Influential Counselor: The Adult in the Room

I heard someone use the term “oyster sander” the other day.  It is a reference to difficult behavior of someone at work, that if not treated with care and discernment, the behavior can lead to a greater breakdown of the “shell”.  All of us face challenging students or colleagues and we need to react like most oysters.

When a grain of sand gets into the shell of an oyster, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre to coat the intruder.  Over time, this amazing adaptation the oyster has developed to handle multiple and repeated intrusions is what yields a beautiful pearl.

I lost the trust of a student recently.  The realization came from an email that was sent by the student’s mother to several people in my organization.  The detailed account she provided from her child was much different from my recollection and misrepresented my intention and action. My first reaction was that of great frustration as I felt misrepresented by the student to his mother and my colleagues.  Instinctively, I began to respond with an email to explain my perspective on the encounter to his parents and staff, but then abruptly stopped typing.

The unexpected email was the grain of sand entering my shell that I like to keep tidy.  I could rush to move the intruder outside of my shell or take a step back and use the resources I have as an adult professional to coat the grain of sand that will yield a pearl someday.

The step back allowed me to put into perspective that the incursion was from a frustrated boy of 14 who is developmentally far from being an adult. In fact, I was the adult in the room who has a professional responsibility to reformulate a response to the boy that is restorative and productive.

Here is my plan:

  • Connect with the boy to discern the root cause of his loss of trust (5 Why Questions).
  • Use active listening to reflect his thoughts and feelings and check for understanding. He needs to be heard.
  • Show interest in him outside my office (e.g., stopping in his art classroom to see what he and his fellow students are creating.)

Often, a challenging student tests our resolve, patience, and expert judgment.  It is our professional responsibility to depersonalize our frustration and try a different approach with the child.  With the goal of “producing a pearl” we need to coat them over and over with discernment, support and persistence that knows no bounds.

Eric Domroes

Perfectly Pertinent Podcasts

Sharing the right podcasts can extend, enrich, and deepen your influence as a counselor.

One for your students:
Creating a Passion Project (Tests and the Rest)

One for their parents:
Cultivating Teen Self-Esteem (Tests and the Rest)

One for you and your colleagues:
The Misunderstanding About Motivation (The Neurodiversity Podcast)

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