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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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Student Transformations Made Easy

September 18, 20233 min read

So, it sounds rather impossible, right, to transform a student? I am not selling potions or shock treatments, either. Actually, the process doesn’t even require much from the student.

Let’s start with a story.

Recently, a student teacher intern was asked to serve as a substitute teacher in the middle school where she was doing her internship. She told me that as she walked into the classroom, the students in the class were acting out and it took a while to settle them down. She did her best to get their attention and as she began the lesson, one student yelled at her, “We don’t have to listen to you. You’re just a substitute.”  

The teacher kept her cool, said little to the student who yelled at her and got the rest of the class started on an assignment.  She then walked quietly back to where the acting out student was sitting.  She said nothing to him as she pulled up a chair next to his desk.  Then, she said to him:

“Hey, listen. I’m not here to get you into trouble. In fact, I would like to get to know you and your classmates since I will be your substitute teacher for the rest of this week. Would it be okay if I showed you the work for the assignment personally?”

She said the student sat and stared at her.  She then continued to talk to him about the lesson. He did not respond much at first, but later got started on the lesson. He did not act out for the rest of that class or the other classes that week. In fact, he quieted down the other students during the week when they got unruly!

When the student teacher told me this story, I was quite excited for her. There she was, new in our field, and trying out a new approach to a typical situation, very successfully. Her student teacher colleagues were intrigued.

They asked her, “How did you keep the calmness and nerve to try something so different with a rude student?“

She responded that she didn’t see him as a rude student, just someone who was uncomfortable with the change.  

To have a solution focused mindset as clever as the student teacher means that we often have to look past the acting out behaviors and literally think of the same student differently, instead of taking a remark personally.

I refer to this as creating a “redescription.”

So, what is redescription?

The chart below has three columns.

The first column shows a few descriptions that educators might think of when dealing with a challenging student.

The second column is the “redescription “ of the same student.

The third column consists of a new strategy, based on the redescription. 

In other words, by simply rethinking HOW you think about a student, there are more possibilities for new strategies that can lead to… transformations.

Redescription table

Transformations can and do happen every day in schools where the solution focused approach is embraced.  Remember, you are very important to your students. This week, show them how important they are to you by redescribing those who are a bit challenging and transform them by transforming your relationship with them.

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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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