Here’s a late-breaking post from the “ASCA in Seattle” series, where I took a visit to the bookstore. Here are some classroom resources I scored while I was up there:
Just Kidding, and Sorry! Both by Trudy Ludwig. We were fortunate to have Trudy Ludwig visit our school last year, and I quickly grew to appreciate her approach to very real interpersonal issues that our students experience on a regular basis. Both books address different bullying situations, with the main character in each finding themselves stuck and not knowing where to turn. Practical solutions are given in measured doses, with notes to the counselor/teacher regarding theoretical framework, as well as excellent student and classroom discussion points. From Sorry!‘s afterword by Dr. Aaron Lazare:
An apology is one of the most profound interactions between individuals, groups, and nations. It has the power to undo the shame and guilt of the offending party. It can dissolve grudges and vengeance and forge harmony in the relationship…Trudy Ludwig’s wonderful book, Sorry!, helps parents and educators teach children the magic transformative power of apology.
I’ll be using this book early in the school year, especially in the primary grades. I’ve never been 100% confident of the way I’ve handled insincere and ineffective apologies in the past, so this is a big help for me as a school counselor.
Classroom Guidance Games, by Shannon Trice Black, will make an excellent supplemental classroom activity resource to go along with our new Second Step curriculum. Included are lots of games that require critical thinking and responses for situations requiring empathy and problem-solving skills. Career games also round out this book. Although the description on the book cover indicates this is for grades pk-6, I would place the appropriate skill level for most to be in the k-2 range.
I’m working on a post (or even a series of posts) for motivational interviewing, which was the Saturday pre-conference session that I attended at ASCA. It was an all day session with a lot of information that I plan on incorporating into my program at school. In the meantime, here are the highlights of the rest of the conference:
- On Purpose, With Passion, Amber Rose Johnson. A recent high school graduate on her way to college this fall, this young lady has some good things to say. Interesting choice for a keynote speaker for school counselors, but she had the room’s attention the whole time.
- Counselors for Computing, Jane Krauss. Good information, but geared more for the high school crowd. There is a shortage of IT professionals, and this is a program that is helping students gain that type of job skills.
- Listening to the Voices, Karen Reynolds. Working with mental diagnoses in k-12 schools.
- Making Positive Connections: Improving Attendance, Gillian Dyall. Good information, and I enjoyed seeing how some of these strategies work in a real-world environment.
That wraps it up for my ASCA in Seattleseries. I’ll be posting more on motivational interviewing in the coming weeks and months. Hope your summer is going great!
If I had to pick one session at the ASCA that spoke to me on so many levels, it would have to be Jodee Blanco’s bullying presentation. It’s tough to describe her dramatic delivery. Think of a younger, more dynamic Rhea Perlman with a passion for her work. Ms. Blanco’s story is this: Consistently and pervasively bullied as a child, she grew up to become successful in the publishing industry. When Columbine happened, she realized that she had had similar thoughts toward her tormentors back in school. She wrote a best-selling book and embarked on a mission to reach parents, educators and students on the dangers of bullying. Her message for us was how to respond to students when they disclose bullying, in some very specific ways.
Although I was familiar with several points she made, some were also new to me. Intervene with a bullied child in a neutral location, for example. This relieves whatever anxieties might be present in ‘the office.’ Another idea: Get kids who are pervasively bullied involved in after school activities two to three towns away. That will help them get a peer group away from kids who already know that they’re the ‘bullied kid.’ On days that are especially tough, it will give them something to look forward to (“I can’t wait for after school so I can go see my real friends.”)
Ms. Blanco also gave some great points for dealing with the kids who do the bullying. Don’t chastise them in front of their peers. Traditional punishment doesn’t work (keen grasp of the obvious). Instead, use compassionate discipline to address their “empathy deficit disorder.” Have them sponsor a homeless lunch, or demonstrate acts of compassion in some other way. Work with your administrators on this so that it has some teeth (i.e., threaten to remove graduation ceremony).
Ms. Blanco says that she gives her presentations over the course of a day. Indeed, I can see her ideas taking much longer to properly understand and implement. I’m still wrapping my brain around her talking points. Among her other gems:
- Don’t immerse yourself in the problem and forget the child in crisis.
- Intervene with good listening skills (Counseling 101): Sit straight, convey an awareness of dignity, don’t rush to fill in awkward silences.
- Act in the role of an advocate. Listen without judgment, communicate immediate actions. Be prepared to take a personal risk for the child.
- Degrees of Credibility: Specificity, use immediacy vocabulary (here and now), and be aware of semantics that convey the true intentions of your words. Avoid things like “we’ll see.”
Crisis intervention is a vital part of the school counselor, and intervening in a bullying situation is one of the most critical events of all. Bullying programs such as Steps to Respect will always important, but instances of bullying will continue. It’s important to have strategies in place to diffuse the times when it does occur. Ms. Blanco ended her presentation with both a statement of gratitude as well as a plea for urgency: “As counselors, you are the last, best hope for bullied students.”
I was fortunate to attend two sessions that addressed Law & Ethics in the school counseling profession. Dr. Carolyne Stone, of the University of North Florida brought some case examples regarding consent, student records, and duty owed to clients. Recently, courts have maintained that school counselors have a duty owed to the clients, and the counselor can be held accountable for false or misleading information given.
Dr. Mary Hermann, from Virginia Commonwealth, presented the updated (2010) ASCA ethical standards and how they worked (or didn’t work) with current case law. For example, courts are allowing a broader definition of what is family, including confidentiality rights of step-parents, particularly when a natural parent is unavailable. Also, the previous definition of “clear and present danger” when a breach of confidentiality is warranted is now changed to “serious and foreseeable harm,” a broader and somewhat more fluid term.
Some tidbits from both presenters:
- If you’re faced with a legal/ethical dilemma, consult with other counselors and/or your administration.
- Joining professional groups will help your credibility in a courtroom.
- Do what’s in the best interests of your client, but act reasonably.
- If you’re subpoenaed, get legal representation. Ask to quash, and let attorney/judge know that you don’t have valuable information for the case.
Certainly, the information gathered over these two sessions is more than what I do justice to in one blog post. In fact, one could devote an entire blog to the balance of law and ethics. That said, I went away with a clearer understanding of my role as a school counselor, and a need to further educate myself on the latest ASCA ethical guidelines.