This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read my full disclaimer for more information.
How big is my problem? Chart
Navigating the challenges of growing up can be a daunting task for students. From school-related stress to personal issues, there are numerous problems that may seem insurmountable to young minds. That’s where school counselors step in, offering guidance, support, and assistance to help students overcome these hurdles. However, not all problems require the same level of intervention. To streamline this process, many counselors are turning to the “How Big Is My Problem?” chart, a valuable tool that helps students assess their issues and determine if counseling assistance is necessary. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of this chart, both for students and for the counselors who play a pivotal role in their lives.
Understanding the “How Big Is My Problem?” Chart:
The “How Big Is My Problem?” chart is a visual aid designed to help students gauge the severity of their problems. It presents a range of problem sizes, ranging from small issues that can be managed independently to larger concerns that may require adult assistance.
Here’s a breakdown of how the chart typically works:
- Identifying the Problem: When a student encounters a problem, they are encouraged to first identify it and describe it in their own words.
- Rating the Problem: Next, students assign a numerical rating to the problem, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being a minor issue and 5 indicating a major crisis. Some charts will use a 1 to 10 scale, however, that tends to be too large of a scale for students to comprehend.
- Problem-Solving: Once the problem is placed on the chart, students can then brainstorm potential solutions. Smaller problems can be solved by the student independently, while larger problems may require an adults assistance.
Students tend to struggle with step 2 of this process, where they are required to rate their problem. They tend to focus on their emotions rather than looking at the situation objectively. Students will frequently rate a situation as a 5 when they should technically rate the situation as a 3. In their minds it “feels” like an emergency, therefore it must be an emergency. It’s important to provide examples of each level and guidance questions under the higher levels. The guidance questions help students look at their situation objectively.
Benefits for Students:
- Empowerment: The How Big Is My Problem? chart empowers students to take control of their problems by teaching them to assess and categorize their issues. This fosters a sense of independence and resilience.
- Improved Decision-Making: By objectively evaluating the size of their problems, students can make more informed decisions about whether they need assistance and what kind of support is appropriate.
- Emotional Regulation: The chart encourages emotional regulation and self-awareness, teaching students to manage their reactions to various problems. I frequently ask students, “Where would this situation be on this chart? If it’s a ___ size problem are we acting like it’s a ___ size problem?”
- Less Time Out of Class: The chart helps students cope with their problems on their own and limits time out of class talking to a counselor. Teachers love hearing that this tool will help keep students in their room and learning.
Benefits for School Counselors:
- Time Efficiency: School counselors are often stretched thin, serving large populations of students. I have over 400 students on my caseload; meaning I don’t have time to talk to a student with a size 1 problem. The “How Big Is My Problem?” chart can help counselors prioritize their time by focusing on students with larger issues, while smaller problems can be addressed through self-help strategies.
- Enhanced Communication: Using a common tool like the chart fosters better communication between students and counselors. Students can articulate the size of their problem more effectively, facilitating more targeted counseling sessions.
- Resource Allocation: Counselors can allocate their resources more effectively, ensuring that students with the greatest need receive the support they require.
Teacher Buy In
Teacher buy in is so important for the “How Big is My Problem?” chart. The goal of this chart is that teachers would guide students to the chart when needed, which (with enough practice) would eventually become a regular thought process for students. If the chart is only used in the counseling center, it’ll be less effective and less likely to become a thought process for students.
At the beginning of the school year, I presented this chart at a teacher PD. I told teachers about the student benefits and how this chart would help keep students in their room (teachers love hearing that you’re GIVING/SAVING them teaching time). I presented the chart as an optional tool (not required) and almost every single one of our teachers now has it hanging in their room.
The “How Big Is My Problem?” chart is a simple yet powerful tool that promotes problem-solving skills in students and streamlines the counseling process in schools. By encouraging students to assess the size of their problems and providing a framework for problem-solving, it empowers young individuals to take charge of their emotional well-being. Simultaneously, it allows school counselors to allocate their time and resources efficiently, ensuring that they can provide the necessary assistance to those who need it most. It’s a win-win solution for both students and counselors, fostering a supportive environment where students can thrive emotionally and academically.