Emotional Intelligence: What School Counselors Can Do

School counselors play a critical role in promoting the social and emotional health of students.

School counselors play a critical role in promoting the social and emotional health of students.

For many students, their school counselor is their emotional and social guide and confidant. Here are some activities that counselors can initiate to assist students, staff, and parents in the critical area of emotional and social intelligence.

Organize parent education programs.

Throughout the country, local schools and parent organizations have joined forces to host Parent Universities -- daylong events during which parents have the opportunity to attend workshops on such issues as communicating with adolescents, managing stress, and supporting the social-emotional and educational needs of children. Consider hiring translators to accommodate the language needs of non-English speakers in your community.

Adopt a bully prevention program.

According to the American School Counselor Association, one out of every four children is bullied. These youngsters and teens suffer both physical and emotional abuse. They miss school, fear harassment in the bathroom and on the playground, and often feel they have nowhere to turn for assistance. Comprehensive school-based anti-bullying programs have been very successful in raising student, teacher, and parent awareness of the causes and effects of this all-too-common phenomenon. For information and resources for both parents and school staff, visit The Anti-Bullying Network.

Institute service-learning projects.

Participation in school and community-based service projects benefits students academically, socially, and emotionally. The National Youth Leadership Council Web site features resources for schools interested in starting a service-learning component, including examples of model school-based programs.

Start an advisory program for middle schoolers.

Proponents of small-group advisories for middle schools believe such programs provide adolescents with the ongoing support and connections they need to help them grow and thrive during these turbulent years. MiddleWeb, a Web resource for educators and parents, features several articles on middle school advisories, including an FAQ (frequently asked questions and their answers) written by advisory advocate Jim Burns.

Create an environment of accessibility.

At one New Jersey middle school, counselors stand in the school corridor between classes in order to acknowledge students and maintain a high profile. Their aim is to remind students that counselors are among the adults at school available to help them and to listen. At a California school, a counselor makes a point of visiting every class every two weeks.

Resources

American Psychological Association. The association offers free brochures on such topics as violence prevention, how to choose a psychologist, and commonsense ways to assess online mental health information.

Blueprints for Violence Prevention. This interactive Web site features detailed information on model programs for violence prevention, including school-based programs that focus on bullying prevention, classroom-based social-emotional learning curriculum, and more.

Educating Minds and Hearts: Social Emotional Learning and the Passage into Adolescence. Editor Jonathan Cohen has gathered a wealth of information from different experts. The thread that ties the different chapters together is the use of fictional characters "Raffi" and "Maura" as springboards for experts to talk about how particular social and emotional learning programs affect middle school students. 1999. Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Education World. Visit the School Counselors' section of this site for hundreds of articles and resources covering such critical topics as dealing with grief and loss, suicide prevention, depression, and fostering self-esteem. Many of the referenced articles are from the ERIC database of resources.

In the Mix. This PBS-sponsored Web site for educators features lesson plans and discussion guides for a variety of health and fitness subjects, including anger management, drug and alcohol abuse (including a lesson designed to help teens interpret alcohol advertising messages), depression, and self-image. Lessons are typically designed for middle and high school students and include a PBS "In the Mix" video component.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guide for Educators. This book by Rutgers University Psychology Professor Maurice Elias and others takes the best information about attempts in schools to give students the skills to be emotionally intelligent individuals. 1997. Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. Among this site's many resources is a thoughtful "Guide for Young People" on depression -- its causes and the importance of seeking adult help for friends and classmates.

Waging Peace in Our Schools. This book by Linda Lantieri and Janet Patti tells the story of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), which was begun in New York City schools in 1985 and is now in more than 350 schools nationwide. The book serves as a practical guide to many of the successful strategies used by RCCP to produce emotionally intelligent children. 1996. Published by Beacon Press.

This article originally published on 5/1/2001

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