As the school year has progressed, I have noticed a pattern developing with my fourth graders. Most days when they come in from their morning recess a line starts forming outside my office of students furiously writing requests to see me. If they see me in my office I am occassionally attacked by an angry mob. :) In looking at the sheet I record my self-referral requests, the column of fourth graders seems to reach the bottom of the page while other grade levels are still hovering at the top. I decided it was time to step back and use my next guidance lesson to re-evaluate when it's time to seek out the counselor. Inspired by Social Communication Services with Mrs. Cardenas, I found the perfect way to solve this growing problem of my own!
I started off with shocking news. I would not be there to help them with their problems for the rest of their life. I know, very sad. :( Some kids were shocked...others were like, "Duh!" I will be here for them while they continue through Lee Elementary, I will be here for them when they come back to visit, but once they've moved onto high school/college/real life - they are going to have to depend on themselves to find the resources they need. I reviewed some of the lessons we've worked on throughout the year and how I've been preparing them to solve conflict on their own for these dangerous times that lie ahead in the future.
I then introduced the Problem Scale to them. The Problem Scale can help us evaluate how big our problem is. Is it a glitch on the radar or a small problem (0-3)? These can be handled on our own without adult assistance. Is it a medium problem (4-6)? These can be attempted & be successful or attempted & need additional assistance. Or is it a big problem (7-10)? Big problems = See Ms. Sepp immediately. I passed out 2 post-its to each student and had them anonymously record 2 separate problems that they have encountered or heard of a friend encountering. It needed to be a recent problem, but it could have happened anywhere. Students took a few minutes to brainstorm, and then they stuck their post-its onto the Problem Scale based on how large they felt their problem was.
Once all students had posted, we went through the post-its together and decided if we agreed or disagreed on where it was placed.
The smaller problems included things such as losing your pencil, whereas the bigger problems included things such as my parents are fighting. Most post-its we moved a little bit up or down the Problem Scale after discussion, but there were definitely ones that were perfectly placed. I did reinforce that we all handle problems differently and only we are in charge of how we feel. What might roll right off someone's back might feel like the end of the world to us - and vice versa. I also shared with them that when I have 15+ requests to see me, it becomes a waiting list that could go on for weeks. I want to be there for them to listen and problem solve, but the sheer number of self-referrals prevents me from getting to everyone in a timely manner. Going forward I asked them to use the Problem Scale before they fill out a request to meet with me. Ask your teachers for help and report to them while you're out at recess because they are here to help with those medium-sized problems. Think about which problems are small and can be solved on your own. This way when you really need me, I can be there for you asap! :)