Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dialing Up a Lesson on Effective Counseling

By Patrick O'Connor

There’s something to be said for a different point of view.

I opened my Facebook account last night (for five minutes only—really, I swear!) and came across a film posted by a high school friend of mine.  This vintage 1954 piece, complete with an on-screen Donna Reed look-alike host and background music from a full symphony orchestra, was an educational film teaching America…

…how to use a dial telephone.

“Your service is changing” the narrator announces, adding that the days of picking up the phone and waiting for an operator to place your calls are over.  The narration goes on to tell us engineers (pictured in full suits) have designed the change to dial phones with the unique needs of each community in mind. 

The narration goes on to show us line workers stringing the cable that will make this conversion possible (full disclosure—I got a little sentimental here, since that was my grandfather’s line of work, and my father’s first job).

The narration goes on to talk about how to use the dial phone—and then it goes on and on, and on, for nearly ten minutes.

We’re talking about how to use a dial telephone.

My high school chum isn’t a school counselor, but her posting was as thoughtful as anything Carl Rogers said:

  • Her commentary asked if this video (sorry—film) could help adults understand why we are impatient with our children and students when they are impatient with us in understanding the new technology of today.  I got antsy after three minutes of this film, so doesn’t it make sense a 13 year-old would their eyes a little when they show us how to send a text message for the third time?

  • How much internal eye rolling do I do when I’m telling the fifth parent today many colleges would prefer at least three years of a language other than English?  Is it really their fault everyone seems to be asking this same question today?

  • When I put together a lesson, newsletter, or social media post—or when I’m simply talking with a client-- about an important issue, does my message match my audience? Am I designing my communications so the more thorough learners get a couple of chances to soak in the material, while also giving the “one and done” learners a chance to know and go?

  • What about the look of those newsletters and presentations?  Am I taking the time to format newsletters with shaded boxes and graphics that will separate and direct modern readers’ attention to different items?  Are my Power Point slides fast becoming the 21st century version of Aunt Martha’s slideshow of the family reunion (too many, too repetitive, too bland)?

  • Then again, are my presentations so slick people view them as works of art or a technological light show, rather than a counseling presentation?  Am I working so hard at being “all that”, students leave the classroom with visual impressions rather than something new to think about?

There are far too many people telling counselors and teachers how to improve education who simply don’t know what they’re talking about, so it’s especially important to appreciate the times a genuine teachable moment comes our way.

If you want to take a stroll down Memory Lane—or for others, see a documentary on ancient civilization—the 1954 film can be seen below.   Since I’ve learned my fill from that ten minutes, I’ll be looking at the other phone company film that’s online—from 1927.

Who knows what I’ll learn from that one?

Patrick O’Connor will be signing complimentary copies of his new book, College is Yours 2.0, at the NACAC conference next Friday, September 23.  For more information, contact Patrick at

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