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Silver Linings

Blog post written by
Julie Hill
School Counselor

Fortunately I’d been mentally preparing, but we all thought we’d have more time. I was actually out of the building at a meeting, when I got the call that we were closing at the end of the school day. The plan was six days of eLearning to get us to Spring Break; we had every intention of returning as soon as our scheduled break was over. I took the list of things I could do from home and packed up a box of files I would need. Part of me was looking forward to a few days with less interruption to finish a few of the projectsI was working on. I don’t think any of us saw what was coming next.

Since then, I’ve started measuring my days as “Before Covid”and “After Covid”. Before Covid, I could send a pass for a student and they would soon appear in my office so we could address whatever issue was needed.Now, I send an email, a text, and make a phone call--not only to accomplish the task at hand, but to make the connection that is so important right now. It’s frustrating. It’s inefficient. But as school counselors, now is the time we are challenged to rethink how we do our jobs.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Trying to do things from home amidst the challenges of our families, the demands of the job, and the lure of the refrigerator makes it easy to fall into a rut. Even those who spent a significant portion of their“before covid” days on a computer, are not accustomed to sitting motionless and quiet for hours at a time. We are movers and talkers. We rely on non-verbal cues to tell us what words cannot. We know the importance of a hand on the shoulder or a fist bump; how do we learn to thrive in these less than ideal conditions?

We need to be as deliberate about structuring our own days as all the social media posts about how to structure our children’s days.Having found my days at home filled with far more meetings and webinars than I would like, it is helpful to do some “on location”. Getting out of my office space and sitting in the backyard to listen to the “webinars that could have been an email” helps me to both better retain the relevant content and give myself a little TLC. Since I don’t have young children at home to provide a distraction, I set an alarm and let a device remind me it’s important to walkaway for a few minutes. I find the washer and dryer are great tools for this.Not only do they prompt me to get up for a few minutes, I’m multi-tasking!

It’s also vital to focus on the positive while acknowledging the negative. Let’s face it—THIS IS HARD! We will have times we are struggling.We have to name those feelings and own them, then we need to address them. We need to employ the coping strategies we would teach our students. Find a support system. Figure out ways to work within a system we don’t like—how to make connections in a new way. Remind ourselves that we will get through this.

Striking a Balance

We are so blessed to be part of a profession where our colleagues are motivated to do what’s best for kids. In these crazy times, there is an abundance of resources out there. You can join literally dozens of social media groups, chat rooms, and zoom meetings to share ideas and best practices. The challenge is finding balance. It’s easy to be consumed by everything that’s out there, or find yourself struggling with feelings of inadequacy when you see what everyone else is doing. But every school is different and what is necessary at one school could be unnecessary at another.Also remember you are ONE PERSON and you CAN’T DO EVERYTHING! Much like attending a great conference full of ideas, you have to pick one or two that address a need you have. Do those and do them well. Don’t try to do everything.It won’t be good for you or your students who are also feeling overwhelmed right now.

Take a look at your bookshelf. If you’re anything like me, there is a stack (or an electronic file) of both professional and personal reads that have been collecting dust. Find a comfortable chair and let yourself dive into a couple of those. I guess I could also consider dusting 😊

What can you do to plan for next school year? I know I spend a lot of my summers working on preparing for the year to come. Take this time to consider what you might be able to do now to make life easier when we return. Update your forms, revise your classroom presentations…

How can you support your staff? We all know that a dysregulated adult is not helpful to a child. I’ve started weekly Zoom office hours just for my staff. By offering a setting for them to share their struggles and successes as well as a short mindfulness activity, I’m able to help them feel supported and send them back to their “classrooms” better equipped to address the needs of their students.

And lastly, remember to “turn off”. Now that our job is conducted electronically, it’s all too easy to feel compelled to reply to an email or answer a phone call at 9pm. Turn off your devices and step away! It will all be waiting for you tomorrow.

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