39. What if I have a class that’s mean to each other? How to help as a School Counselor

In this episode of Counselor Chat, join me as we delve into a unique exploration sparked by questions from our vibrant Facebook groups.

 This episode centers on the challenges of fostering positive relationships among students within a classroom, addressing disrespectful behavior, and promoting an environment conducive to learning.

From the importance of strong relationships with adults to the implementation of social-emotional learning (SEL) curricula, this episode offers practical strategies.

This episode serves as a comprehensive guide for counselors seeking effective tools to navigate the intricacies of student relationships and classroom dynamics. Tune in for a wealth of wisdom and actionable advice.

Links Mentioned:

Facebook Groups:



Carol: You're listening to the Counselor Chat podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place, because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in.

Carol: Hi, everyone. It's Carol. Welcome back to another episode of Counselor Chat. It's where we are really talking about all things related to school counseling. I am so excited that you are here again with me today, and I'm also so very grateful that you are here listening. I really think that together we can make the school counseling profession a whole lot easier to navigate, as well as a whole lot interesting as we share all our knowledge and experiences and stories together. So really, thank you so much for being a part of this with me today. I thought I'd do something a little bit different. So as you may know, I do run a lot of Facebook Groups. And what I've done is I've actually gone into the Facebook groups elementary school counselor exchange and caught in the middle school counselors. And I really started looking around at some of the questions that kept popping up over and over and over again. And I thought, well, maybe we could pull an episode for the podcast based on answering some questions. And so the one question that really came up time and time again was, what can I do if I have a group of students, maybe a classroom, that they just don't get along? Maybe the students are really respectful to the adults and the people in charge, but in terms of each other, they're talking about each other, they're yelling down the hallway for them to shut up or they name call, or they're just being quite disrespectful to each other in general. And these behaviors that the students are having towards one another are really affecting the overall classroom as well as the teacher's ability to maintain control of the class or even the counselor as they are trying to lead lessons in the class. And so the question is, what can we do? What kinds of lessons or curriculums or ideas could I use in my work to help these classes kind of come together, reconcile, and get back to really the basics of learning? I have to say, it's really not uncommon for students to struggle with interpersonal relationships, but there are definitely some strategies that I think that we can try to implement or maybe you can implement to really address this issue. I think first and foremost, it's really important to know that if kids have a good relationship with the adults in the building, that's a good first step. Because an essential foundation for building relationships with one another is really having also a really good relationship with the teacher or the counselor or the person that's in charge of the classroom. So it's really important to be able to have those expectations, to have classes where you can have conversations because they respond well to the adults. I know recently I had a class in my own building. It's a fifth grade class, and the teacher, she was struggling. She's a really strong teacher, excellent, excellent teacher, but was really struggling with the relationships that she felt she was having with the students. She felt of all the years that she's been teaching, this year's class was extremely hard to reach and she didn't know what to do. She felt that they weren't really nice to each other and that they really lacked a lot of empathy and problem solving on their own. And so we have been working together for a couple of weeks now of really trying to build the relationship in that class. One thing I think that's really important is to make sure that you implement a social emotional learning curriculum, because cell programs really provide students with skills and knowledge that they need to manage their emotions, to develop empathy for one another, and to really build healthy relationships. So whether you look at a program like Second Step or EVERFI or even our membership that I have with Brandy, the Perks Counseling Content Club, we have built a curriculum that really tries to address everything that kids could possibly need. We have a program that has empathy, that builds empathy and has kids really look at that. We talk about problem solving and conflict resolution. These are skills that students really need to be taught and modeled so that they can use them on their own. So having a cell curriculum is definitely really important, which also means if you're going to have a cell program, that you have to be pretty consistent about getting in and teaching those lessons. Now, the other thing that I think that at least I know that I have been trying with these classes is some restorative work. And so we have really begun community circles in this class. And this is really the first classroom that I'm using community circles with. I have recently been trained as a facilitator for running circles, but it has been really eye opening and really has brought about a lot of change in really just a short period of time. So when you're running a community circle, one of the first things that you do is you establish some values and some guidelines for the circle and how it's run. And really, our first session, that's all we really had time for. We went around the circle as a class, and I introduced what a talking piece was and what it meant, and I picked something that was pretty meaningful to me, and we passed it around and the kids all talked about it. Then we also talked about what a circle was, why they're helpful, and we said, is everyone willing to try this? And so everybody basically went around and agreed. After that we really talked about we had a quick check in and really all we asked was what was your high, your low and your buffalo? Which I know seems a little silly, your high, your low and your buffalo. But what that really means is what was the high point of your wheezed? Because it was a Monday, your weekend, what was the high point of your weekend, what was the low point of the weekend and what was the buffalo? What was something silly that happened? And just doing that simple check in really was kind of cool because it let us learn a little bit more about each kid. Now I have been with these kids for the last couple of years, so I felt like I really kind of built relationships with them. And I really find that I put a lot of work into trying to learning about kids. But I was surprised at some of the additional things that I actually learned about them just going around asking what their high low and their buffalo was. And so that was really a very cool experience. From there we talked about what values were important for our classroom and while we were doing these circles. And so we talked about things like listening with an open heart and being patient and waiting your turn. And then we went on to what guidelines from these values are we going to make sure that we use while we're here. And so we all then had to agree on those. It really was pretty awesome just to have them sit and listen and be patient with one another. From there, our next session, I put together a bit of a PowerPoint. And really it was pretty easy because all I did was put all these words I did have to look some of them up for suggestions and things, but I tried to find every, I'm going to say negative characteristic or trait, personality trait that I could find and I just put them in a PowerPoint. All these words. I just changed the fonts up a little bit and the sizes of some of the words and they were things like disrespectful or dishonest or lies or cheap or unfaithful or loud, obnoxious, every word that I could possibly think of. And I put those all in a PowerPoint. And all the words were in black and blue. And so they kind of like just stared at it. And from there I had them think. And then we had to wonder. So I wanted them to wonder, what did this mean? And so we gave them like a minute to think about that. And then I had some follow up questions. Why would I put this on the board? What do you think it means? What do you think we're trying to get to? And once again, we just went around the circle and every kid answered the same questions and they gave their opinion as to what did it mean with all those words on the board, or why would I put them on the board? Or what was the purpose of this whole lesson going to be about? And then from there, the next slide was the same PowerPoint or the same words, but in the middle I had posted a speech bubble that said, how do you want to be remembered? And so from there, once again, we had a think and wonder and then we did a little discussion. So what does this mean now when we look at it? And why would we use these words? And are these words that we want to be remembered by? And how in our lifetime do we want people to think of us and to remember us and to acknowledge us as what type of people? So this was a really moving and powerful, I think, little lesson. And so we did that. And then once again, we followed it up with a little final thought at the end and kind of closed our circle. And then the following week, we talked more about our classroom community and what we wanted our classroom community to look like and feel like based on how we wanted to feel and think and be remembered as a person. And so it was a really, I think, moving way to talk about how to treat each other and how we should treat people. And what do we have to think about when we have these conversations with our classmates that really aren't so nice or aren't so grace, and what do we have to do if we do that and we hurt someone? So these restorative concepts, restorative community building processes could be a really big piece of solving those classroom problems. I think another thing to really look at is to look at digital citizenship. Because of how much technology our kids have in their lives, it's really important to teach students about responsible online behavior and the potential consequences of their actions. We need to discuss cyberbullying and online etiquette as well as what to keep safe online because sometimes they share way too much, and then how to treat each other's with respect both in person and online. In addition, we also need to teach them what to do if someone is saying mean things to them online. And if it's happening at home, how can we not have it carry into school? Or who do we tell at school or at home to make sure that these things stop? So I think if we can focus on those things, the cell lessons, maybe the community circles, the online etiquette and citizenship, I think those are some pretty good first steps into trying to solve some issues that kids have with really just not being nice to each other as a class. And I know that's really difficult when classes don't get along. I know at the elementary level, sometimes if your class doesn't get along, they're stuck with each other all day long. Like our kids don't travel from class to class to class. They did in middle school, but not really at the elementary level. They might go across the hall for a math lesson or maybe another teacher is going to handle social studies for the day. But for the most part, they're with the same group of kids all day long. So we really need to work on squashing any type of negative behaviors that they might have towards one another. There's a thing, and I know I talked about this before, and it's not my idea. I stole it from online. And that's the great thing about having these, I think, avenues of sharing information with other counselors, whether it's Facebook or podcasts, know, TikTok or Instagram, is that we can share and learn from each other. But one of the things to also teach is how not to be friends with someone and how even if you don't like someone, you still have to work with them. And even if you don't like someone, you have to say nice things and you can't be rude. And even if you don't like someone, you can't get other people to turn against them because everyone has the right to have a friend. I think these are all so important concepts to talk about with kids and have them take that to heart and be part of who they are. Well, my friends, I hope that this was helpful if you are struggling with a class that maybe there were some tips in here or some ideas to try with your own class that maybe is not getting along. And I just want to say thank you for being a part of not only this podcast, but also the Facebook groups. Because like I said, we really learn and do better for our kids when we all come together and we share ideas. So thanks for asking this question in the Facebook groups and thanks for listening to the answer here. Anyway, if you have questions or you want to connect, please feel free to do so. If you have some questions that you would love for me to answer on an upcoming podcast, I would love to do so. And I really want to hear from you. So make sure that you send me a message on either Facebook or Instagram. I'm at Carol at Counseling Essentials so you can find me there. My name on Facebook is Carol Lawson Miller, so you can always message me there as well. But I love hearing from you and I love connecting. As you may tell, I do have a little cold, so thanks for putting up with this voice today. Hopefully it'll be back to normal soon, but I do appreciate you each and every day. Once again, thank you so much. And if this was helpful, please my friends, please share it with another counselor who may find it equally as helpful. And if you wouldn't mind messaging me or emailing me to let me know that you were listening, that would be fantastic too. Anyway, I will try to post some links to some suggestions online. I know that I went to, like I said, a circle training and that was really sponsored through our district, so I don't have a website to send you to, but I can drop in the links. The book that we did use, it's called Circle Forward as part of the Circle Training, and that's been a really helpful book so far too. I mean, the training was really laid the groundwork, but if you can't get to a training right away, the Circle Forward book definitely teaches you how to run a circle and the steps involved and gives you some ideas of how to put together a circle for a lot of different topics. So I highly suggest that so I will be putting that in the Show Notes as well as the perks, because if you are really looking for curriculum, my partner Brandy and I, we really have spent a lot of time really trying to create a curriculum that addresses not only a comprehensive program. As you may know, I'm trying to do Ramp and apply for Ramp next year, so we're really focused on having a solid foundational program for kids. Anyway, friends, thank you. Gantt, thank you again. Sorry about the voice. And until next time, have a great week.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingessentials.org Podcast. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

Carol: To leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time, can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.