Helping Students and Teachers CONNECT: An Intervention Model for School Counselors

Article excerpt

Research has demonstrated that the quality of the student-teacher relationship affects students' social/emotional development, academic achievement, and classroom functioning. Positive student-teacher relationships help promote a pattern of continued success in student adjustment while negative relationships set a course for continued school and personal problems. The school counselor has a unique opportunity to influence the school success of a large number of students through facilitating positive student-teacher relationships. This article presents the CONNECT model, which utilizes skills based in the tenets of Child-Centered Play Therapy. CONNECT offers a method of working with teachers to demonstrate skills and attitudes that will help teachers in promoting successful relationships with their students.

According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the school counselor is a certified/licensed professional who addresses the needs of students comprehensively through the implementation of a comprehensive developmental school guidance program (ASCA, 2003). The developmental school guidance program includes four components: Guidance Curriculum, Responsive Services, Individual Planning, and System Support. Within these four components, there are four primary interventions including counseling, large group guidance, consultation, and coordination of services. The third intervention, consultation, is described by ASCA as a collaborative partnership in which the counselor works with parents, teachers, administrators, school psychologists, social workers, visiting teachers, medical professionals, and community health personnel in order to plan and implement strategies to help students be successful in the education system. One way school counselors can actively advocate for students as part of the consultation intervention of the developmental guidance program is through collaboration with teachers. We propose that school counselors focus consultation time on improving the student-teacher relationship.

Effects of Teacher-Student Relationships

The relationship that develops between the student and teacher has a significant impact on several factors that contribute to the student's ability to be successful in school. Birch and Ladd (1997) defined school adjustment as a student's cognitive and academic performance, as well as a student's affect, attitude, and involvement or engagement with the environment. Pianta and Stuhlman (2004) narrowed these components further, by indicating that key components to school success are those pertaining to early literacy, language development, relationships, and self regulation. A review of the literature indicates the student-teacher relationship influences the student's ability to be successful in school academically and interpersonally (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Birch & Ladd, 1998; Burchinal, PeisnerFeinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002; Howes, Hamilton, & Matheson, 1994; Lynch & Cicchetti, 1997; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004).

Children's early competencies in several domains have been linked to and perhaps facilitated by the quality of the student-teacher relationship (Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Peisner-Feinberg, Culkin, Howes, and Kagan's (1999) follow up study of pre-school children in the second grade found that children who experienced warm student-teacher relationships performed better on thinking, language ability, and math skills when compared to children who did not experience such a warm relationship.

Burchinal et al. (2002) found that teacher-reported closeness was positively related to growth in children's receptive vocabulary and reading abilities from preschool to second grade, specifically for children of color and for children whose parents reported more authoritarian attitudes. Birch and Ladd (1997) found that children with more teacher-reported closeness in the student-teacher relationship had higher Metropolitan Readiness Test (MRT) visual and language stanine scores than did children with less teacherreported closeness in their relationships with their teachers. …