During the MSCA Fall Conference, keynote speaker Principal Kafele used a sports analogy to highlight the harsh reality our students are currently facing in schools. Kafele stated that in preparation for “big games,” athletes must train their minds and bodies so they can compete in high-pressure situations, and if athletes do not allow time for that preparation, they run the risk of injury and undesirable outcomes.
He then stated that, due to the pandemic and the potential trauma students may have experienced, we may have thrown them into the “big game” with minimal preparation. This year has brought many hardships in education and it may be due to the fact that our students have returned to school unprepared for the “big game,” so it may be time to reexamine our playbook, equipment and team mentality.
Research states that trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have the potential to delay the developmental growth of young children. Given the increased unemployment rates at the beginning of the pandemic, loss of lives due to COVID-19, incidences of abuse during the shutdown and many other detrimental experiences our students may have faced, it is safe to say that the way we support them in our schools must change. We cannot use the same educational playbook that we used prior to the pandemic because our students are returning to us with different needs. It is time to think about how we can restructure our playbook to be more inclusive of all and focus on supporting the social/emotional needs of students through a trauma-informed lens.
For our students to perform to the level we are hoping for, they will need the right “equipment” to be successful. As school counselors, we have the ability to equip our students with the appropriate mindsets and behaviors that will support them in finding success, but, again, our playbook may have to be altered to address the current needs. If in the past you have taught skills such as resiliency, self-regulation, conflict resolution and managing emotions to students who have displayed a Tier 2 need, you may need to reconsider and deliver that with a Tier 1 approach for all. Needs that have been identified in Tier 2 in the past, from a select group of students, are now needs that all students may have, so our delivery must change to support more students around those critical skills.
Motivating Coaching Staff
Any coach knows that one of the secrets behind great teams is coaching players in a motivating and uplifting way that supports them in finding success and positive experiences. School counselors, teachers, administrators and other support staff are the coaches and it is on each of us to be the motivating coaching staff that our students need. We are the foundation that forms the culture and climate in our schools so we must be intentional about providing students with positive experiences, such as connecting them with trusted adults, focusing on an emphasis of hope for the future, solidifying feelings of community among the students and any other tactics that are needed to incorporate a positive, uplifting atmosphere in schools. As a school counselor, be the leader of your coaching staff by providing the positive light and direction that is needed by both adults and students.
The game has changed, but that does not mean it cannot still be won.
Contact Terri Tchorzynski, MSCA president and 2017 National School Counselor of the Year, at firstname.lastname@example.org.