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Managing Challenges & Setting Boundaries
- We often find that, as students begin to find their feet, they may not rely on PAL sessions quite so much. What they may not realise is how valuable PAL can be when PAL Leaders tailor the sessions to be relevant to whatever students are covering at any point in the year, and they are always worth attending!
- It is really important that you remain proactive in trying to increase your attendance! If your attendance begins to drop, or you have no attendees to your sessions, this does not mean that you should cease running your PAL sessions. Instead, you need to raise this with both your PAL Academic Course Contact and the Central PAL Team.
- The step-by-step guide to improving attendance below will give you some hints, tips and ideas for boosting your attendance, as well as letting you know the steps to take and who to notify if your attendance rate is becoming a concern.
- Along with your PAL Academics, we as a Central PAL Team of course want to support you with any problems you are having, so please also let us know if you are having concerns over attendance and we can arrange a 1-2-1 to discuss this in more detail.
Difficult or Reluctant Students
However skillful you are and whatever techniques you use, you may still encounter difficult situations in small group PAL sessions.
Dealing with a difficult students can be challenging when you’re not a teacher and not that different in age. Here are some of the things you should do:
- Stay cool and calm when talking with a student. Above all be polite.
- Separate yourself from the situation – observe the student’s behaviour and try not to become personally involved.
- Remember that many students are still adolescents and still acting out in rebellion against the authority figures in their lives, so you should not behave in a ‘parental’ fashion. Instead adopt the role of a coach or concerned friend.
- Do not share information of a personal nature that students have confided in you, unless there is potential for them or others to be put in a harmful situation
- Listen carefully before saying anything - showing a student that you are willing and interested in hearing what they have to say goes a long way to solving problem
You can find below some scenarios that you may experience within your PAL sessions, along with methods for how to manage these int he downloadable hand out below.
Setting Boundaries - Facilitator not Therapist!
- As new students, some of your PAL group may find that they are struggling with university work, personal issues, learning or housing. As a facilitator, it is important to know where your place is and where you can refer the students for relevant help.
- Remember, you are not a counsellor or a therapist, and you should not be dealing with mental health situations or anything else which may cause a strain on you. Correctly signpost and send your students to the help that can be found under BU Support Services.
- For example, a student comes to you at the end of a session and asks if they can talk about something personal with you. Be respectful and listen to them, and give them advice if you can or send them to more help.
Setting Boundaries - Outside of Sessions
- The main boundaries of PAL are in place to ensure you don’t go above and beyond your role – you only get paid for your 1 hour session and half hour of preparation per week. This means meeting up with students outside of PAL sessions is unpaid and off your own back. If you find your students are constantly messaging you for help outside of your sessions, set designated time frames where you would be happy to signpost them or offer advice - equally, ask them to bring their concerns to the next PAL session if you are not happy to discuss outside of sessions.
- Another aspect is not being pulled into issues your PAL group may be having - if it's related to the course, make sure your PAL session doesn't become a place to come and complain. You can refer them to their course's SUBU Student Rep, or, set 5 minutes of a session aside for constructive feedback, which you could pass on to your Academic Course Contact, if you think it's useful.
- If the group are having another issue such as a falling out between social groups, mix the students up into different groups for an activity, and be sure to support and engage all the students. If you think it's an issue that needs addressing (for example, it's interfering in your sessions) contact the Central PAL Team or your Academic Course Contact for help.
Setting Boundaries - Remaining Professional
- Your role as a PAL Leader (a BU employee) requires you to be professional. If an attractive member of your PAL group asked you out on a date, the best course of action would be to politely decline the date and suggest the whole group does something social together! The relationship you have with the students is a working one, and it should stay professional for the year that you are their PAL Leader.
- Another aspect is not being pulled into issues your PAL group may be having - if it's related to the course, make sure your PAL session doesn't become a place to come and complain. You can refer them to course's SUBU Student Rep, or, set 5 minutes of a session aside for constructive feedback, which you could pass on to your Academic Course Contact if you think it's useful.
- If the group are experiencing other issues such as arguments between social groups, mix the students up into different groups for an activity, and be sure to support and engage all the students. If you think it's an issue that needs addressing ( it's interfering with your sessions) contact the Central PAL Team or your Academic Course Contact for help.