As we continue to build our comprehensive school counseling program, we realize that we had a high number of individual responsive services and needed to offer more intentional small groups to our students. We began with a thorough review of available school-wide achievement, attendance and behavior data. We prioritized students based on administrator referrals and available records. Students being served by our mental health clinician were invited to join clinician-led groups. Students not working with the clinician were invited to school counselor-led small groups. And, while all students were able to join our Friends of Rachel small group, school counselors also intentionally invited specific students.
Our Friends of Rachel small group was created after our school-wide Friends of Rachel assemblies. This group was created to assist in two important ways. First, we wanted to teach students how to make friends and be friends. Secondly, as described in our vision statement, we wanted students to empathic towards others. And, as described in our mission statement, we wanted our students to contribute towards making our school a more caring school. Students were selected based on their interest. Our Friends of Rachel data showed a significant increase in student participation, from 15 to 30 students, between our initial start and end dates. We created a “welcome train” with students and counselors greeting students at the main entrance. Initially, our students found that some students would ignore them. Our group members continued greeting students each morning and eventually other students, not from our group, joined our “welcome train” and the most remarkable thing happened - students began to enter our campus and greet our “welcome train” greeters sometimes before we said hello. It has been an amazing experience and continues this year.
Our Salvaging Sisterhood small groups were created for two important reasons. First, one of our school counseling goals this year was to reduce the number of detentions as a way to improve achievement outcomes for our students by keeping them in the classroom learning rather than being sent out for classroom disruptions. Secondly, our school counselors wanted to increase awareness about relational aggression because research has shown these students feel lonely and depressed and are often disruptive in the classroom. The purpose of these groups was to assist our students in developing empathy and learning how to communicate efficiently and effectively with each other. Our data review showed that we had a few students who were often being sent out of class for “drama” between one another (eye-rolling, name calling and meanness). One of our counselors learned about the Salvaging Sisterhood curriculum for relational aggression, during an ASCA workshop, and felt confident that this curriculum could benefit these students. We worked closely with our Associate Principal to identify the students who would participate in the Salvaging Sisterhood groups. Our data clearly showed that students benefited academically, personally/socially and behaviorally from their participation in the Salvaging Sisterhood group.
We believe that our small groups were successful based on both qualitative and quantitative data as discussed. We anticipate continuing these school counselor-led groups in the upcoming years and, in fact, we plan to increase the number of groups we offer.
Our school has a partnership with the local county mental health department. We worked closely with the assigned mental health clinician and created three additional small groups: anger management, self esteem and social skills. These topics were selected to help students learn how to cope with their emotions in a healthy and effective manner. Students were identified based on two criteria. First, the students participating in these groups needed to be part of the clinician’s on-going caseload meaning they had to receive therapeutic services. Secondly, the students had to be willing to participate in this afterschool group. As of this date, our mental health clinician has been unable to provide us with the results of perception data that was collected. Unfortunately, there does not appear to have been any significant improvement in the discipline data for these students. There were sixteen detentions prior to small group intervention and thirty detentions post group intervention. We definitely plan to explore this further and intend to review the perception data once it is received. There was an academic improvement noted in some of the students.