Three Strategies I Learned at OTA That I Can’t Wait to Use at My New School

Three Strategies I Learned at OTA That I Can’t Wait to Use at My New School

After three years of working at One Trusted Adult, I’ve decided to return to a school community as a school counselor. I’ve learned so much by developing advisory curricula, training teachers on trust and boundary-building strategies, and supporting schools in implementing OTA programs, and I look forward to using my learning to support students, teachers, and parents at my new school. As I think ahead to August and envision entering a new community, my initial focus will be on building connections with students, teachers, and parents. In this month’s blog, I’d like to share three strategies I learned at OTA that I know will help me in this endeavor.

Possibility Prompts

Students are referred to school counselors for a variety of academic, social, or emotional challenges. While I’ve always grounded my school counseling practice in a solution-focused approach, I hadn’t, in the schools where I worked previously, explicitly considered the value of focusing on possibility when getting to know my students. While it’s important to learn where a student is currently (academically, emotionally, and socially), it’s perhaps even more important to find out where they want to go. One of my first steps in building connection is to ask students what their goals are and how I can support them in getting there. This is also a good step for getting to know parents. While parents often share concerns and worries they may have about their child, they may be less likely to express their greatest hopes for their them. Shifting my focus from the problems to the possible, and stepping away from being consumed by crisis and concern every minute of every day, is the ultimate goal. 

Personality Assessments

Among my favorite activities to earn the trust of students and get to know them are personality assessments. If I ask students to tell me about themselves, most will find it challenging to articulate who they are. Personality assessments are embedded throughout the OTA curriculum as a tool that encourages reflection. Although the assessments have different styles—from silly to serious—they all instruct students to answer questions or draw a picture or scene. Then we read the results to explain what their answers or drawings say about their characteristics and strengths. The power of these engaging assessments is that students have an opportunity to accept or reject the findings. These assessments are a fun way to get students talking about who they are (and who they aren’t). I might even use them to get to know my colleagues and parents!  

Competitive and Collaborative Challenges

While I’ve always known there are tremendous benefits to play, I’ve learned a lot from my colleague Brooklyn Raney about how to use play-based activities to teach critical academic, social, emotional, and leadership skills. Brooklyn’s background in educational theatre amplifies her talent for finding creative, competitive, and collaborative ways to engage students and prompt discussion around topics relevant to leadership and life skills. I plan to use competitive and collaborative challenges as a way to build healthy connections and community. These activities can be as simple as challenging students to lie on the floor with a coin on their forehead and then to stand up without letting the coin fall, or they can be more complex, like participating in a back-to-back, no-look drawing exercise to see who has the best communication skills! 

I’ve had a wonderful experience working with One Trusted Adult and with all of you. Thank you for your continued investment in our mission. If you currently work in a school community, thank you for all the support you have given the young people in your care this school year. I am eager and excited to join you and get back to working daily with a community of students and staff. And I’m excited to watch OTA continue to grow and support young people and youth-serving professionals all over the globe. 

Be who you need(ed)! 

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