This recent post from Cyberbullying.us makes an excellent point: Let’s not throw around numbers to support our cause when we can’t back them up with solid evidence. I’ve also heard numbers in excess of 160,000 daily absences due to bullying in general, and this was from someone in the field whose work I otherwise respect. The first time I heard that statistic was about ten years ago. These numbers just seem to come from nowhere.
There is no question that too many students stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying. The exact number is difficult to really know. But it does this field a disservice to mis-cite or simply report statistics without being able to substantiate them. Bullying *is* a serious problem that warrants our attention. But the case can be made for this using reliable and valid statistics, not hyperbole.
via 160,000 Students Stay Home from School Every Day Because of Bullying | Cyberbullying Research Center Blog.
It’s been a few years since I’ve run a changing families group, but I still meet with students and talk with parents from time to time when a family is experiencing a divorce. Kids go through the normal stage of grieving during this time: Shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, hope, and acceptance all take up residence in the process. But what are the longer-lasting effects of divorce on children? I’ve seen kids thrive in dual single-parent and blended-family homes. In many instances that I’ve been associated with, that’s the norm and not the exception. Splitting time in dual single-parent or blended family homes becomes an accepted part of their daily lives. Early research would have us believe otherwise. I’ve also seen kids seemingly languish in an environment where, even after a divorce, the couple continues to perpetuate their anger and hostility to each other.
Dr. Joseph Nowinski has summarized some important research to identify three important components to getting kids through this difficult time. They are:
- If a decline in financial lifestyle can’t be avoided, the couple should reach out to their support systems (family, close friends, community) to make sure that basic needs are being met.
- If the marriage was characterized by a significant amount of violence, the couple should avoid carrying that into their post-divorce lives as well. Dr. Nowinski even suggests counseling for couples to learn to work through their hostility to avoid collateral damage to the lives of their children.
- And finally, Dr. Nowinksi suggests maintaining strong parental involvement after the divorce. He stresses that the amount of time less significant than what a parent does with that time. Helping with homework, being present at their activities, etc… all help to reinforce a strong bond between parent and child. Quality trumps quantity.
I can’t stress that third component enough. The dual loss of the parents’ relationship AND the emotional/physical absence can be difficult for a lot of kids to overcome. My advice to all parents, divorced or not, is still the same: Stay involved in your kids lives. Showing up means a lot, and take advantage of the time that you do spend with them. By following some basic principles–supported by strong research–parents can help their children during the divorce and beyond.
Helping Children Survive Divorce: Three Critical Factors | Psychology Today.
Children who actively work to acquire social skills and develop solid relationships are more likely to engage in thoughtful and constructive responses to bullying. These children manage their emotions better and are more likely to think positively when relationships go awry.
via Can We Bully-proof Our Kids? Maybe, If We Can Help Them Manage Their Social Goals | Psychology Today.
I’m an EdTech enthusiast, but I’ve resisted creating a lot of tech posts and changing the overall tenor of this blog. I’m really trying to keep this pertinent to the school counseling profession. There are times, though, when the two intersect and it’s important to weigh in on matters that affect student success. This is one of them.
For some time, I’ve been a fan of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which has developed a simple, rugged laptop to be used by students in developing and third world countries. The plan has been so successful, in fact, that the project has even evolved into a student tablet due out later this year. Peru has purchased over a million laptops and has plans to put them in the hands of 100% of their students. The units run on a Linux-based OS called XO.
It was just a matter of time before they found their way to the United States. A pilot study in Birmingham, Alabama has begun with over 1,200 students taking part. Although it’s just in the initial stages, results are promising, but with a few caveats:
- Students who used a computer prior to receiving an XO say that they’re utilizing the machines for homework, as opposed to the students who didn’t use a computer for homework before the study.
- Teacher use of the XO has a strong positive correlation to the benefits perceived by the students. (Modeling, anyone?)
This is an ongoing study, and more results will be published in the future.
My thoughts and reactions:
- We need more technology in schools, not less. Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is a promising concept, but I think that that alone will only further separate the haves from the have nots. The kids with the greatest need often don’t have access to those resources.
- Why aren’t we doing this on a larger scale in the United States? The answer isn’t that we can’t afford it. A $150 laptop could easily supplant the published materials that a student uses in a given year. The answer lies more in the sociopolitical reasons that will need to be addressed before we can make something like this work. Systemically, we’re just not set up for it yet.
- I’d like to know what kind of research in regards to student success is being conducted in Peru, with nearly 100% of the students there working on XO machines.
Perhaps one day we’ll see a one-to-one initiative in the United States. Until then, I look forward to the progress of this program in the rest of the world.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/olpc/4844294063 used by permission under a Creative Commons license.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast states in August of 2005, causing substantial damage to the area. Almost 2,000 people lost their lives as a direct result of the hurricane, and property damage was estimated to be well over $80 billion. Particularly hard hit was New Orleans, Louisiana, when the levee system failed under the weight of the rising flood waters. Numbers are easy to place on this kind of loss. What’s not so easy is to estimate the toll this disaster took on the emotional and mental well-being of the people who lived through and survived the event.
The Children’s Health Fund and The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University have published a 17-page status report (.pdf, 199k) that does put some numbers to show how the gulf coast children are faring five years later. Those numbers are disturbing. Some of their more poignant and startling findings:
- 20,000 children originally displaced by the disaster now have “serious emotional disorders, behavioral issues, and/or are experiencing significant housing instability.”
- These same children are 450% more likely to experience emotional disturbance than they were in a similar study that was conducted in 2004.
- Over one-third of the middle or high school students are in a grade lower than is common for their age. By comparison, this figure is less than 20% for students in the southern states in general.
- Half of the parents have not been able to get professional help for their children.
- A third of the parents reported emotional distress of some kind due to the more recent oil spill in that region.
Among the most affected in the area were the ones with the fewest resources:
Since children and families who had the means fled the city, those who were left were often the poorest and most vulnerable. These populations became the most dependent on the government’s efforts to help in the recovery process, and were the most affected when those efforts were less than sufficient.
Clearly, although houses and buildings are being rebuilt, many lives are going neglected.
The report goes on to make key recommendations, including a system for tracking effected children and families, targeting mental health services for the area, and making stable housing a priority. Given these statistics, this would be a great time for the government to step up and put money where it really counts: The children and families whose lives continue to live under the weight of Katrina.
Technorati Tags: Hurricane Katrina, disaster preparedness, mental health, counseling
Here are some articles and blog posts pertaining to child behavioral health that are worth checking out:
Although we don’t treat these disorders as school counselors, we work with the mental health professionals, parents, and of course students who come through our doors.
The 1999 Columbine shootings brought about anti-bullying efforts that are largely in effect in our schools today. After several well-publicized school violence events a decade ago, the federal government interviewed many of the perpetrators to what traits they might have in common, if any. The only common thread they could find was that these students had been victims of severe bullying at some point in school, often stretching out for years at a time. As a response, we set up programs and laws to deal with the issue in theat school.
Izzy Kalman believes that, despite the best of intentions, these efforts are largely ineffective. Citing 2004 research from Canada, he reasons:
Many experts insist that the anti-bullying crusade is failing because we are not implementing anti-bullying policies consistently and intensively enough. However, we need to consider another possibility: that bullying is escalating because of our anti-bullying efforts.
Mr. Kalman is challenging some beliefs and practices we’ve held for quite a while now. I’m not buying into everything he’s saying, but I am listening. It’s always good to look at our current practices with a critical eye so we don’t just accept the status quo from year to year.
However, I do find a few holes in his reasoning. Perhaps the greatest is that I don’t look at anti-bullying efforts as a way to get students to stop bullying others. This practice has been going on since the dawn of civilization, and I don’t think we’re going to be stopping it any time soon. Rather, I approach anti-bullying efforts as a tool for victims to recognize and respond to bullying when it happens. To that end, I think our current anti-bullying practices are quite effective. It gives us a common language and approach to use when working with these kids and coaching them through difficult situations. My plan is to keep using Steps to Respect as well as Mr. Kalman’s own Bullies2Buddies program that I referenced in an earlier post.
Technorati Tags: School bullying, Izzy Kalman, anti-bullying curricula, Steps to Respect, Bullies2Buddies
School administrators are beginning to more completely understand the positive relationship between a comprehensive counseling and guidance curriculum, and student success. The Principal’s Research Review, a publication of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has recently published an article entitled “Making Effective Use of Counselors to Increase Student Achievement.” The author, Nancy Protheroe, outlines the framework in which school counselors move from a reactive, put-out-the-fires approach, to a planned, prescriptive approach to meet the needs of all students. She cites several studies that note the correlation between high standards implementation and high student achievement, particularly with at-risk students.
Ms. Protheroe goes on to cite other studies that enumerate how administrators can meet counselor needs within the context of a comprehensive curriculum, including:
- The counseling role as a student advocate, not disciplinarian
- Guidance for specific situations
- The administrator should have a sound knowledge of best practices of a school counseling program
And finally, Ms. Protheroe reasons for a strong administrator-counselor relationship that focuses on collaborative efforts and a shared vision of the school counseling program. In my experience, this last item can make or break the success of a school counselor within a given building. When principals and counselors don’t have an effective working relationship, student needs end up not being met. By working collectively toward the same end, student needs can be quickly addressed.
MSNBC is reporting that college students today are showing less empathy than previous generations, according to a review of over 70 studies conducted over the last 30 years. Jeanna Brunner, author of the article, cites the usual reasons for a perceived decline in social skills: Increased exposure to media, including the video game popularity explosion of the last decade. Brunner quotes the author of one study as explainging that the current body of research supports the assertion that “exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others.” Also cited is the introduction of social media over the last several years, where problems can be tuned out rather than confronted directly.
So what are the implications of this research to the school counselor? Have our social skills education efforts over the last few decades amounted to nothing? I believe that this downward trend is in spite of our efforts, and not because of them. There is ample research out there that shows problem-solving curricula helps improve interpersonal relationships at school. Perhaps what we need is a way of transfering those skills to college? I’m just not ready to blame the end of mankind of technology alone.