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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.


How to Soften Up Resistant Teachers

December 05, 20222 min read

One of the questions I get very often when doing a training is, “how do I get resistant teachers to use the solution focused approach?”

For this, and other questions, I usually respond the same: let the model guide you. Keep the mindset that people will work for what is important to them. Thinking, “what are my best hopes in this situation and how can I get that to happen?” Are the first steps. Think about what you know about the teacher. Seek descriptions that are not pathological. Instead of “too strict” consider, “likes things orderly.” Instead of “sarcastic” think “he must be out of ideas to say that.” This will help YOU.

 Then find a way to cooperate, and that is where the solution focused approach shines. So, that means talking to the resistant teacher differently: 

“Ms. Jackson, I can see that you try very hard to get Shelly to behave and perform. I appreciate your efforts very much. You deserve to have the classroom where you can be at your best. You have 23 other students and I can only imagine how challenging it is. Tell me, what are your best hopes for you and Shelly?”

Listen, affirm and appreciate the answer. Make sure that when Ms. Jackson tells you what Shelly will NOT do, that you then ask, “so, instead of that, what will Shelly do?”  

Then say:

“I would like to talk with Shelly today, so she can come up with some things that might keep her on track in your class. Then, I would like you to come talk to both of us. I want you to have a chance to describe how you want things to be for her in class. I promise that this will take maybe ten minutes max.”

Then talk to Shelly, using the three steps:

  1. What are your best hopes for being in Ms. Jackson’s class?

  2. Suppose you go back to class in a few minutes and you find a way to help that happen. What might Ms. Jackson see that would tell her your idea was working?What else?

  3. Tell me times when things go slightly okay in Ms. Jackson’s class or other classes? 

Scale where she is in achieving what she. wants: 1-10 with 10 complete success. Ask what she can do to move up.

This information is invaluable. Once done, invite the teacher into your office and let Shelly and Ms. Jackson talk about what they both want.  

Use the three steps.  

  1. Best hopes

  2. Preferred future

  3. Exception finding

Scale where they both are in achieving what they want: 1-10 with 10 complete success. Ask what they can each do to move up.

When complete, invite Ms. Jackson to watch closely what Shelly does for a day or two. Follow up several times.

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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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