A message from the WSCA Executive Director
Dear WSCA Members,
WE MADE IT!
The strength and resilience shown by Wisconsin school counselors the past 16 months has once again left me in awe of the tremendous support you have given your students, families, and school communities. After all you have done for everyone else this year, it is now time to step back and re energize yourself. This will look a little different for everyone but I encourage you to do the things that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation. Please know and remember that we appreciate and value all you do!
Wishing you a wonderful summer break,
A message from the WSCA Board of Directors
Please welcome Russ Nelson to the WSCA Board of Directors. Russ has been appointed for one year to complete Megan Williams term. Megan is shifting careers and moving into private practice as an LPC. We wish her the best in her future endeavors and know she will continue being a strong advocate for children and the counseling profession.
Russ is a 4K-12 school counselor in Solon Springs.
Feature Article – Gatekeepers of Knowledge: School Counselor Professional Development
Gatekeepers of Knowledge: School Counselor Professional Development
Baraboo High School
Remember the email you received asking about yearbook distribution, the phone call about college recommendations, or a parent drop-in to ask a question that really only their student’s teacher could answer? School counselors are often considered the gatekeepers of knowledge within the school system. Our training and skills are juxtaposed to support students’ and their academic, career, and social/emotional needs, along with any barriers they may face, as well as further continuing the school and district’s mission and vision–in any and all circumstances.
On March 13, 2020, everything changed. Since graduate programs don’t teach courses such as “How to be a(n effective) School Counselor in a Pandemic 101,” counselors turned to offerings through their state and national organizations on supporting students through the school closure. One thing is for certain: the pandemic, coupled with the social justice movement, has highlighted the inequities that exist. It’s time to think about breaking down the status quo in education and pave the way for all students to truly be equitably educated–and counselors are perfectly poised to lead the charge.
But how? The first step would be to engage in high quality professional development. 15 months into a pandemic, though there may be light at the end of the tunnel, we don’t know when that light will fully shine. Thus, the thought of sitting in front of the computer for even more digital learning may seem daunting.
As counselors, it is our professional responsibility to engage in best practices and be up-to-date on the current trends in education. Thus, professional development is essential to our practice. Furthermore, engaging in professional development is part of the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors:
B.3. Responsibilities to Self
b. Maintain membership in school counselor professional organizations to stay up to date on current research and to maintain professional competence in current school counseling issues and topics…
e. Engage in professional development and personal growth throughout their careers…
i. Monitor and expand personal multicultural and social-justice advocacy awareness, knowledge and skills to be an effective culturally competent school counselor. Understand how prejudice, privilege and various forms of oppression based on ethnicity, racial identity, age, economic status, abilities/disabilities, language, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity expression, family type, religious/spiritual identity, appearance and living situations (e.g., foster care, homelessness, incarceration) affect students and stakeholders.
Like education, professional development does not have to fit into the traditional box of “sit and get” and possibly never use again. PD can be joining some counselor-specific PLC groups on social media and engaging in the posts. It can be reading the book on empathy that’s sat on your shelf for some time. It could be picking and choosing offerings with the On Demand series through the WSCA Online Learning Platform, engaging virtually with counselor colleagues at this year’s WSCA Summer Academy, or even reuniting face-to-face with everyone in November at the WSCA Annual Conference.
No matter where you are in your career, never stop learning!
American School Counselor Association. (2016). ASCA Ethical Standards for School
Counselors. Retrieved from https://www.schoolcounselor.org/getmedia/f041cbd0-7004-47a5-ba01-3a5d657c6743/
Special Feature – Ripple Effects of the Pandemic
Ripple Effects of the Pandemic:
Essential Steps for Providing Successful Learning Environments
By Dr. Ashley Schoof, Clinical Director, STRONG Child & Adolescent Day Treatment and Christian Family Solutions
Children and teens communicate their needs through their behavior. You’ve seen it – students in your schools signaling they need help through behaviors such as aggression, isolation, self-harm, and more.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning, school professionals may not have witnessed as many children and teens displaying this behavior, simply because the students haven’t been in school consistently. That doesn’t mean the issues aren’t there. Clinically, we’re now seeing higher numbers of children and higher levels of acuity. In fact, we’re expecting that many more children and teens are going to need mental health treatment in the future. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us quickly, its effects will linger. Statistics and studies support this.
It’s going to take all of us working together to recognize the cries for help, respond appropriately in the moment, refer to appropriate levels of clinical care if necessary, and collaborate to provide consistency in environments so students can be successful.
Reasons for increased mental health needs
Beyond the statistics, neuroscience explains why we’re seeing an uptick in mental and behavioral health issues. The pandemic left loneliness, loss of social and emotional skills, and increased anxiety and depression in its wake. This is the equivalent of trauma for some children – an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). In fact, UCLA now has a COVID version of PTSD screening. And we know that left untreated, ACEs directly relate to behavioral challenges and medical impacts later in life.
As a clinical professional, I assess and respond to cries for help with appropriate treatment. No matter where you refer students to clinical treatment, please recognize your role as a “first responder” who can refer children to the help they need and be a proponent of a supportive environment outside of therapy. In the remainder of this article, I’ll talk more about how the adults in students’ lives – clinical professionals, school professionals, and parents/guardians – can collaborate to create environments that are best for children and teens with mental health and behavioral challenges. Adults have autonomy over their care and environment; children do not. So it is critical that adults collaborate for them.
Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is one of the evidence-based methods we use clinically to connect with children and create a growth mindset for further learning. Below are three aspects of TBRI that guide the approach adults can use when interacting with children who are dysregulated and acting out. I hope these important perspectives and strategies will guide those of you who are striving to create productive learning environments.
CONNECTION – Each caregiver needs to be mindful of what he or she brings to the table, such as personal reactions or history, and how those might translate as you respond to a child in any given situation. No matter what the child’s age, you can connect better if you understand yourself and your tendencies. Some examples: Do you have a resting “angry face”? (I do!) Are there cultural differences between you and the child? If you tend to react quickly to a child’s behavior, give yourself three extra seconds before you react. Ask yourself, “Why is the child acting this way?” There is a need behind every single human behavior. If you understand this, you can focus on “why” instead of “what” the child is doing. This will allow you to connect better with the child and effectively use the next two strategies.
EMPOWERMENT – Now that we are open to understanding the child’s behavior and what it might be communicating, we can move on to what to do in the moment. Think about two main sources of regulated or dysregulated behavior:
- Wisdom of the Body: Is this child hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Is there anything sensory triggering the behavior, such as noise, clothing, or temperature? Even a sensation like having shoes that are too small can cause dysregulation.
- Wisdom of Places: What are we doing to create meaningful, belonging rooms in schools and homes? What helps the child know that this is my classroom and I am welcome here, even if he or she makes a mistake? Sending a child out of a classroom for behavior communicates the opposite. Saying things like, “You’re going to miss out” creates more dysregulation. Instead, flip the language to communicate, “We want you here in your space. We will miss you if you don’t join us.”
CORRECTION – The approach we use in a therapy setting also translates to the classroom or home environment: Address the behavior, meet the need, and move on. We proactively communicate the ground rules first. Two main ground rules we use are “No hurts” (We do not say anything or do anything that hurts someone else here) and “We belong together” (You belong here and I want you to behave in such a way that keeps you here, or I will miss you). Then we use a “Try that again” strategy to proactively teach in the moment.
What might all of these strategies look like when put together?
A child walking from the restroom to the classroom begins dancing in the hallway. A teacher is walking nearby. To connect with the child, the teacher comes alongside and mirrors the behavior, making eye contact with a friendly face. “I notice you are dancing, Johnny.” (Still connecting, seeking what might be causing the behavior.) “Let’s try that again, walking from the restroom to our classroom.” The teacher then models the correct behavior, affirming success when the two arrive to the space where they both belong.
This is what TBRI pioneer Dr. Karyn Purvis calls the IDEAL response: Immediate, Direct, Efficient, Action-based, Leveled at the behavior, not the child.
I often say that “we act and talk funny” in day treatment therapy. Ours are not words and actions used in many schools or homes. Yet think of what we could do for children if adults collaborated and provided consistent environments for children, whether a therapy environment, school, or home? The same brain-friendly skills learned in therapy could be practiced with school counselors and shared with teachers and parents. What an amazing and supportive environments we would create for children learn and grow.
If you are interested in creating this kind of environment in your school, I encourage you to gather and discuss how your school is going to recognize that behavior communicates needs, how you will address those needs consistently, and what is needed to support children whose needs go deeper. Determine where you will refer children for whom these everyday strategies are not working, whose needs run deeper than the school staff can address in that setting. Know that when the child goes to therapy, you are still involved. Be prepared to welcome that child back and provide the necessary consistency and supportive environment for him or her to put what was learned in therapy into practice.
Finally, remember that the most vulnerable children and teens before the pandemic are most vulnerable now to the lingering impact. Many schools are encouraging enrollment in summer school or other programs that support students who may have lost some academic ground or social-emotional skills during the pandemic. Summer is a great time for those who need a “higher dose” of care to enroll in a skills group or a community-based day treatment program.
I welcome a continuing dialogue with you as we seek to support the children and teens who are coming through this pandemic area. You can reach me at The STRONG MILWAUKEE Center at 262-293-9747.
Ashley Schoof, PsyD, LP, BC-TMH, is Southeastern Wisconsin Clinical Director for Christian Family Solutions and director of the STRONG Child & Adolescent Day Treatment Program. Dr. Schoof uses cognitive behavioral and family systems framework during treatment and is also trained in applied behavioral analysis and play therapy. Her areas of expertise include foster care and adoption, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, OCD, brain injury, learning disabilities, other childhood disorders, and group and individual therapy.
You Spoke, We Listened
Equity Legislative Update
At the end of May, three state legislative committees heard testimony on transgender athletes participating in high school and college level sports. WSCA supports the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) statement on the proposed legislation: “We believe the bill is unnecessary… The WIAA serves a diverse membership of private and public schools that has a long history of providing opportunities and creating policies that benefit all student-athletes. The WIAA’s guiding principles are to ensure that transgender students have opportunities to participate in WIAA-sponsored athletics…” Governor Evers has indicated he will not sign the bill if it passes through both the Assembly and Senate.
Legislative Updates - State Budget Update
State Budget Update:
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS!
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) did not approve additional K-12 funding for the next biennial budget and is putting federal stimulus dollars at risk. In addition, the Joint Finance Committee ONCE AGAIN (against the recommendation from all stakeholders) approved additional mental health funding for school social workers. Please reach out to your State Senator and Assembly Representative, they need to hear your stories about how this impacts your schools. You can find out how to contact your elected officials using this link https://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/. Additional information on talking to your legislators can be found on the WSCA Afternoon on the Hill webpage https://www.wscaweb.org/advocacy/government-relations-committee/.
Please see below for additional talking points and information about the state budget from a joint press release issued by WASB, SAA, WiRSA, and SWSA.
$4.4 Billion in New Revenue Is an Opportunity to Invest in Wisconsin School Children
K-12 groups call on Legislature to revisit K-12 education budget
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released projections underscoring the state’s economic recovery announcing revenue projections are $4.4 billion higher than had previously been estimated in January. The state now has $5.8 billion available for budget purposes.
This is an excellent opportunity to revisit the K-12 education budget approved by the Joint Finance Committee that did not meet basic inflationary benchmarks for state support for K-12 education and put vital federal relief funding at risk in the process.
Investing in the post pandemic recovery of our school children needs to be a top priority.
These new revenues would allow lawmakers to invest in:
- Revenue limits/general aid and/or per pupil aid to meet the inflationary needs and maintain the operating budgets of school districts as well as ensuring adequate facilities for students.
- Special Education aid to better address learning needs of our most vulnerable students and provide opportunities for all students by minimizing how much of school district general funds need to be transferred to fund special education services.
- Broadband to close the Homework Gap and ensure that every student in the state has an equal opportunity to access online resources.
- Mental health aid and grants to address the social and emotional impacts of the pandemic on school-age children, which is widely acknowledged. It is unknown how long students will need additional resources to recover from the disruptions of the pandemic.
- Pupil count mitigation to address the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on student enrollment and in turn, the resources and opportunities available to schools.
According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum:
- Wisconsin ranked 49th in the nation in per pupil spending increase from 2011 to 2018 at 4.3% — nationwide the percent change was 18.9%.
- Since the significant reduction in school spending in the 2011-2013 state budget, total per pupil spending has continued to lag the rest of the country. Wisconsin’s spending on K-12 schools increased by 11% between 2013 and 2018, while the increase was close to 18% nationwide.
- Between 2008 and 2018, voters in 189 school districts passed 387 referenda to exceed revenue limits. Without the impact of these referenda, K-12 spending in Wisconsin would have been even lower over those years.
Now is the time for the state of Wisconsin to make long-overdue investments in our children and avoid the property tax increases that occur when schools are forced to go to referendum because of lack of state investment.