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Elementary school is a quintessential part of a child’s formative years. According to one publication on elementary schools and guidance counseling, most society members carry the psychological imprints of their elementary school experiences, good or bad. Therefore, recognizing and addressing the psychological needs of elementary-going school children is crucial for society’s well-being, and that is where guidance counselors come in.
So, as an elementary school guidance counselor, how can you empower yourself to perform your role effectively and protect each student’s welfare and well-being? Explore the five guidance counseling strategies highlighted in this resource to improve your classroom and one-on-guidance counseling sessions.
1. Stay Organized
According to a report by the American Guidance Counseling Association, the recommended school-to-guidance counselor ratio in elementary schools is 1:250. However, the report highlights that the average caseload ratio for guidance counselors is 1:408 as of 2021-2022. Moreover, the ratios are higher in elementary schools than in high schools.
The high student-to-guidance counselor ratio is challenging and presents the likelihood that some cases may fall through the cracks. Therefore, organizing classroom and one-on-one case schedules is crucial to creating and implementing a comprehensive and effective elementary school counseling program. Below are tips on planning and staying organized to facilitate effective time use.
First, create an age-appropriate lesson plan for each class to inspire your students to take action based on the lesson beyond the classroom. The most crucial step in creating a guidance counseling lesson plan is ensuring the lesson has an objective that addresses students’ needs. Therefore, start from the end and center your lesson around a behavioral change, action, or skill acquisition you hope to see at the end of the lesson.
Still, lesson plans should include a hook (attention grabber), teach (storytelling/instructional media), application/practice, and assessment/reflection. Moreover, the lesson should include movements like dancing or shifting to different settings within classroom settings.
Elementary students typically have a limited attention span, and one study shows that movement integration in learning improves situational and personal interest. Therefore, factor the movement in your timer to avoid exhausting time before completing the lesson.
Second, you will likely receive recommendations from fellow teachers and parents about students requiring additional counseling outside the classroom. Create an evaluation strategy to create groups for students with similar needs.
One-on-one guidance counseling settings should be a last resort. Organizing your classroom, group, and one-on-one sessions in a folder should help you run the program effectively despite a high caseload.
2. Initiate Preventative Counseling Programs In the School
According to the American School Counselor Association, schoolwide safety programs increase positive perceptions about the school’s climate and overall health. Moreover, the association iterates that school counselors’ role as communication intermediaries between parents, students, and teachers offers positive student protection in a school environment.
Therefore, it encourages preventive or proactive guidance counseling to help students overcome or navigate setbacks in their educational, social, and home life.
As an elementary school guidance counselor, your primary purpose is identifying deterrents to your student’s personal, academic, and social growth. Such deterrents may include social determinants of mental health like discrimination, bullying, social exclusion, adverse early life experiences, parent behavior, neighborhood deprivation, and limited access to basic needs.
You can initiate preventative, proactive programs within your school by creating awareness of the most prevalent deterrents among your students. For example, if bullying is a problem, help your students identify when they are being bullied and how to stand up for themselves without retaliating or avenues to seek help. Preventive counseling programs may be held inside or outside the classroom, provided they are relevant and engaging.
3. Apply Solution-focused Counseling
Elementary school guidance counseling aims to mold impressionable minds into independent individuals that can navigate the world. Therefore, applying solution-focused counseling techniques empowers students to navigate life effectively.
One publication on approaches and models to school counseling defines the solution-focused approach as strength-based. Essentially, solution-focused counseling utilizes conversations that center on a child’s competencies and how they can apply them daily to navigate life and empower themselves.
Moreover, the publication highlights solution-focused counseling as a remedy for the high caseload in elementary school. Rather than having unlimited group and one-on-one sessions, solution-focused counseling utilizes limited sessions to achieve a preset goal.
4. Collaboration With Fellow Teachers
While guidance counselors are crucial in molding impressionable elementary school children into competent individuals, they are but one part of a vast school community. Given the above mentioned caseload ratio, keeping up with growing counseling cases single-handedly is challenging. However, engaging fellow teachers helps facilitate effectiveness.
For starters, as a guidance counselor, consider joining decision-making committees to influence the school’s structures and instructional strategies. Your sway in decision-making may help create a school environment that facilitates problem-solving, inclusivity, and empowerment for all students. Moreover, it allows you to align the guidance counseling program to students’ learning needs.
Second, consider collaborating with teachers on handling problematic behavior among students. Rather than only recommending students for counseling, encourage fellow teachers to adopt relevant guidance counseling techniques in their classrooms.
5. Teach And Encourage Goal Setting
Goal-setting is crucial in motivating personal change among students. For starters, it creates a sense of independence and empowers young learners to know that goals are individual-specific.
Second, tracing goal progress over a stipulated period, like a year, helps them learn that things take time. Moreover, it teaches them to reflect and change goals.
Effective elementary school counseling is crucial to proper resource management and ensuring no child gets left behind or succumbs to environmental challenges. Therefore follow the tips above to create and implement an effective elementary school counseling program to help shape competent society members.