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Connecting for Crucial Conversations

By Mia Beauttah | November 2021

As a school counselor and former teacher in my 20th year in public education, I have seen schools undergo a plethora of changes. The topic of racial justice is now a large part of the conversations about student engagement. The classroom is one of the primary places children learn to socialize. With the schoolhouse being an integral part of the community, there are opportunities to lay an important foundation with the students.

Beginning the conversation with students about racial justice in the school setting frames it in a way that students may be more open to explore. Including it as a part of the curriculum or routine conversation in the school day makes it a more normal topic of conversation.

We begin the school day with an advisory period, and teachers check in with students at the start of the day and again at the end. The day begins with a circle where students have conversations centered around an opening question. As the students become more comfortable with each other and the advisor, the questions begin to get more probing and invite open, honest dialogue. This is a prime example of cultivating spaces within the school to discuss topics that impact our scholars. The pandemic has shown us that our students are paying attention to the world and are ready to have conversations around their ideas, ideals and beliefs and engage in important conversations that cultivate understanding and empathy for others.

During the early days of the pandemic, I recorded videos that aligned with the school’s core values and mixed in positive messages and information about the world around us. These videos were dispersed to all the students and families on the school’s social media pages. I believe that beginning conversations in a safe space of learning and having that conversation extend to the home is the best that we can hope for as counselors.

I know what it is like to be exclusively in the classroom with limited support and resources. Now my role allows me the opportunity to do the deeper work within the school. We have formed an equity committee at the elementary and the middle school campus. It is crucial that we use our positions in the schools to impact change and help to guide our entire community in the work. A great resource and guide that is geared toward School Counselors is “Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling,” by Rebecca Atkins and Alicia Oglesby. This book has been tremendously helpful in focusing the conversations and the work.

At our school we say “connection before content.” I hold this close to the work that we do. There is no way that a student who doesn't feel valued, seen, heard, understood or affirmed is having their best school experience. We aim to provide this safety for our scholars in hopes that it will extend to their homes, communities and beyond.

Mia Beauttah is a school counselor with Baltimore City Public Schools and chair of MSCA’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Committee. Contact her at