The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Facing Reality"
Facing Reality
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Lesson for “Facing Reality”

The writer suffers from a disease which puts her in a wheelchair and undermines her speech, fine motor control, and other abilities.

She is responding to enormous adversity. In her case the adversity relates to the loss of physical skills that she, and most of us, take for granted. It’s also related to the way in which the skills make her seem different from everyone else, the loss of her mobility, and to fears about further deterioration.

Experts who study reactions to loss find that people tend to go through predictable phases. There are different names for the phases—and the phases aren’t completely linear; there can be lot of back and forth among them. However, the basic idea of the phases is well-established. For many people, naming the phases can help them better understand and cope with their own losses or those of others in their lives. (For example, it can be very frustrating to be trying to help someone who is in denial, but it can be easier if you know that this is a phase they have to go through.)

Lesson—Understanding the Phases of Loss

1. Ask your students to think of a time when they lost something emotionally important and write it down in their notebook. If they can think of several examples, that’s even better. Tell them that once they pick a final idea, they will write a short essay about the loss. Note: Some students may want to write about something as serious as a death of someone who was important to them, but that is not required or even necessary. There are many other possibilities; share some of these with your students to get them thinking. The “loss” of a family member or best friend because of a move. The loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Loss of faith in someone who betrayed you. Even loss of hope, such as a time when you were sure you were going to fail an important class.

2. List on the board the common phases that people go through when responding to a loss: confusion, denial, anger, depression, acceptance and resolution. Give a very simple example to explain the phases. For example, a good student feels a loss if she fails a test. Upon getting the test back, she might at first be confused (“I must have gotten someone else’s test.) Then in denial, (“No, this can’t have happened.”) Then angry—maybe at herself, or at the teacher. Then depressed, (“I’ll never pass this class.”) Then acceptance and resolution, (“I have to study differently next time.”)

3. Tell the students to look at the loss they’ve written in their notebook and jot down some of their reactions when they were in the different phases. They should give an example of a time they were confused, angry, depressed, in denial, etc.

4. For homework: Ask your students to read "Facing Reality" for homework. (The story is probably too long to read in class.)

Tell students that as they read the story, they should write the “phases” in the margin each time they see the writer going through one. When she’s angry, they would writer “anger” in the margin. When she’s in denial, they write “denial,” etc. Note that the phase may expressed in a single sentence or in a section of several paragraphs. Here are a few examples. You might show the students one to get them started. denial (“There is nothing wrong with me,”), anger (“Sometimes I felt angry or very sad,”) depression (“I rarely went outside except for church and school,”), acceptance, and resolution (“I now know that I have to have more confidence in myself and look at people and at life with my head up,”).

5. In class: Spend 15-20 minutes going over the story with the students, having them show you the phases that the writer went through. This will insure that students understand the concept of the phases, and showing them through specific examples. Then tell them to write their essays. Note: This can be treated as a short writing assignment with just one or two paragraphs for each phase, or the basis for a longer essay like the writer’s, depending on your time and goals.
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(NYC-2004-05-03)

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