The work of a school counselor is unique and wide reaching in its scope. Therefore, it takes an equally unique individual to successfully fulfill the school counselor’s role. School counselors must be skilled in reaching and transforming students’ minds and hearts. I am honored to serve the scholars at Dr. Billy E. Dade Middle School as their school counselor. I have been blessed beyond belief to work with such a brilliant group of scholars and a phenomenal staff.
When I began at Dade Middle School, there were many challenges to overcome. The issues were not only pertaining to the campus but also the community as a whole. I knew that my approach had to be deeply transformative to make a difference. As a result, I was determined to counsel from the H.E.A.R.T. The transformational H.E.A.R.T. formula consists of 5 fundamental principles that I would use to transform individual students, and the school campus. The 5 principles of the transformational H.E.A.R.T. formula are:
Heal the Heart: Many of the students in our school have suffered various adverse childhood experiences which has resulted in prolonged effects of trauma. Their hearts are broken and in dire need of mend before any true transformation could take place. Therefore, my counseling team and I begin simply by building relationships with our students. The incorporation of Social and Emotional learning practices, such as fostering a welcoming atmosphere and showing personal interest, helped students to feel safe and secure in the school environment, thereby promoting the healing process. It was also necessary to provide students with access to outside agencies that were available for extensive therapy and mental health services. With the increased number of outside agency referrals, it was paramount to also address the community stigma regarding counseling. Parent education was key in helping families to understand the need for counseling and dispel all negative ideas regarding counseling and mental health. Assessments were also conducted to determine the specific needs as seen from all stakeholders’ perspective. Using the data from these needs assessments assisted in determining the types of interventions to be offered that would best suit the needs of our scholars.
Advocate for All: As a school counselor, we take the charge to stand in the gap for students and become change agents in their lives. Therefore, advocacy is an important piece to transform students and schools. As part of my advocacy at Dade Middle School, several students were identified as requiring additional services to address learning disabilities, anger issues, and severe behavior problems. These students were provided with interventions that inevitably improved many of the issues that prevented them from academic success.Educate the Mind: Although school counselors are not often associated with academic instruction, we are responsible for educating our students and equipping them with skills to enable them to become productive citizens. Therefore, Character education is vital for our scholars. The Dade Character Education program included the “Candid Character Cam”, Character Snaps, Character Counts Students of the Week, and our Character Café. Additionally, Dade scholars benefitted from our Instagram Future Friday College Challenge and our L.I.T. Leadership group, which unlocked leadership potential in our students. Through educating the mind our students’ mindset was transformed from being passive followers to active leaders.
Raise the Expectations: Deep transformation usually requires increased expectations. When expectations are raised and properly communicated, students will rise to the occasion. And our students did just that! 151 of my 8th grade students were accepted to a collegiate academy which will afford them the opportunity to be first generation college graduates by the end of their high school career.
Although we are still in the transformation phase of our campus improvement, we were able to raise our school’s district ranking from number 32 to number 3 in two years time. Thus, it is my firm conviction that school counselors possess a skill-set that empowers them to truly facilitate transformation in a student’s life, in our schools, and our communities. Therefore, let us continue to counsel—from the H.E.A.R.T!Transform the Climate and Culture: The climate and culture of a school not only affects the faculty and staff members but also can affect students. If our teachers feel appreciated and productive, they will effectively instruct our scholars. Accordingly, transformation of a child or school can be helped or hindered by the climate and culture. Being the heartbeat of the school, climate and culture speaks directly to the work we do as school counselors. Therefore, through our climate and culture initiative we incorporated faculty and staff and student counselor celebrations to show that we appreciate the efforts of all on the campus.
This article originally appeared on Forbes