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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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When You Meet a Challenging Student: Do this!

February 20, 20232 min read

Gillian is 7 years old. Her teachers think that something is wrong with her. She can’t sit still. She gets in trouble at school and at home.

One day the school calls Gillian’s mom and asks her to come for a conference. 

During the interview, an old teacher arrives who knows the little girl. He asks all the adults, including his mother and colleagues, to follow him into an adjoining room, where Gillian can still be seen. As he leaves, he tells Gillian that they will be back soon and turns on an old radio with music. 

As the girl is alone in the room, she immediately gets up and begins to move up and down, chasing the music in the air with her feet and her heart. The teacher smiles...

So he says: "See? Gillian is not sick; Gillian is a dancer!”

Gillian Lynne choreographed the original productions of the musical Cats, both in London and on Broadway, which earned her the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musicals and other awards.

When writing this Monday Ideas today, I listened to one of my favorite books, “Maps of Narrative Practice,” by Michael White. In the introduction, White references how people are often misrepresented because of the labels or challenges that they take on and live through, thinking that “it’s who I am.” 

Just for a minute, think of a current student that is on your list to see or follow up with. What is the most recent description of that student by others, including yourself? And, as a result, how are people responding? How well are things going for the student and those around him/her?

So, here’s a challenge for this week:

When you encounter such a student with a reputation, a frequent flyer, a relentless talker or a habitual whatever, listen, stop trying so hard to reach and turn them around. INSTEAD, ask the student how others might see him/her. Write it down. Then ask:

“Is this really who you are?”  

“Do people really get you?”

“Do you think others, such as your teachers or principal, even have a clue as to who you are?”

When you get an answer, which will probably be “no,” then joyfully say:

“Who would you like them to see when you leave my office today?”

“What will you do to represent yourself well, today, so others sit up and notice the real you?”

“Who might be pleased that you finally did this for yourself?”

Write those answers down too. Tell the student that you are so pleased that you now have met the real him/her. Send him/her him off with a message to show everyone their true self. Ask the student if it is okay for you to email the teachers to be on the lookout for the real student.

Then email the teachers and follow up with the student in a day, checking to make sure they are representing themselves well ☺

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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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