Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Training School Interns to Teach Elementary Students to Respect and Care for Others

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Training School Interns to Teach Elementary Students to Respect and Care for Others

Article excerpt

The author describes a research project in which school counselor interns and teacher interns from a college of education are trained to teach and model communication skills to elementary students in partnership urban public schools for the purpose of creating a caring, respectful classroom climate.

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Since the inception of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), there has been heated debate concerning the goals and outcomes of American public education. The current education reform movement, originating in 1990 as America 2000 and reauthorized in 1994 as Goals 2000, has had an impact on educational initiatives in 49 states (Dahir, Sheldon, & Valiga, 1998). Reform initiatives have taken place in almost every school and community, yet there continues to be a debate about what is working and what is not. Most recently, the newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act, titled the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, offers additional provisions for support and change in schools. It redefines the federal role in K-12 education and is designed to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers.

Statistics concerning at-risk youth, increasing violence and criminal activity, and an increasing gap between the "haves and have nots" have become important political and economic issues with regard to the educational well-being of the United States. Furthermore, there has been an increase in the diversity of students in U.S. schools with regard to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

Many urban areas in the United States have large percentages of minority students, with accompanying higher than average drop-out rates. The socioeconomic status of these minority group members tends to be lower than average, and the poverty level continues to be high among today's students. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of the Census (1999) has reported that more than 14 million children--approximately 20% of all children under the age of 18 years--live below the poverty level. More than 4.2 million of these children are Black, representing 37.2% of that population, and 4 million are Hispanic, or 36.8% of that group.

In most states, there has been an increased emphasis on high academic achievement for all students. Statewide competency-based testing results have become an increasingly high priority in K-12 schools in the United States. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has established new math and reading testing requirements in Grades 3-8 and has authorized funds for states to develop, select, and design their own tests by 2005-2006, requiring states to participate in fourth- and eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments in reading and mathematics conducted on a biennial basis (NASSP, 2002). Much pressure has been placed on students and educators at all levels to raise academic standards, including both raising achievement test scores and increasing the credits needed and requiring more rigorous course work for graduation from high school (Quaglia, 2000).

Experts agree that establishing meaningful connections between teachers and the students in their classrooms, as well as among the students themselves, is essential for the mission of education to be successful (Dodd, 2000; Mulgan, 1996). Many educators assert that too much instructional time is taken up with classroom management issues, including the lack of positive communication between teacher and students (Dodd, 2000). They recognize that when schools attend to students' social and emotional skills, the academic achievement of children increases, the incidence of problem behaviors decreases, and the quality of the relationships surrounding each child improves (Cummings & Haggerty, 1997; Elias et al., 1997).

A caring, respectful classroom environment can provide an climate more conducive to, and encouraging of, learning and achievement (Dodd, 2000; Elias, Bruene-Butler, Blum, & Schuyler, 1997). …

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