Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Strengthening Counselor-Teacher-Family Connections: The Family-School Collaborative Consultation Project

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Strengthening Counselor-Teacher-Family Connections: The Family-School Collaborative Consultation Project

Article excerpt

A 3-year project of school-wide change undertaken by a team of school counselors, administrators and counselor educators was initiated to create strong working relationships among a school's counselors, teachers, and students' families. We delineate the goals and history of this consultation project and give detailed examples of our intervention strategies to encourage other counselors to assume a leadership role in strengthening family-teacher-counselor connections.

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Despite the consistent, cumulative findings that home environments and out-of-school time contribute powerfully to children's learning, few teachers routinely include parents in planning or decision making about their children's learning and development. Instead most teachers believe that they are exclusively responsible for student learning in their classroom, and that parents and counselors should be kept at a distance and only involved if the teacher cannot resolve a student's difficulties. Regrettably, not only do these practices result in teachers feeling isolated and unsupported, but waiting until students have problems severe enough to warrant an invitation to parents to come in often leaves parents feeling alienated and blamed by school staff.

How might counselors and teachers break from this tradition and develop close working relationships with each other and with students' families? Can counselors take the lead in accomplishing this when our own experience as counselors and counselor educators is situated in a set of culturally prescribed roles which do not fully prepare us for this leadership role? In this article we describe our experience as counselors and counselor educators working to build stronger connections with teachers and students' families in a K-12 school. We first describe the initial beliefs about family-school interaction and counselor-teacher interaction held by the school staff. We then describe the history of our consultation project to illustrate the development of a model of organizational change in the family-teacher-counselor relationship system. Finally, we describe our project goals and primary intervention strategies and give detailed and concrete examples of interventions to encourage other school counselors to invest in similar efforts to develop close working relationships with teachers and with the families of their students.

RETHINKING COUNSELOR-TEACHERFAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Educators have long recognized the importance of families in influencing students' academic achievement. However, it was not until the late 1980s and 1990s that more systematic attention was given to how educators might work with families to enhance student learning and achievement. This new interest in families was generated by the results of research on the families of preschool and school-age children (Clark, 1983; Dornbush, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Kellaghan, Sloane, Alvarez, & Bloom, 1993; Snow, Bames, Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 1991). This research demonstrated that families appear to be the crucial ingredient in determining whether a child succeeds in gaining an education.

As a result of these findings, a variety of innovative practices focused on involving families in the teaching and learning process were developed by early childhood educators working with low-income families (Brofenbrenner, 1974; Davison, 1998; Scott-Jones, 1987), by educators working with languageminority children (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991; Delpit, 1995), and by educators attempting to restructure and reorganize schools (Comer, Haynes, Joyner, & Ben-Avie, 1996; Davies, Burch, & Johnson, 1992; Senge et al., 2000). Coupled with this growing interest in the family's role in children's academic success were increased pressures placed on schools by the larger political-legal context to include families in educational decision making. For example, the U.S. Congress passed a law' requiting that "by the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase parent involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children" (National Educational Goals Panel, 1999). …

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