If your goal is to impact an entire school, which it is, then you need to use layers of support and connection. On a good day, a school counselor might be able to individually meet with 15 to 20 kids, but in a school of 800 students, that would be leaving 780 kids without access to a counselor, which is why we need layers.
Classroom lessons are your first layer in building out your support network. Developing a consistent and comprehensive set of classroom lessons is critical to ensure that all students are taught the building blocks of life. Through our lessons, we teach concepts like empathy and communication to all of our students. Classroom lessons are often the first line of contact that most students have with their counselor and can often be the “in” that makes students comfortable enough to reach out during their time of need.
Peers can be an incredible referral source and point of support for your students. Whether you’ve developed a mentoring program at your school or simply taught students how to listen and empathize with one another, peers, especially during adolescence are the ideal layer of support. Once students know when they should refer a friend and then how you are more likely to catch when something big is going on with your students.
“There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”
-George Matthew Adams, “Self-Made” Man
Parents are your third layer; teach parents how to support their kids. Host a parent night and teach them what is on the horizon and how to prepare. Teach parents how to communicate with their teenager and warning signs that need additional intervention. Be sure to encourage parents and teachers to reach out if they suspect something is amiss with one of their students, even if they aren’t sure exactly why they’re concerned so that we can assess the situation.
The fourth, but perhaps most critical layer of support are teachers. With an emphasis on testing and intense curriculum standards, our teachers have overburdened schedules and often feel they have to be responsible for more than they can effectively manage. Our school counseling departments will help support teachers and make sure that each student in their class is able to sit, listen, and learn. Teachers need to feel confident referring students and need to know that if a student is missing their class, that it was worth their absence. Educate your teachers on the role of the school counselor and help them determine warning signs that require immediate intervention. Some schools have developed morning circle time in which teachers briefly check-in with students which adds to that layer of support you’ve developed.