The last class list was finalized when the call came into my office from the kindergarten room.
“Jane, Molly is throwing everything in sight. Can someone come down here and get her?”
I knew what that meant. Molly Brown was having an off day and couldn’t control her emotions. The only way she knew how to express her frustrations was to throw anything she could get her hands on. This happened all too often and usually it was because Molly was upset by something a classmate did or said. These outbursts caused her teacher to stop teaching to get help for Molly.
I picked up the phone and dialed for support. “Pam, are you on site?” “Yeah.” “Can you come down to Mrs. Winter’s room with me, its Molly throwing things again.” “Sure, I’ll be right there.”
Pam was an Intervention Specialist and one of the two staff we had on site from the Carson Student Center, a non-profit that had a contract with our district. Their organization supported schools with integrated mental health services for students with behavioral and emotional challenges. We had Pam and also Benita, who was a trained therapist.
Pam and I went down to the classroom together. She was able to guide Molly away from the others and calm her down while I talked to the teacher. Molly wasn’t the only student at our school who didn’t know how to handle their frustrations. I don’t know how I would have been able to handle these kinds of situations without the support of Pam and the Carson Center.
Having this kind of support on a school campus is essential for the growth of the students. We have counselors at the high-school level but that support should start in pre-school and extend through high school. The first eight years of life are critical to academic success and research has demonstrated that early identification of mental health and behavior issues coupled with intervention can decrease behavior problems later in life and have a significant impact on future academic success.
Being able to provide on-the-spot intervention, individual counseling, small group counseling and parenting support strengthens and empowers students and their families. All students want to be successful in school but many have issues that flare up and prohibit them from being available to classroom instruction. If we can provide them with a continuum of programs and support we can give them tools to use throughout their school years that will contribute to their future success.
There are many traumas that occur in the lives of our students and when these traumas interrupt learning the student can’t access instruction. Having counseling support on every school site would provide the opportunity for every student to have someone to talk to when frustration gets the best of them and they don’t know any way to handle it but to withdraw or act out. In either case a trained counselor can intervene in the moment allowing the teacher to focus on teaching the rest of the class and the student to deal with their frustrations.
Having more counselors available would also help to greatly reduce suspensions and expulsions. Teachers have the responsibility of teaching all students in their classroom. When a student has a behavior issue if someone is available to pull that student aside and talk to them it generally diffuses the situation and the teacher can focus on teaching. The student feels they have been heard because someone is helping them resolve the concern that caused the behavior issue. It would lessen outbursts in the classroom, which normally get sent to the office, and many times result in suspension for defiance of authority.
That’s what would happen with Molly. Her outbursts would interrupt the whole class and the teacher had no choice but to call for help. Once she calmed down and talked through her frustrations she could return to class and was a delightful participant in classroom instruction. Everyone wants to be successful in life, but some don’t have the tools to help them cope with their frustrations. Through counseling we can help students learn coping strategies to help them find their strengths and access their education.