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.
Today marks the halfway point of summer break. Of course, I’ll be in to the building long before the ‘official’ first day, but this serves as a good place to start looking ahead to the coming school year. These may or may not eventually turn into blog posts, but here is a synopsis of what I’m looking at as school nears:
- The ASCA conference in Seattle was remarkably rejuvenative for me as a professional. The discussions around ethics and law were especially beneficial for me, as was the presentation for motivational interviewing.
- I will be spending a lot more time in the classrooms this year; this will be my primary delivery method for our standards. Specifically, I was able to purchase the newest Second Step kit for our school just before the end of last year, and I am looking forward to diving into it in the fall.
- I’m looking at some additional professional development opportunities right now as well.
- I’m going to restructure this blog somewhat to include information on what I’m doing at the building level, in addition to the school counseling field in general. You could say that this post marks the beginning of that transition. And yeah, I’d like to blog a little more. As a brief aside, I’m using the Scribefire extension for the Google Chrome browser, and I’m really liking it.
So that’s about it. I’m going to get in a few more pictures this summer, but I’m excited about the upcoming school year and have big plans for a successful 2011-12. When we get back to school officially on August 23, I plan to have already hit the ground running.
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.
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.
Our school district has made an investment in the 40 Developmental Assets, and I’ve made an effort to use this approach when working with students who have some deficits in these areas. I recently purchased eight sets of the “Adding Assets Series for Kids” to use in small group sessions. Each sets include eight books, a leader’s guide, and a cd-rom with reproducible materials. As you might expect, each book corresponds with a different group of assets, both internal and external:
- People Who Care About You (Support Assets)
- Helping Out and Staying Safe (Empowerment Assets)
- Doing and Being Your Best (Boundaries and Expectations)
- Smart Ways to Spend Your Time (Constructive Use of Time)
- Loving to Learn (Commitment to Learning)
- Knowing and Doing What’s Right (Positive Values Assets)
- Making Choices and Making Friends (Social Competencies)
- Proud to Be You (Positive Identity)
Lessons include a story with activities that help support that particular developmental asset. There are also included handouts and activities to share with parents. As much as I’d love to do the entire series with an entire classroom or grade level, reality just doesn’t allow it. Instead, I’ll as various needs are identified for social skills groups, I will pick out individual lessons and plan accordingly. If I find something particularly useful, I’ll be sure and post it here.