By CALEB NELSON
Adair County Free Press
isters Talli Ramey and Sara Thompson have embarked on nearly the same journey over the past four years. Their paths have led them both to be school counselors in small southern Iowa school districts.
They even have shirts they play off of it with, based on the popular sitcom “Friends” that say, “School Counselors: We’ll be there for you!”
Ramey starts her second year as school counselor next month at Orient-Macksburg while her sister is a school counselor at East Union. Both are Nodaway Valley graduates and current residents of Adair County.
School counselors now have a more enhanced role in schools. They used to be known as guidance counselors, Ramey said. School counselors work to provide students with support in the areas of academics, career and college readiness and social-emotional well-being.
“We’ve evolved quite a bit since then and try to encompass all three of those phases in everything we do with every student,” Ramey said.
If students aren’t academically successful they’re less likely to shoot for college or career goals, Ramey pointed out. If their hierarchy of needs aren’t being met socially or emotionally, that affects students in many ways also.
Being able to focus on the whole student was one aspect of school counseling that led Thompson to her career field.
“Our teachers focus on the whole student. They’re amazing and tend to our students’ social and emotional needs too, but it’s a little different for me. I can work with all the students on all three of those things,” Thompson said. “I like to be able to talk with students about anything that’s going on in their life, work through whatever is bothering them, but also help them set goals and take steps to achieve those goals.”
Return to Learn
Many school districts have released a version of their Return to Learn Plan by now to the public. While many of these will vary from district to district and one family’s plan of action for school may look different than another, Ramey and Thompson have been trying to play a positive role for students and staff no matter which students return to class and which ones learn virtually this year.
Ramey encourages parents anywhere to take a lead in having conversations with their children about expectations of how to act in various situations where some people might be wearing a mask and others aren’t, for example.
Ramey also encourages parents to establish with their children fun ways to remember how long 20 seconds is, which is the recommended amount of time for hand-washing, like a familiar song.
“Find something fun so you learn how to wash your hands properly,” Ramey said. “Find them a fun mask if that’s what they need for school.”
Ramey pointed out that communication will be very important this year because of the use of masks by some. Sarcasm that may occur sometimes at the secondary level as jokes between student and teacher may not be as appropriate or effective now if you can’t see facial expression or as readily pick up on tone of voice.
“No matter what route a school or student goes, our connection with a student is not going to be the same,” Thompson added. “I’ve just been doing a lot of research into how to connect with students without being face to face with them or in the same room as them.”
I’ll be there for you
Ramey wants to remind families everywhere that school counselors are available as a support as schools open back up.
“The biggest thing that I want to stress to families is that school counselors are there with an open door policy. We’re always available and it’s OK to not be OK,” Ramey said. “Everybody is struggling and it’s going to look different for everyone. If you aren’t experiencing the same thing as someone else, it’s OK. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, this is crazy times.”