Small group counseling is one of the ways we deliver school counseling services to our students. We also recognize that every student is distinctive, with different levels of education, functioning, and ability, therefore, we strive to meet students where they are and help them overcome barriers keeping them from learning. We also understand the importance of being in the classroom, and use a rotating schedule to ensure that a student will only miss a class one time for small group. During our calendar meetings and referenced in the action plan*, we establish small groups we know we will teach – organizational skills, character development, attendance counts, and new student orientation meetings. These groups are included annually because we know we will be working with teachers during data team meetings to detect and intervene with identified students with behavior, academic, and/or attendance issues. Analyzing school data from previous years allows us to attempt to identify potential candidates early. However, previously unidentified students do show up periodically, and once identified the students are asked to join the groups. We also understand that each year, each group of students brings with them unique needs. Based on the unique needs of our students, we also implement groups which allow us to address those specific issues impeding them from success. For example, this past year, we had a number of students suffer tragic losses of family members. Thus the need for a grief group arose.
Heart and Sole is a group that we ran to reach female students who were apathetic in their approach to academics and subsequent consequences. This group is focused on encouraging building healthy relationships with peers and adults, increasing overall health and wellness, and achieving a task that seems overwhelming (running a 5K race). This group runs 90 minutes in length; therefore, due to time constraints and the necessity for students to be in class, we felt it would be most effective held after school. The lesson plans included reflect one unit of the Heart & Sole curriculum. The unit highlighted emphasizes the importance of unity and the positive effects that can come from working together – an overarching theme of the program. Participants’ grades and behavior were monitored during the course of program and a pre-/post-test were administered at the start and conclusion of the group. The perception data (pre- & post-test results) measured body image. The results for most girls increased (see attached graph). We also monitored grades and discipline referrals. These areas showed improvement for all of the girls. At the end of the 1st semester, all girls were passing their academic classes and only one student earned a discipline referral. Additionally, the girls were so encouraged by their success with running a 5K, they asked for a spring running group to be implemented. Run,Girl, Run was introduced in the spring and additional students joined, too.
In looking toward the future, we will continue to include all of the groups on the action plan. We may increase the frequency with which some groups are held – for example, the attendance counts group. The Heart & Sole group has encouraged our PE coaches to reach out to the counselors to try and incorporate sport and movement into working with students they have identified as apathetic learners. We have also inspired a school-wide health & wellness initiative based on the effectiveness of the Heart & Sole group. The school (teachers, administrators, and students) are coming to recognize that a healthy body has a positive impact on a healthy mind.
*In our initial application the small group action plan document did not upload correctly. Please note that it is now attached as REVISED- Small Group Action Plan.