Today’s school counsellors are linchpins to smoothly functioning schools. They recognize that mental, social and emotional health leads to better academic performance, and that strong student/teacher relationships enhance classroom management.
Teacher Counsellors deliver lessons, run groups, offer one-on-one counselling, and assist with any issues that arise throughout the day.
“Teachers genuinely want to help kids, but sometimes they don’t have enough time and the needs are too high,” says Katherine Coleman (Master of Counselling ’15), teacher counsellor at Galbraith and Westminster elementary schools in Lethbridge.
Kevan Bryant (MEd Counselling Psychology ’15) at Lethbridge’s Wilson Middle School agrees.
“We can spend time with a student and hear the whole story. When teachers understand the bigger picture they can cope more easily. It builds a partnership, meeting students’ needs while also creating a more positive environment for teachers.”
Self-regulation is a key focus in most districts. Coleman and Bryant work with teachers to help them support students in moderating extreme emotions and behaviour. Additionally, Coleman runs MindUP programs, and Bryant distributes self-regulation kits to classrooms. The kits contain hand, mouth, and foot fidgets (kinetic sand, stir stix, athletic bands), scented oils, and other calming aids.
Counselling models change from school to school, but the need for counsellors does not. Coleman and Bryant spend the majority of their time seeing students one-on-one. Many students self-refer, with issues ranging from peer relationships to self-harm. Coleman concedes there is a need for suicide risk assessment even at elementary levels. Teachers are grateful for the counsellors’ presence in schools.
Coleman and Bryant are grateful for their University of Lethbridge education.
“Leaving the program I felt prepared and competent,” says Bryant, who also serves as Guidance Council of the ATA South West President. Coleman, who completed her masters online while continuing to work, states, “The professors were skilled and experienced. Our degree is well-recognized. Getting a degree from the UofL was meaningful.”
"Zen tangles, mandalas, and mindful colouring are very relaxing. Zen tangles are like self-created mandalas. You start a pattern and the student continues it, or you show them different patterns and they can make their own.”
“I like connecting students with books. In one classroom students had gone through a lot of loss. I read them the book The Invisible String. Then they each got a piece of fishing line and chose beads that represented people and things they’ve felt connected to. Some wear their invisible string as a bracelet; some attach it to their backpacks as a reminder of being connected to others.”