Middle school counselors show their creativity and dedication to students, staff, and families.
Across the District, middle school counselors are being innovative and resourceful to support their students and families.
Middle school counselors across the Cobb County School District welcomed students back to their buildings this week, while they continue to serve the rest of their students virtually. Despite the change in format, school counselors have continued the implementation of their comprehensive school counseling programs, easily going from completely virtual to now embarking on a hybrid model. From East Cobb to West Cobb and also in South Cobb, school counselors were found collaborating and using innovative ideas to reach their students and families during this time of uncertainty. From delivering virtual classroom lessons, to the implementation of small groups for students that are in need of a little extra right now, to meeting with students and families one-on-one, CCSD middle school counselors have not let this world-wide pandemic slow them down. Join us for another quick tour of the District to see what our middle school counselors are up to.
In North Cobb, the school counselors at Palmer Middle School, Barbara Truluck and Lauren Holland, prioritized providing continuity and consistency for their students and families. For the past few years, they have offered a small group intervention, StressBusters, aimed at reducing anxiety in students and improving school attendance. Truluck and Holland noticed that more and more of their students were experiencing high levels of stress and lacked the needed coping skills. It was important for them that during this time of increased uncertainty, their students would continue to have this support in place. The counseling team at Palmer has even been integral in the implementation of new programs at their school. This year, Palmer is working towards becoming a No Place for Hate school, which is a designation given to schools focused on promoting kindness and equity as key components of their school culture. Through a team of student leaders and staff, initiatives for the school that combat hateful behavior are planned. Truluck and Holland were able to meet with their Student Leaders, face-to-face and virtually, this week to continue their work. You can follow Truluck, an American School Counselor Association 2021 Counselor of the Year Finalist, on Twitter @PalmerCounselor.
In the Southern part of the county, the school counselors at Cooper Middle School have focused on addressing the social and emotional needs of everyone in their school family – students and staff. The counseling team of Ryan Tolbert-Jackson, Tamara Hines, and Adrianne Robertson wanted their staff to feel more equipped to take care of their students in these uncertain times, but also to take care of themselves. In an effort to remind their teachers and staff to ‘put their oxygen mask on first’ in order to best meet the needs of their families, they presented a series of sessions. The first session focused on the idea of personal wellness and served as a reminder to staff that they must take care of themselves in order to be effective educators. Breathing exercises that the staff could use again with themselves and/or their students were practiced, and positive affirmations were shared that now are posted in classrooms throughout the school. The second session was about trauma-informed practices and how teachers can reconceptualize their students’ experiences and meet them with empathy and patience. The third session gave teachers and staff the space to process and discuss their thoughts and feelings about coming back into the building, as well as share best practices with the logistics of keeping every one safe. The counseling team created similar lessons for students targeting their social and emotional needs. The lessons shared with students discussed depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as the importance of having a trusted adult.
To end our tour of middle schools, we head over to East Cobb and Dodgen Middle School. School counselors Unique Aquino, Kaley Hammonds, and Tonia Martin-Gatlin have been busy creating opportunities for their students, staff, and families to feel supported. They made a coloring station for their staff, prompting them to take a moment and focus their minds on coloring, a positive coping skill. They saw a need to connect with students new to the Dodgen school family, as they would not be at school and be able to start building new friendships. Additionally, to further that connection among and with students, they collaborated with their counseling colleagues at Dickerson Middle School to host Counselors in 4D (Dodgen/Dickerson Digital Drop-In Day). Through this intervention, students at Dodgen can drop-in on their school counselor and get their need for socializing met by interacting with their grade-level peers. To best support their families, they are offering a parent education series, where they’ll share tips and tricks for thriving at Dodgen, how to best protect their students with social media, as well as how to best support their students in their education whether they are learning in the physical or virtual classroom. To keep up with the Dodgen school counselors, you can find Aquino on Twitter @CounselorAquino.
Alexandra Huguelet, School Counseling Consultant