Sunday, September 14, 2014

Undercover School Counselor: An Academic Intervention Mission

Sunday, September 14, 2014


A part of my job that I do not enjoy is schedule changes.  Normally after five days, all schedule changes are complete and I can move on to the other things like classroom guidance or meeting with my seniors.  However, this year the requests for schedule changes continued from students and parents even after the deadline. Finally, I told parents that they would need to speak to my principal as I could not take any more changes.  To my surprise, the requests did not stop and continued to accelerate from parents and students; therefore, my colleagues and I became concerned about why these requests were occurring. 
I hate them!!!
 
After three weeks of continuous requests, one of my colleagues and I started to interview the students and parents who were asking for changes. From the results, we found there were three classes students were asking to exit and the reasons were all similar.  I will not mention the courses, but I thought the reasons for the desired exodus was pretty significant. 

Five main reasons for student schedule changes:

1.  The class environment was too disruptive for learning (in fact one parent told my colleague that the students "acted like animals").
2.  Students were not learning because the teacher went over the material too fast.
3.  Students were allowed to wear their headphones and text on phones which caused a lot of distractions (phones were passed around and causing arguments).
4.  Students were allowed to walk around the room and disturb others.
5.  Teachers were not willing to answer questions because they felt the students did not care.
 
 
From all the complaints and concerns, my colleagues and I decided that we needed to go into the field and investigate the situation so we could make a report to our administration. 
 
Going Undercover
 
The day before we decided to go into the field, three of us got together and came up with a game plan of how we would scope out the classroom.  Here was the plan:
  • We would go in 30 minutes after the class started (classes are 90 minutes).
  • After we got into the classroom, each of us would sit at different sides so we can watch what happens throughout the room.
  • While visiting the room, we would asks students questions like "What is the classroom like when we are not here?"; "What is the most disruptive side of the room?"; "What would you like to change about this class if you could change anything?".
  • If we found that there were certain student causing more disruptions than others, we would take them out of the room and do an immediate academic intervention.
The plan was complete and we even named our undercover operation: "The Power of Three"!
 
 
Intervention Day
 
Have you ever watched the A&E show Intervention?  This is the show where someone is hurting himself or herself and friends and family step in to confront the behavior.  In essence, this is what we decided to do for our students...save them from themselves! 
 
Intervention Day arrived and we hit the first class.  We were not even in the class for 15 minutes when students started to get comfortable.  Phones came out, students asked to go to the bathroom and were out for 20 minutes, drinks were passed around, students feel asleep, and students began to talk across the room.  It did not take us long to determine who the students were that were causing the most disruptions.  By the end of the class, seven students were called out and we counseled them as a group and individually.  In fact, one student was so disruptive that s/he was told to come see the graduation coach to help with his/her behavior. 
 
The next day we went into another class and some of the same students were in that room as well.  From our visits we determined that it was a certain grade that was demonstrating these behaviors and the students lacked certain important skills (failure to learn vocabulary words, failure to take notes, excessive talking, conflict skills, and lack of attention).  The three of us believe that the majority of students from this class were lacking the necessary skills for school success that must be addressed by our department.
 
In addition to our analysis of the students, we also determined that the teachers also had a HUGE part to play in this situation.  Following the classroom visit, I wrote up our suggestions for the teachers. 
 
Here is the email I sent sans names:
 
Student went to drink machine and therefore our suggestion is to limit or eliminate his passes to the bathroom.  Also, he needs to be moved to another seat preferably close to the front and with students who can help him understand content.

Student understands content so our suggestion to move her with students who are quiet and do not understand so she can serve as a peer tutor.  My suggestion is by this student.

 This student did not take notes and was distracted all period.  He needs to be moved away from these two students.  Our suggestion is to move him to the front right hand side by your desk moving one of those girls in the middle.  There are too many boys who are distracted and are too immature to be together.

 Another student that is distracted and probably lost because he was suspended for two weeks.  Our suggestion is to move him to the front where the study hall student is sitting and put the study hall student in the back.  Better yet, I am moving the study hall student to another study hall.

Move this student to the front.  When she walks out please do not call the office, instead write a referral and turn it in to the administration and let the counselor know that you submitted a referral.

This student needs to be moved to sit with the kids on the left hand side.

Please enforce the no eating or drinking, no music, or no bathroom breaks.

We will be back tomorrow to assist with this transition.
 
This week the "Power of Three" will be back in the classroom as the department heads have heard about our mission.  They want us to go into the classroom because they feel we are non-threatening to the teachers and they believe we can really find out what is going on in each class. 
 
Benefits of Student Academic Interventions
 
In his research, Marzano found that teachers' actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as curriculum, testing, or staff relationships. One of the roles of school counselors can be to work with teachers to enhance their abilities to reduce classroom disruptions and manage behaviors. Classroom observations of student behavior and classroom management can be proactive and preventative in nature, working to ensure that students learn in a safe and supportive environment.  However, school counselors should be cautious not to get involved in assigning discipline or correcting teachers by acting as their superior. 
 
ASCA Position on the School counselor and Discipline

School Counselor and Student Behavior in the Classroom

According to ASCA, the school counselor has a role in promoting appropriate student behavior and preventing disruptive student behavior.  The professional school counselor serves as a resource for teachers by helping to create positive student behavior and impacting the school environment.  There are several ways school counselors can be effective in promoting change in their school. Here are some of the methods ASCA recommends:
  1. Lead individual and small group counseling sessions that encourages students to accept responsibility and make positive behavioral choices.
  2. Design and implement positive behavior support plans.
  3. Serve as a mediator for student conflicts.
  4. Coordinate and facilitate programs that facilitate positive behavior like mentoring, peer helping, and conflict resolution.
  5. Provide staff development on classroom management.
  6. Advocate for positive and equitable discipline practices.
Interested in seeing what really happens in the classroom?  Consider stepping out of the office and observing your students in their environment.  It was very eye opening to me! 

Resources

Below I have provided some information on PBIS and teacher referral forms to the school counselor.
 
School Counselor and PBIS

School Counseling Referral Forms