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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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Through the Cracks

September 04, 20232 min read

Last week I read a story in The Wall Street Journal where a father wrote about his son, Sam.  Apparently, when Sam was four years old, he was tested, and when the results came back, the school district gathered thirteen administrators in a meeting with Sam’s parents. The administrators then told the parents that their son was autistic and needed to be in special education… forever.

The parents were surprised. They had a different instinct about their son.  At the time, the boy was struggling, but he was also seeing a counselor and was making progress. The parents asked the administrators to hold Sam back a year, but they said that was not possible.  When the parents walked away from the meeting years ago, the mom told her husband, “Let’s start him out at the top and see if he can do it. If not, we’ll adjust.  But let’s see what he can do.”

The parents then followed their instincts and held their son back. Then, they enrolled Sam in a private school.  While Sam did struggle with social and sensory issues, his father also said in the article, “Sam is a bit broken, but we all are.” He quoted the singer, Leonard Cohen, who sings in “Anthem,”: 

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Last week, Sam began seventh grade on time with his classmates.  Sam still has challenges but has gone on to play the violin, baseball, and chess.

The next time you wonder how to help a student who struggles, don’t refer too quickly… try something different first. Watch for other situations where the student does slightly better and use those situations to “see what he/she can do.” For example:

Maybe a student who is struggling, does slightly better in a different class than yours. Find out what’s different in that class.

Maybe during recess you notice a special talent in an unmotivated student. Ask the student how he/she learned the activity and listen to his/her strategies. Use it as a metaphor when you talk with the student.

Maybe when a student comes to find you, the counselor, for help with a problem, you might ask how he/she has coped so far and see those abilities as strengths to amplify.

After all, there is a crack in everything… shine your light.

“My Son Sam Doesn’t Need ‘Special Ed.”  (2023). The Wall Street Journal. 9-1-2023, p. A15.

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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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