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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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Illuminating the Unseen: A Noteworthy Approach

December 04, 20232 min read

Years ago, as an observer of student teachers, my approach was different than others. Rather than scrutinizing the student teacher, my gaze focused on the students, searching for signs of engagement, interest and subtle nods of understanding. This was the true measure of a teacher’s ability to teach their subject in a way that grasped their students’ attention.

In a high school labeled "at-risk," I encountered a particularly striking scene: a classroom where ten of fifteen young minds seemed to drift off.  Yet, one student was listening, and taking notes, a testament to his potential.

Observing him from the back of the room, I was drawn to this student, whose commitment shone brightly in a space where others had not engaged yet. I wrote a note to him, acknowledging his quiet dedication. It was a reminder to me that in the most challenging of environments, the right bit of encouragement, can ignite a candle inside a student. Here was the note:


I noticed how well you were paying attention to the teacher today and I was quite impressed.  You took notes and got to work while others were slow to get started. I am Ms. Iman’s teacher and I just wanted you to know that I think you have a bright future ahead of you and that you will do great things.”

Linda Metcalf, PhD

This highlights a powerful and often overlooked form of encouragement — recognizing the efforts of those who persist despite challenges, which has always been exciting for me to observe. It's a reminder of the impact a simple gesture of acknowledgment can have on an individual, particularly in an educational setting where engagement is crucial.

Let’s take inspiration from this story this week and consider extending this approach beyond the classroom, too. Each of us likely encounters individuals in our daily lives whose dedication goes unnoticed. It could be a colleague who consistently meets deadlines, a janitor who keeps the school clean, or even a parent who volunteers often at school. 

So, here are some steps to think about this week:

Concept: Dedicate this week to observing students and others around you who exhibit commitment and diligence in their roles, especially those you may not interact with regularly. Write a personal note of appreciation to just one of them, like I did for the attentive student.


  1. Start with observation. Take a moment to notice someone who is focused, hardworking, or contributing positively at school.

  2. Craft a personalized note. Mention specific actions you've observed and express amazement and appreciation.

  3. Deliver the note discreetly or directly, whichever is most appropriate for the age of student or adult. 

Impact: This act of recognition can validate someone’s efforts, boost their morale, and potentially inspire continued performance!  It also creates a culture of appreciation and kindness. 

In appreciation of each of you.

Student EngagementEducational MotivationTeacher SupportAcknowledgment in Education
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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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