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Monday Ideas for School Counselors

Weekly articles for school counselors with ideas on how to resolve typical school situations with students, teachers and parents using the solution focused approach.

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Don't Praise! ... Be Amazed!

October 10, 20222 min read

Many times, when I do trainings, I share several cases using the solution focused approach and then do an exercise with the audience. I ask them to think about the cases I shared and then discuss in pairs, what they heard were the basic ideas of the solution focused approach.

I tell them that the only word off limits to use is “positive,” which causes many curious looks. 

The solution focused approach sounds positive but it is much, much more than that.

For example, years ago, I was walking down a hallway on the first day of school, to pick up my daughter who was in second grade. I listened to several teachers who were finishing up their day on the way. Students were lining up in their classrooms, ready to leave.

When I walked up to my daughter’s class, all I heard was a very sweet teacher’s voice saying to her students:

“Students, I have to be the luckiest teacher in the world. You all lined up so quickly and are ready to go. Wow. How did you do that? I can’t wait to teach you tomorrow and for the rest of the year.”

The students stood there, smiling at her broadly as if they held a secret to their success. My daughter was beaming. They were quiet, ready for more words from her, which she gave them.

Across the hall was another teacher, who, it seemed, did not have such a good day. She was frowning, her students were misbehaving and she was shouting:

“Students, this is not the way to start school. I appreciate that some of you are standing still but the rest of you need to get with it or you won’t leave.”


Those students did not quiet down. They were in the last classroom to exit that day. I felt badly for the teacher, too.

So, what does this have to do with the title of today, "Don't Praise... Be Amazed"?

Praise is overrated and its effects do not always last. What my daughter’s teacher did was NOT praise. She was simply acknowledging then asking how her students did so well. She then added how their actions affected her. She was modeling SEL. 

 So, here, on this Monday, consider trying out this idea a few times this week when students are doing or are close to doing what you hope they will do:

“___________, I am amazed at what you have done. It truly tells me that you have amazing ability. Tell me, how did you manage to do this?”

Watch for smiles, developing confidence and vigor to do more.

Remember too, that YOU are amazing to me.

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Dr Linda Metcalf

Linda Metcalf is the best-selling author of Counseling Toward Solutions and 10 other books. Linda is a former middle school teacher, all-level certified school counselor, licensed professional counselor supervisor, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the State of Texas. She is a Professor at Texas Wesleyan University.

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