Today’s school counselors play an integral role in schools, but sometimes old stereotypes can limit the understanding of how they can help and support students. This article discusses ways educators and students can engage, utilize, and understand the role of the school counselor.
A school counselors’ main function is to support students in achieving their full potential. For example, a student may come to school after an argument with a friend and have a difficult time concentrating on anything, much less math class. In that situation, a student knows that the school counselor can be used as a sounding board and a confidant to help them express their feelings, or perhaps to use as a resource for further action. By seeing a counselor and dealing with the problem, the student is then able to concentrate in class again.
This is only one example of the many ways in which school counselors can help students. They have a broad range of tools and resources available to help students academically, socially, and emotionally.
Elementary school counselors offer transition assistance for new students, students moving between divisions, students transitioning to a different school or country, and ultimately students continuing to middle school. Being in an international school environment means that some of the families in the school are in one location for a while and are then transferred to another country or back to their home country. Leaving friends and familiar places can be very difficult. Elementary counselors can help deal with fears of "what will be" and "what if," as well as helping students find closure and say goodbye in a time that is filled with unknowns. Similarly, being at an international school also means that friends come and go, and it may take an emotional toll on a student. A student may have found a good friend, and now they are moving away again. Making new friends over and over, as well as keeping in touch with friends over long distances, can be time and energy consuming. Dealing with separation must be taken seriously as it can impact academic success. Elementary counselors meet with new students and provide important information which will help them get acclimated to the school quickly, as well as follow-up with students that may need extra support.
Some students may have a difficult time with time management and organization, as well as stress management. When students learn to manage their time, structure their homework, and practice procedures and routines, procrastination will be less of a problem. If a student can learn healthy strategies that actually work, dealing with increasing levels of pressure later on in life becomes more manageable. Such strategies may include time tabling, prioritizing, identifying and eliminating distracters, learning how to ask for help, etc.
Proactive social emotional learning classes are offered in the elementary school about career exploration, conflict resolution, child safety, tolerance, decision-making, friendship issues, time management, study skills, respect, friendship, cliques, empathy training, multiple intelligences, and problem solving.
In any counseling situation with a student, it is made clear that what is shared during a session remains between the counselor and child. The exceptions are if there is a threat to a child's well-being or a child is a threat to self or others. As the counselor works together with different experts, (school psychologist, school nurse, outside doctor/psychologist, school administration, teachers, parents, etc.) an overall understanding of a student’s situation can often be achieved when requesting involvement in emotional well-being related issues.
Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
Growing up is not always easy; sometimes difficult problems arise such as: conflicts between friends, stress, sleeping difficulties, fears, and general childhood angst. Counselors have resources and information to help students and their families get through trying times.
Through individual, group, and class interventions, counselors are able to help students in a way that many adults and friends are not able to. There is a mutual understanding of trust and confidentiality, which assures a safe environment for sharing, allowing for children to open up and allow feelings to be expressed that otherwise may remain repressed and bottled up.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
SEL classroom lessons focus on themes, which include conflict resolution, student safety, empathy, transitions, social skills, and friendship. Our chosen conflict resolution program is entitled Kelso’s Choices, which consists of nine choices students can use to solve smaller problems independently. Students are taught that when dealing with a big problem, meaning a problem that is scary, dangerous, or someone could get hurt, they should immediately go to a trusted adult.
Parent Education (parenting workshops)
Elementary school counseling teams have presented various programs for the parent community, such as: Love and Logic, The Parenting Children’s Course, Active Parenting Now, and numerous parent workshops on topics of interest for the parent community.
Elementary school counselors have many resources available for every family. A few such resources include outside referrals, publications (newspapers, journals, internet research, books, etc.), and facilitation meetings. Overall, the counselor’s position is one of an umbrella metaphor. The counselor is able to retrieve information from different perspectives (teachers, administration, the law, books, internet, parents, other students) while working within confidentiality and helping students make a responsible and informed decision or choice.
Making use of the school counselor benefits not only the child, but educators as well. It is important that educators feel comfortable reaching out to the school counselor at any point of the school year, whether a problem is occurring or not. If teachers need information pertaining to a student’s social and emotional well-being and/or academic performance, they should always feel free to make contact so introductions are no longer necessary, and help can be given immediately.
Dr. Benjamin Fishman is the Elementary School Counselor at Concordia International School.
WeChat ID: Ben8888868