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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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How to Turn Complaints Into Solutions

January 29, 20243 min read

Like a lot of school counselors, you probably have teachers stop in on occasion (or often), asking how to reach a student who is not doing well or failing that they suspect has potential but just doesn’t try. The teachers complain and are often very close to giving up, after all, they think they are trying harder than the student, and that may be true. It’s tempting to provide a list of things to the teacher to try, but if you do, you may risk hearing things like:

“I’ve done that.”

“He won’t listen.”

“She’s just not interested.”

“There’s no family support.”

And many more reasons why your idea won’t work. So, I suggest that you do not suggest anything! That will certainly be easier.

By embracing the solution focused approach mindset you may begin to believe that in spite of the teacher’s helpless mindset, it is the teacher who can also turn things around, especially if they can let go of the problem focus. So, I would encourage you to try out the following steps with the teacher, so the teacher may become empowered to… empower the student.

“Would you please tell me what your best hopes or goal is in working with this student?”
Possible Answer: To help him so that he can pass the class.

“When in the past has this student responded to an assignment, project or anything you did in class slightly more effectively?”
Possible Answer: When we talked before an assignment one on one, and I reminded him to turn in work during class he responded by getting back on task and completing his work. He also liked it when I asked him about video games. I just don’t always have time to check in with him - there are so many students.

“So, which assignments did he pass, and what did his successes tell you about how he learns best?”
Possible Answer: Well, he passed the first semester. He passes his tests well, yet often forgets his homework. That lowers the grade. He has the ability; he just seems to need additional attention and reminders.

“I wonder if he realizes that you think he has the ability. I wonder how he might respond if you were to share what you just described to me with him. I wonder if he sees himself as someone who could do well.”
Possible Answer: I haven’t shared that with him. I suppose I am too annoyed to talk with him like that. Maybe I could show him his high test scores in the grade book and then give him the opportunity to tell me how he was successful in those tests. Honestly, a high grade on a test without doing all of the homework is quite good.

"I agree. I look forward to hearing how he responds when you try that out. This is a great idea."
Possible Answer: We shall see.

The solution focused approach is not just for students, it is for teachers, parents and everyone else who gathers in your office needing your support. Be careful to not give that support too quickly…instead, let that person wrestle with a new way of coming up with a strategy, by tapping into times when part of their best hope was right in front of them.

Solution-Focused ApproachSchool CounselingTeacher SupportStudent EngagementEmpowering Educators
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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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Practical tools and strategies for school counselors to help students achieve their goals

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(817)799-7678

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