I am Marcia H. Birch, a counselor, tutor, and consultant. My experience in working with children started 30 years ago, when I was interning as an English teacher as part of my practicum. I noticed that a woman came into the classroom at different times and asked me if certain students could come to her room. Of course, I said sure. I later found out that she was an elementary school teacher, and she wore many hats.
She could work with students one on one in any subject area. Her freedom was boundless. She also worked with students with emotional issues that teachers couldn't handle in the classroom. That was enough for me to hear. I graduated from University of Florida, moved back to New York, and found the program that fitted my needs. I attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. It was a 49 hour program, different from most other programs that were 30 credit hours.
When I graduated, I moved to Maryland and my first job was at Frederick High School. It was quite challenging-but not in the way I wanted it to be. After three years, I was asked as a promotion to work at a school, called, The Frederick County Learning Center. I would be the assistant principal as well as the counselor. This school consisted of 25 students who had been expelled from public school because of their outrageous behavior. The behaviors consisted of harming a teacher, harming students-the list goes on. They were considered "unteachable".
I took this job for two reasons. I would be able to use my counseling skills to understand why these children had taken violent actions-which succeeded in what they wanted-to be thrown out of school. I wanted to see where they were academically. I surmised that many were non readers. Another reason, was the principal, Estes Lockhart, told me he would supervise me for 2,000 hours and go over how I handled three students in all areas of learning. If I achieved his expectations, I would be able to sit for the exam to become a Certified Mental Health Clinician. Of course, I was interested!
The job would answer many of my questions. Why were so many students labeled with ADD/ADHD? I knew this was a true disorder but many behaviors look like ADD/ADHD that are emotionally based, and learning based. This two year experience changed my life. These students were not harmful-they came from a long line of dysfunction, alcoholism, drug abuse and sexual abuse. They were angry and had immense trust and abandonment issues. I stayed there for two years. 80% of the students went back to a regular school, four graduated from high school. I need to say how I transitioned into Montgomery County Schools. There is so much to say. I worked for 25 years in 5 different schools. My perspective on being a counselor was quite different then other counselors. I taught in every classroom, grades K-5 once a week. I would always choose a lesson pertinent to responsibility caring, respect, being a good citizen-etc.
I would always make sure there was a writing component to my lesson. This way I could distinguish which children needed assistance in any form of writing, spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary, reading comprehension, or phonics. After reading every paper, there were at least 5-6 students who were severely deficient in at least two of these areas. If there were 7 children in a grade level who needed different ways to learn I would meet with them in a group-during lunch or recess. This provided the students with examples of other students who had the same learning difficulty. After about 4 weeks, I would give them a topic to write on or read them a narrative from a book. They had 10 minutes to write. They would share it with the rest of the group. The group would then critique the work. Every student had a dictionary and a thesaurus. It was amazing how in six months these students transformed in front of me. They were better behaved, their self esteem and respect they had toward themselves as well as adults were markedly noticed. I really became a counselor to teach students individually
That is why I opened my own private practice in my home in 1985 for students who needed a private tutor. I also worked with adults and children who had emotional concerns.