Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Power of the Relationship

I am currently receiving supervision hours toward licensure as a Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC). My supervisor has been instrumental in helping me acknowledge the impact my relationship has with students. I have a few examples of interactions with students that demonstrate the power a relationship can have. 

A Fresh Start
At the beginning of the school year, our district had a massive realignment. Schools were shut down and others were consolidated. Our school received an influx of students from other schools in the city. One student was referred to me right at the beginning of the year. At her old school she was "disruptive, got into fights all the time, and bullied other students." I wanted to try to reach this student before she could demonstrate her previous behavior. I picked her up from her class and introduced myself to her. I made sure to iterate to her from the beginning that seeing me did not mean that she was in trouble. I told her that I wanted to get to know her since she was a new student at our school.

I took her to my office and discussed my role as a school counselor. I told her that if she ever had a problem she could ask to come and see me. I went over confidentiality and showed her my poster about confidentiality. I showed her around my office and told her that when she came to see me, she could do many different things, not just talk. I showed her the many different things she could use, including art supplies, puppets, sand tray, books or whatever else she wanted. I expressed that my office is for students; It has my desk in it, but everything else is for students to explore. She decided that she wanted to draw. I got out the drawing supplies and she began to draw a picture. She began talking about how she was nervous to be at a new school. She was felt a lot of pressure to prove herself because she moved around so much and did not have many friends. She told me she used to get in trouble a lot at her old school. I told her I was surprised by that because the way I experienced her did not seem the same as the way she was describing herself. I offered her a variety of things including groups. She was excited to be part of something like a group.

So far this year, she has not been a discipline problem at all. No fights. No bullying. Nothing. She knows she can come and see me if she needs anything and she stops in from time to time.

Not Just About Basketball
There is a student who comes into my office from time to time to shoot hoops with my Nerf basketball hoop. The first few times he came in there was minimal conversation. He would come in, shoot the basketball a few times, say "see ya Mrs. Schultz," and then leave.  This became a pattern for a while, each time he would share a little bit or ask me a question.

The one day he came in I asked him if he needed an application for the technical school. We had just gone on a tour that week and I saw that he was very interested in a few of the shops. He stopped shooting. Turned and looked at me and said "You really think I could do that?" I was shocked. (Writing about it is even making me teary.) I said of course I thought he could do it! I told him if he needed help with the application he could come and work on it with me. I gave him an application and he took it with him.

The next few times he came down I asked him when he wanted to work on his application. Each time he asked me "You really think I could go there?" Each time I reaffirmed that I did in fact think that he could go there and that I thought he would do really well there. I really do not think he knew what to think.

One day he finally brought me his application. I was so excited and I let him know it! He had everything completed except for the career information section. We schedule a time and he came to work on it. The whole time we worked on the application, he kept saying thank you to me. He said "I feel like I should pay you for helping me." I told him that helping him is part of my job and it's what I love to do. He then said, "helping me is probably a whole lot more work though." I assured him that it wasn't and that I enjoyed working on his application with him and any other time he comes to see me.

His application was well written and he did a great job on it.

On Different Terms
I had two students sent to me for arguing with each other at lunch. The one student I had met with before and the other student was a student I had not worked with before. After assisting in resolving the conflict between the two girls, I asked the girl I had not met with before to stay behind. I told her that I wanted to meet with her again later that day sometime. I explained to her that I don't like have students only experience with me to be a about a problem. I told her I wanted to get to know her and show her my office.

I had her take a needs assessment because she was a new student. While going over it, I noticed her answers to the question "Are there any questions or concerns you would like to share with Mrs. Schultz?"stated "you care bout me."

We discussed many other things during the session I had with her. I thought it was powerful that she already knew I cared about her from the brief interaction I had with her.

(Side Note: At the recommendation of a reader, I made a Google document version of the needs assessment for you to access.)

The After Lunch Crowd
My door is always open when I am not with a student or on the phone with someone. I want students to know I am available and that they can come in to see me.

I had the opportunity to meet with all of the eighth grade students during ninth grade scheduling. For many of them, it was the only time they had been in my office. They were able to see what I am about and what I have in my office.

I noticed a trend recently. After scheduling was over, a few eighth graders started popping in after lunch and before their next class. As time has progressed, more were stopping by. Now it has gotten to the point where I have over fifteen students who come into my office and say hello or just look at things in my office after lunch. I tell them to get a pass if they want to come and see me and advise that if they come and see me after lunch they have to be at there next class on time.

Do Not Underestimate YOUR Power
You do not need any fancy things to have an impact on the lives of students; you just need to build a relationship with them. I show students who I am by respecting them, giving them unconditional positive regard, and being genuine.

Do not underestimate the power you have within you to work with students.  It can be easy to be humble and brush it off, but YOU play a huge role in the lives of students!

How have you seen the power of the relationship in action? Comment below, email metweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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