The seven group offerings for the 16-17 school year were driven by South Counseling’s program goals and reflect the unique needs of our students. The Small Group Action Plan’s focus on groups in the Social/Emotional domain is directly tied to our program goal of reducing behavioral referrals, while the academic skills and Samson Life Challenge group are a reflection of our second program goal, to decrease the number of students failing to meet high school graduation requirements. Group topics were selected based on school data summaries, programming goals, and with feedback from parents, administration, and teachers. Group sign up occurred through a Google survey given to all students. Additional follow up by counselors based on student or parent request, teacher or administrator recommendation, or counselor inquiry followed the initial group sign up.
Girls in Real Life Situations (G.I.R.L.S.), Wise Guys, and Coaching Boys Into Men small group offerings were primarily focused on promoting healthy and respectful behavior towards oneself, one’s peers, and one’s significant others. Feedback collected from South staff and families at the beginning of the 16-17 school year indicated increased concerns with the relational health of South students. Additionally, school climate survey results from 15-16 indicated that students often felt unsafe as a result of aggressive verbal and physical student behavior. This reality was supported by a behavioral referral summary report that indicated nearly 200 referrals to South Administration for aggressive, bullying, or violent behavior.
A Mindfulness group was developed for students struggling with high levels of stress or anxiety. Overwhelming stress and/or anxiety account for a significant number of counselor request slips. Additionally, during informal discussions with students who had attendance, academic, or behavioral struggles during the 15-16 year, feeling “stressed out,” “on edge”, or “losing my cool” were identified as some of the reasons for their struggles.
Alateen is a group available to all students that offers a community of support for anyone who has a family member that is abusing drugs or alcohol. Providing a space for support, guidance, and friendship is central to the vision of the South Counseling program that ALL students find significance in their contributions that improve our world.
Academic Support small groups were delivered at each grade level. Group participation was on a per quarter basis and voluntary. Participants were identified through self-referral, teacher recommendation and quarterly report cards. Group curriculum consisted of an academic skills pre-/post-test and weekly activities aimed at increasing motivation, clarifying goals, and improving organizational or study skills. Samson Life Challenge was developed at semester in partnership with the Samson Life community organization. The group focused on identified 7th graders who were experiencing academic or behavioral challenges in quarters 1-3, but had declined participation in any small group offerings. Personal requests by the groups community partner were made to the students and families.
Wise Guys lesson plans focused on an exploration of gender norms, values, attitudes towards relationships with peers and significant others, and communication strategies to address disagreements without increasing conflicts. Curriculum differs between 7th and 9th grade groups, as developmentally appropriate. Group lesson plans were driven by the selected mindset, “Belief in development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well being.” Thus, group lessons sought to explore participants attitudes towards each area of wellness, while also increasing their knowledge of the forces that shape their attitudes. The ability to use mature and appropriate behavior to make responsible and ethical decisions springs from our focus on the development of the whole self. A pre-/post-test was used to assess group participants attitudes towards mature and appropriate decisions while also attempting to capture their knowledge of responsible alternatives.
The Results Report developed for the 9th grade Wise Guys Small Group illuminated multiple items for further examination. Although outcome data indicated a reduction in behavioral referrals for group participants, the counselors do not feel the selected outcome data measure fully captures potential positive effects of the group. Additionally, with several different interventions being delivered at the classroom and school-wide level it is difficult to gauge the Wise Guys groups specific impact on a reduction in negative behaviors. Future changes to group curriculum includes an expansion to 10 total lessons, with increased emphasis on role playing, conflict management, and sexual health. Future pre/post assessment measures would be updated to evaluate additional lessons. Overall, Wise Guys was viewed by students, counselors, and administration as an effective intervention that should be continued.