Tuesday, February 10, 2015

School Counseling Formula

Permission from School Counselor Central is required for reproduction of visual and formula concept.

       This past week I viewed all of the wonderful ways in which school counselors were sharing their work and values in supporting students.  I went back to my previous posting on the idea that celebration should be more than a week long.  I questioned: if our goal as school counselors is to have the school and community understand our work and embrace a comprehensive school counseling program then what was the formula for this process?

      The question lead me to revisit the idea of solution focused outcomes.  The concept developed by Shazer and Berg (1970) is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy. (http://www.solutionfocused.net/solutionfocusedtherapy.html)  The approach provides clients with support while building a toolbox of strategies in dealing with problems.  Lots of school counseling research and books discuss solution focused therapy, but I wanted to take it beyond the individual counseling approach.

      Just for fun, I began looking at all of the components of a comprehensive program and which one really stood out to analyze and be the essence of the importance of the school counselor.  I looked at the delivery area only and developed a formula that is yet to be tested.  Please note that Math was not my strength!  That is why I am writing this blog to see if there are others who are interested in testing and finding out the "so what" of the results!  Consider it a puzzle!

      Here is the overall question that took me to the formula development: What if we could show the impact of the delivery system as solution focused response to intervention, would the perception of the school counseling program change?  Notice that I said, school counseling program and not school counselor.  If the program is shown to be essential, effective and is now considered part of the Response to Intervention Pyramid at the local level, then the perception of the school counselor as an essential professional also changes!

       Formula:  If we take the total number of students who multiplied by total classroom lessons delivered the result would equal the total number of solution focused interventions provided at Level 1.  If we take the number of students and the number of groups provided the results would equal solution focused interventions provided at Level 2.
       What would you present to your administrators and the educational community?  The results that show that the school counseling program provides different amounts of interventions at each of the levels.  What might be expected and hopeful outcomes: increased class time or identified groups that are needed; less non-counseling activities; and reduced caseloads to improve RTI results.

       Let's change our ways and instead of accountability, let's use solution focused interventions.   Instead of going at it by claiming a time and task aligned to non-counseling activities, too many students on the caseload and other emotional appeals to changing the profession at the local level, try aligning it to the RTI process and showing a simple formula on solution based interventions.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

School Counseling: Celebrate all Year!

     As the official celebration week begins, I often wonder why it should only be one week?  I understand that it is important to highlight the work of school counselors and celebrate it with commitment and passion to the profession.  As any celebration, it seems that by the end of the week, we all go back to our tasks and responsibilities as the school year goes on and question why folks don't understand or value our profession.  So why not keep the celebration as a year long event?  Take the week and bump it up a notch to showcase on an ongoing basis the wonderful events of a school counseling program.

     You are probably thinking this is going to be overwhelming.  Not really!  Let's take the idea of benefits of a school counselor for our stakeholders and think of ways to showcase current work being done that benefits each group.

     1) Teachers:
          * Create a bulletin board in the teacher's lounge showing the month's lessons and group topics.  If you have data from prior month's activities, show the visual on the board.
          * Involve teachers and ask them to tell you where they went to college.  Create a display with banners for students to see entitled "Where our staff went to college."  I would also include your clerical support and other staff members.
          * Attend curriculum/department/team leader meetings and present what activity you will be doing and when.  Also ask, based on the upcoming activity, what teachers would like students to learn from the lesson.  Take a moment to share the ASCA Mindset and Behavior Standards as a guide on the alignment of the activity to national standards.

     2) Parents:
         *  Remind parents to go to the school counseling website for resources and news.
         * Send an email out to all parents sharing the calendar of activities.  Don't let the school counseling calendar be static on a website, but remind parents of dates to remember for each month.
         * Create a one page newsletter on lessons completed and what students learned as a result of the lesson.  Always provide additional resources on how parents can continue enhancing themes learned as a collaboration with the home.

     3) Administrators:
         * Create a pyramid of intervention for academic, social/emotional and college/career activities done in level 1, 2 and 3 to remind administrators.
         * Share with administrators articles on different school counseling related topics.  Avoid reminding them of caseload and importance of school counselors.  Try to share topics on social emotional interventions and effectiveness of lessons related to mindfulness, character education, etc..
         *  Take a look at the discipline record, search for themes (cutting class, for example) and propose a group for those students with a clear set of activities and measurement of the intervention.
     4) Students:
        * Survey students on their needs and engagement in a school counseling program.
        * Share data on lessons done and what the needs are.  With that, create additional support for ongoing delivery of the theme presented.  For example, if I do a lesson on the college application and see students struggling to understand the common application from a survey given, I will then create lunch bunch meetings to walk through the common application again.
        * Communicate with student on an ongoing basis by remminders of events, inspirational messages and doing check in meetings.

     At the end of the year, use the school counseling designated hallway bulletin board to showcase the Year in Review for the school counseling program.  Post the  mission, vision, lessons, data and any other visual that would show what the school counseling program is all about and how it is integral to the educational system!!!

 Let's keep the celebrating!