Hurricane Harvey will have a lasting effect on the city of Houston and more importantly, its residents. The storm was particularly traumatic for children to witness and it’s not something they’ll never forget. The best schools can do is make sure their students are getting the help they need so they can process this disaster.
But unfortunately, that won’t likely happen for many students. We’ll explain why in this blog:
The typical guidance counselor system
Every school has a guidance counselor who’s always available to students. The teachers make sure students know about the counselors in case they ever need them. If students ever feel the need to talk, then they can seek out a counselor and get help from a professional.
This system itself isn’t bad, but it assumes that the average student won’t need any counseling. In the event of something as catastrophic as Hurricane Harvey, however, more students will need help than usual.
Most students don’t seek out guidance counselors
The problem is that most students don’t go out of their way to talk to guidance counselors. They either think that they don’t need help from a professional, don’t want to talk to a complete stranger, or don’t want to admit that they need help.
Unfortunately, there’s still a very real stigma attached to mental illness. This Teach for America article explains how the entertainment industry has created an unfair portrait of it which has turned many students away from the idea of counseling:
“The images that movies, television, newspapers and magazines portray can lead us to fear, avoid, and discriminate against individuals with mental illness. These stigmas discourage people from seeking treatment and send the message that mental illness renders one helpless, with no hope of recovery.”
So now, the problem has fully revealed itself. Guidance counselors will wait for students to come by, but many who need help never will. This is all exacerbated by Hurricane Harvey and its destruction. More students will need help but will never get it.
The burden is on the day-to-day teacher
Since the system relies on students seeking help on their own, the real burden is on the day-to-day teacher to sense if anything is wrong. After all, they’re the ones interacting with students on a daily basis and fostering real relationships. Students will likely feel more comfortable talking to someone they know as opposed to a counselor they’ve never met.
But this burden isn’t a fair one. It’s expecting too much for teachers to keep tabs on all of their students and sense if they’re not quite themselves. There are too many faces, too many classes, and too many moods to keep track of.
The need for consistent one-on-one communication
At the Tenney School, we have a different system as the one described above. Our teachers don’t share the same burden as those in a public school because all of our students meet with a teacher one-on-one every single week.
These teachers get to know their students, their personalities, and their body language in the one-on-one meetings. They can tell the difference between a student being tired or having a bad day and one that’s struggling to come to terms with what’s happened in the past month.
This dynamic is particularly important now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Our teachers will continue to meet with students one-on-one as normal and will be sensitive to the disaster we all witnessed. They’ll be in a good position to tell if something is seriously troubling a student.
Public schools handle counseling as best as they can give their teacher to student ratio. At the Tenney School, we’re able to handle the issue differently due to our one-on-one weekly meetings. For more information about how we plan to help students overcome Hurricane Harvey, contact us today.