Honestly, the Agreement Bridge is unlike any other counseling technique I have ever used, observed, or heard of. In the past, I have dealt with several challenging students, and most “problem solving steps” offer short-lived solutions. For the past 15 years, I have taught on a team with three other teachers. One technique I have participated in is to meet with the individual student as a team. We have had parent/teacher/student conferences, too. Other strategies I have either used or heard of include the student meeting with the school counselor and creating behavior contracts. In one instance, a student also frequently met with the administrator to discuss behavior and progress. Looking at these strategies as a whole, they were all failed attempts at helping each challenging student. In all honesty, I can’t say any of them worked. Compared to the Agreement Bridge, attempts I have used and seen have only scratched the surface of dealing with a challenging behavior. How sad is that? I am really excited about having the Agreement Bridge as an option for dealing with challenging kids. The key to the success of the Agreement Bridge is building a strong, positive relationship between the teacher and the challenging student. Both the teacher and student learn personal facts about each other, and this lets the student know the teacher cares and is human, too. Unlike the other techniques, the Agreement Bridge is like a game; each part can be played, as many times as you wish, and this is appealing to kids. The “act-it-out” Swap part of the game board often brings laughter but also allows both participants to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. I like it because it is personal and non-intimidating. Students meet with the teacher one-on-one, and ultimately create specific, attainable goals, meeting frequently to discuss progress or play the game again. This is, by far, the best counseling technique I have ever heard of. I hope I don’t need it, but I’m certainly glad I have it as a tool.
On a side note: I’m proud of the fact I make it a goal of mine to “know” my students. I learn their names within the first days of school, have them complete a student inventory about themselves during the first week, and have parents complete an assignment called, “Million Words or Less.” Let’s face it, teachers rarely get to know their students, and who better to tell us than their parents. Basically, the assignment says, “In a million words or less, tell me about your child.” I never thought about using all of this information as a way to help counsel a challenging student, and I think the inventory and letter could come in very handy when using the Agreement Bridge with a student.