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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.


Become a Hope Dealer: Transformative Parents Conferences

December 12, 20224 min read

This week, I had a new request that really got me thinking. A colleague told me about a parent of a special needs student who had gone to a parent conference and left feeling “absolutely destroyed.”

Yes, those are the words she used. She described a meeting where the teachers, counselor and diagnostician basically said to her, “your twelve-year-old daughter is done.” Those were their words.

Just imagine. She knew her daughter had some limitations but over the years she had seen progress in her daughter. She was doing better behaviorally with her siblings and academically, she was doing better. The parent had hope before. 

At my Solution Focused School Conference two years ago, Elliott Connie, the colleague who told me this story, talked about not being a “hope stealer,” and instead, being a “hope dealer.” I just loved what he said and thought that we, as educators, should be hope dealers.

Yet, too often, staff only see deficits. There are some “positive” people on board at times, who try but are often overruled by the naysayers. Also, I have mentioned before, in SF Connection webinars that I don’t think of the solution focused approach as “positive.” I think of it as a conversation about possibilities.

After much thought about this situation I thought about how we could be better hope dealers by taking parent expertise further.

So, here is my idea for the next time you have a parent conference, or a parent attends a team meeting, RTI, MTSS or special education review. Before the meeting ever happens, send the parent a message or email with the request below:

Dear parent,

On ____ we will be meeting about ____’s progress. As we review this semester, first we would like to ask you to bring us some information about _____. It will help us to see beyond school concerns/review and into the mind of your son/daughter so we can know them better. Here is our request:

  1. Bring us some “*wonderfulnesses” about _____. Things _____does at home or other outside activities that seem to bring out the best in_____. Be ready to tell us great memories you have of _____as your child.

  2. Recall times in school before this year when ____ did slightly better. What did the teachers do that brought out ______’s abilities? What else? X5

  3. Describe times this year when school went slightly better fo r_____. What class, what teacher, what situation at school seemed to really make a difference for _____? X5

  4. At home, what strategies do you or others use to help ____ get homework or tasks done more easily that we could learn from?

Please bring the answers to these questions to our meeting this week. We will go over them first, as we want to know ____ as you do to be the most helpful and supportive.  

I want to let you know that your son/daughter may be attending the meeting. 

Yes, the student needs to be there, whether five years old or seventeen years old. The meeting is about them and affects them. Let them see adults talking about their benefit and give them a chance to agree or ask questions! By starting this way, just imagine the impact on the parent/child relationship! Imagine the impact on the teacher/student relationship.

After the parent(s) go over the answers, then go forward with our three solution focused steps:

  1. Ask everyone: So, what are your best hopes for our meeting today?
    If there is a major concern, it should be talked about then. If there is a review on an IEP (or other update) focus on what has been better versus what is still low.
    After short discussion, ask the best hopes question again to set a desired outcome for the concern.

  2. Say to all: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 meaning our best hopes are completely happening, and 1 not yet where is _____on that scale now?

  3. Say to everyone: Suppose, for the next two weeks, the student moves up the scale slightly. What might the student be doing? What might some of us be doing to help that happen, based on what the parent told us about early in our meeting? What else? X5-10

Make a list of the plan to move up the scale. Give the list to everyone, including parent and student. Thank everyone for their time. Especially thank the parent and student.  


This idea accomplishes many things. It is systemic, meaning it involves everyone in the student’s system, making change more likely. It sets the stage for possibilities and not just complaints and concerns. Discussing only problems steals hope. We deal hope when we use what works to create small successes.

This week, be a hope dealer. It might make you hopeful too.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the Parent Meeting Message Template

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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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