While ice skating at Rockefeller Center this weekend , I looked at the skaters falling. What would the scene look like if the parents started to punish their children for falling down? It would be strange right? They would be punishing their children for not having the skills needed to ice skate.
How does this relate to school and academic coaching?
What if the students who have difficulties in class, aren’t being defiant, but are lacking skills. Many of my students have attended in school suspensions or been grounded, but when I ask if they enjoy it, the answer is “NO!” or a shrug and eye roll. There is not a connection between the punishment and the action. When a student does not enjoy being punished, yet continues with the behavior, it is akin to jumping into a cactus patch.
Why would they continue to jump into the cactus patch? They do not have the skills to either walk around it, build a bridge to cross over it or cut down the cacti.
Let's look at the student who shouts out and receives a referral. Tradition shows they should be reprimanded for the outburst, but are they being punished for lacking the skills to self-regulate? The punishment delivers a consequence (most likely a long string of them), but what skill does it teach? When deans, teachers and parents ask, “Why do you keep doing it?” the answer might be that the child hasn’t learned how not to.
How do we teach the skills that students need? The obvious suggestion would be to allow school counselors to focus on lessons and groups to help struggling students develop the skills they need to cope in challenging situations.
However, ASCA suggests school counselors have a ratio of 250 students to 1 counselor, but many school counselors have 450 or more! In addition, many school counselors have duties outside of their scope of training that prevent them from being in the classrooms or running groups.
Resources outside of the school are also helpful. These include therapists and academic coaches. I love working with therapists. I help students work on the academic portion and therapists help with the mental components that are influencing their school behaviors. However, I always tell parents if their child’s overwhelming need is to work with a therapist, that is where they should start.
I have my masters in Counselor Education, but the high student to counselor ratio was one of the reasons I left the school setting. Now, I help students strengthen the skills needed to be awesome students. I have the pleasure of working intensely with students on an individual basis and watching them grow.
School, like ice skating, does not come easy. The difference is we expect skaters to flop about . We wobble like baby deer when we first hit the ice, yet we are expected to stride into school without even a stumble. Perhaps we should start treating students like ice skaters and see if their stride improves.