach us,” the girls asked. The three girls showed up the next day to learn how to knit during their lunch and advisory time. This led to them inviting friends who also had anxiety and/or wanted to talk about some of their school problems. Today, this group has thirty-seven members and continues to grow.
Students come for their lunch time or advisory one to five days a week. They are knitting hats, blankets, and socks for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, preemies in Ethiopia, and children suffering from cancer at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“This is an exceptional group of Chargers. exclaimed Mrs. Barbee. I am very thankful to the LCISD school district for implementing the Character Counts framework. It allows me to provide practical strategies and tools for our students in need of counseling support. Knitting has replaced negative responses to anxiety such as cutting, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations.”
When asked what her biggest take way from her knitting group was, Mrs. Barbee responded, “I think parents have the misconception that their junior high students don’t want to talk or spend time with them. They feel as if students are in a technology generation thriving on cell phone usage and video game time. Instead, students are craving some adult time. During knitting, no one is on their cellular phones. They are engaging in wonderful conversations about tough issues and hard to handle situations. We do a lot of role plays and restorative circle time. In a recent circle, a student shared that they like knitting with their peers because they are in foster care and don’t feel like they have a family. The club has become their family. Students are giving each other advice or becoming allies for students in need. Let me give you a few examples:
- During knitting, a student shared being new to school and not having anyone to sit with at lunch. Some of the knitters overheard her sadness and asked to change her schedule, so she could eat lunch with them every day.
- We had two students enroll from Columbia. They were limited English speakers struggling to find classes and understand the English language. Students in the knitting club from Columbia, created a group called Table Talk. In their group, they meet with these students to help them practice their English and translate information for them in Spanish, during their lunch times. They walk with them to their classes and find other “Table Talk” members to support them in the class. Both students were in regular education classes and have now advanced to Pre-AP courses. I feel it is because their self-confidence was boosted through the friendships they gained and dissolving the language barrier.
- From knitting, students have started a club called W.A.V.Y. Watch, take Action, and Visualize the Youth. When a new student enrolls, they meet the student in the counseling office to review their schedule. They give them a welcome bag that includes letters from other 8th graders welcoming them to the campus. It includes the list of names of students who are there to help them, if they have any problems at school. They meet them in the cafeteria to help them find people to eat lunch with. They check on them throughout the week to make sure things are going okay and to see if they have any questions.
When I was growing up, we played Candyland, Uno, and Checkers. We watched Friday night T.V. with our parents and ate dinner together. Through these activities we learned sharing, cooperation, and taking turns. Our students today don’t have a lot of these opportunities, so they are craving times such as these. Who knew knitting would become so popular among all the boys and girls at Leaman?
I am overwhelmed by the amount of support from the Fulshear community. I have received tons of yarn and snack donations. Many community members have visited us, and they are amazed at how giving of their time and talents are students are at Leaman Junior High.