03/01/2003

School Counselor Practicing What He Preaches

by Kevin Quinn

SCHOOL COUNSELOR PRACTICING WHAT HE PREACHES

Should you visit South Kingstown High School in Wakefield, RI and observe the Period C, Art II class, you would see 27 students actively working on various projects. Upon closer view, you would find South Kingstown High School’s Kevin D. Quinn fine-tuning his oil pastel drawing of a human skull. What makes Kevin different from the rest of the students in Mrs. Jerimiah’s class is the fact that he serves those same students in his capacity as one of the high school’s five school counselors. Mr. Quinn, as he is called both in and out of class, has been an active student within South Kingstown’s classrooms for many years, discovering an incredible array of benefits in this learning mode. Emulating the importance of teachers connecting with students, this learning model best exemplifies the bond between teacher and student.

Reading the course description and counseling students based upon limited information are the norm for most individual student scheduling. Properly detailed learning plans, aligned toward careers and vocations, should be in place for all students. The four or six year plan requires educated professionals working with students and their families to formulate the best plan. The working knowledge learned within the confines of the classroom allows the school counselor to fully understand and appreciate the course content by learning first-hand exactly what is being taught in any particular course. This leaning model also allows the school counselor to collaborate and work hand-in-hand with faculty. South Kingstown teachers have approached Quinn, and he is “scheduled” each semester through the year 2007. In the eyes of the faculty, Quinn represents the “model student.” With the exception of sudden absence or dismissal for “counselor-related reasons,” Quinn commits to the learning process. He appreciates the learning atmosphere and is always on task. Attentive, courteous, and eager to learn, Quinn never questions the lesson and never would ask, “When will I ever use this?” His routine is consistent and impressive, and teachers are happy to have him in their class. Additionally, students support his presence in each course. A common student quote centers on an issue of respect: “Our class was a place where Mr. Quinn could treat us as equals, and we could do the same for him. I believe the class was enriched, and his participation best exemplifies the nature of student/teacher collaboration.”

An example of effective counseling techniques is the case study involving “Robin.” Quinn recalls last year’s scheduling process. “I was working with “Robin”, a junior trying to complete her senior year courses. Having been in the middle of an extremely stressful and hectic junior year, this young lady was in no mood for discussing her additional classes for next year.” She was having much difficulty in the current year. “Why bother?” She said. Disinterested, unmotivated and in rare form, this student was totally uncooperative. Remembering his own junior high school art class, he recalled that he disliked art and his self-image suffered through his lack of quality work. Quinn admits, “He couldn’t even draw a tree.” Why then would he ever consider taking Art II? But by using his counseling techniques, the school counselor had captured Robin’s attention and suggested to her that they take a class together. Knowing her strength and interest in the area, Quinn suggested, “How about Art II—We can call it Art Therapy. You can help me with the art concepts, and I will be with you on a daily basis.” The student was elated. In fact, she became a bit hesitant and asked; “You would do that for me?”

Learning on the equal playing field with students has reaped a variety of benefits. With each class and each new semester, additional educational rewards are blossoming. On a daily basis, faculty learning with students produces win-win scenarios. It is sustainability at its best! Empirical research indicates the need for sustaining programs into the curriculum and aligning toward with career pathways. This learning model provides the means for a better understanding and is cross-curriculum in nature. The positive effect on kids is evident and the learning enhanced. One teacher wrote, “Students commented in their journals how proud they were to see a faculty member interested in their class as an equal participant. For myself, the experience only reinforced how successful team teaching can be. The strengths and weaknesses of the individual are almost obsolete when one shares the center stage with another professional.” The atmosphere created within the classroom environment is enthusiastic and refreshing, and each year brings more success.

Both faculty and the students have generated the feedback. Student comments have brought attention to the fact that a teacher is willing to work on the same level as they are and that teachers should be commended for their efforts. Serving as an equal also allows Mr. Quinn to gain a unique perception of the learning process. The most valuable benchmark parallels the educational process with the connection factor. Although Mr. Quinn has established a strong rapport with students throughout his teaching and counseling career, his linking educational model has “brought to the forefront the importance of connecting with kids.” As an added benefit, the strengthened collegial relationships are forged.

Kevin Quinn, M.A., is the School Counselor for South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island. In addition to memberships in ASCA, ACA, and NEA, Kevin has served on the RI Coalition for the Prevention of School Violence, the Crisis Intervention Team, and the Human Resource Investment Council. He was awarded the Rhode Island Business Educator of the Year. His email address is kevindquinn@hotmail.com


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