With their campuses temporarily closed, school counselors across Orange County are embracing innovative ways to support the emotional wellbeing and academic success of students.
“Since no one knows how long schools may be closed, or when the world may return to normal, all educators, including school counselors, must quickly adapt to this new virtual world,” says Luz Arellano, coordinator of K-12 school counseling for OCDE. “From what we are seeing in Orange County, we know they are successfully finding new ways to keep our students focused on learning while helping them maintain a positive outlook on the future.”
According to Arellano, here are a few ways local counselors are working to support students.
Like teachers, counselors are using online tools to keep parents and students informed.
Arellano says many counselors are utilizing platforms like Google Classroom, Haiku and Canvas to get information out to families and students. Along with providing updated information on college-related matters, they’re also updating websites with daily announcements, motivational messages and weekly activities to promote social and emotional regulation.
They’re providing virtual office hours to advise students — and parents — about academic, career and college options.
Some are leveraging online scheduling platforms like Calendly to help make the process easier for families.
They’re providing individual and group counseling through virtual platforms.
Many counselors are trying to maintain the human connection by utilizing platforms such as Google Hangout and Zoom to meet virtually with students, either individually or as a group.
They’re offering inspiring daily or weekly messages, activities and lessons for their students.
A number of school counselors are regularly producing short videos and providing activities to help students become aware of their emotions and learn coping strategies.
“Some are creating videos for parents and students covering topics from college course selection and registration to daily schedules and mindfulness,” Arellano said.
Counselors are monitoring students with intensive needs, and scheduling regular check-ins.
Arellano says counselors are monitoring student progress through Aeries student information systems and offering support, when needed, for academic needs or mental health services.
Said one counselor from the Tustin Unified School District, “The intent is to have students feel supported and encourage them to continue to set goals and plan for their future.”
And here’s a toolkit that school counselors can use.
Recognizing that distance learning is new territory for most, a group of school counseling leaders from county offices across California — including three from OCDE — recently came together to develop a School Counselor Virtual Tool Kit.
Created through a joint partnership with the California Association of School Counselors (CASC) and Hatching Results, which provides training and consultation for counselors and administrators, the toolkit features resources to build virtual school counseling programs, links to free professional development opportunities, and relevant COVID-19 information from the College Board, ACT, the University of California and other organizations.
“We recognize that at this time, it may feel overwhelming to shift our work suddenly to a virtual setting,” Arellano said. “But let’s remember to be kind and patient with one another. We are all learning. Treat these resources as a buffet. We suggest taking bits and pieces to enhance your personal toolkit day by day.”