Emoticon

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The Huddle has developed a new program at The Huddle for middle years students where they explore how people overcome challenges through the stories of footballers here at The North Melbourne Football Club (NMFC). They identify the personal qualities they and the footballers draw upon to help them get through any challenges they may face. By creating a safe space at The Huddle, students go on to share their own stories in small groups and do a role-play to share with the whole group.

Emoticon has been a popular program and I have found the challenges that students are facing very interesting – moving to a new country, making friends in a new school, being bullied, being addicted to computer games, maintaining friendships, co-operating with siblings, learning in a new language, improving a skill, learning to be organized, hating maths, forgiving, fearing the water, hating their handwriting, feeling included in sport and so forth. Fairness often surfaces, and often relates to interaction with siblings which students agree seems to be an area rife with conflict. They have also noted that we often hold grudges longer and co-operate less readily with siblings than with friends.

Even more interesting has been the ability of young people to find solutions and support each other as well as seeing a light side to a situation while they are learning to deal with it and analyzing it – their ability to laugh it off!

Finding solutions is supported by group work and by the use of new technologies in The Huddle classroom. Once the students have reflected on their stories and identified a personal quality relevant to overcoming their challenge, they then go on to take photos and write captions – they make a poster about it using Comic Life.

As we may expect, young people are used to the camera and use it freely to express their emotions and relate their story. Students from diverse cultural backgrounds pose and pull faces to generate a story in a digital format using their own language and expression – and those who are literate in their first language also use it in their poster.

It is rewarding to see how students develop the language and concepts that enable them to discuss challenges openly. This is enabled by the honesty of the NMFC players and the challenges they have faced in recent times. Each player is interviewed to uncover a different sort of challenge, whether it be mental, physical or social – Lindsay Thomas and his lack of form in goal kicking in 2011; Leigh Adams and the “chicken-wing incident” in 2012; Majak Daw‘s entry into AFL and supporting his family to understand what being a professional athlete entails; Andrew Swallow as leader of the team; Jack Ziebell and the controversy around being reported in 2012.

The honesty and clarity of each player around their challenge and exactly how they overcame it, who supported them, the personal qualities and inner strength they had to find and the positives they gained from what could have been a negative experience all contribute towards a healthy discussion and open-minded outlook.

Having seen that other young adults, in this case NMFC players, are willing to share their challenges, creates a safe space for students to explore them selves and others.

To read about Emoticon from the perspective of NMFC Captain, Andrew Swallow, visit http://www.nmfc.com.au/news/2013-03-18/its-an-emoticon-game

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