George’s story

George is in year 8 at a mainstream school. He is at risk of being permanently excluded following 5 fixed term exclusions for disruptive behaviour and involvement in physical fights with peers. 

When we first met George, he said he found it difficult to talk openly about his feelings, saying he found it hard to trust people. He shared his short-term goals of spending less time on his phone, improving his behaviour and being more active. His long-term goal was to find a good career and feel passionate about something. George felt that he was unlikely to reach his goals “if I carry on the way I am now” and told us about family problems that he felt were barriers to achieving his goals.

When asked what he wanted to get out of Khulisa’s ‘Face It’ programme, George said he hoped to change his relationship with his younger siblings who he currently bullies using both emotional and physical violence. 

At the start of the programme, George used his enthusiasm and energy to be funny, entertaining and cheeky rather than to engage with the activities in a meaningful way. When others in the group shared personal experiences, it was George who seemed the most uncomfortable and often tried to distract focus by joking and asking inappropriate questions. Some of the questions George asked showed some insight into how confused some of his values and thought processes might be, such as “if you beat someone up that everyone hates, isn’t it ok? You’ve done everyone a favour”. 

As the programme went on, George’s attitude towards the group seemed to shift. He started listening more respectfully to others and seemed less uncomfortable when others shared personal experiences. He became less challenging and disruptive when he was outside his comfort zone and his questions and opinions became insightful and reflective, not designed to entertain or distract others. He showed his ability to grapple with and understand some of the more difficult concepts discussed in the group, and shared feelings of guilt for the impact his past behaviour may have had on others.

After completing the programme, George said that he was able to reflect on and make sense of his behaviour by thinking “what would Khulisa say?”

George shared he felt ‘Face It’ had taught him how important being active is for him, so he started engaging in sports again. He has a new long-term goal to be an engineer and feels that he is more likely to reach his goals “now that [he] can keep his head straight”. 

George reflected that engaging in the debates on the programme taught him that “it’s ok to speak up when people’s judgements are different, as long as you do it with respect.” He said that he’ll use this skill in class to better take turns and understand things from other people’s points of view before responding. 

George felt that being part of this group was like “being part of a big family” and said this sense of belonging has carried on outside of the group. He said ‘Face It’ helped him trust other people and that the biggest change for him has been his attitude and behaviour towards others. 

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