Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.
A Crisis in Schools
Think back on your elementary, middle, and high school years. What was the worst thing that happened to you during this period? Maybe your pet died or your parents got divorced. These are two very common crises in the lives of students. A crisis is something that prevents the regular and normal functioning of an individual, group of individuals, or a system as a whole. It may cause emotional upset, stress, physical changes, or even a complete break down in normal operation. Crises is the plural form of crisis.
What was the worst thing that happened at the school you attended? Maybe a fellow student died or there was a natural disaster that impacted your school. These types of crises are not as common as those previously mentioned, but often create big problems for students. School counselors work to support students, their families, and the educational and administrative staff members in the school. A big part of their job is to deal with turmoil and unexpected events that may negatively affect students. These crises vary greatly and must be approached with skill and compassion.
Common School Crises
Earlier, you were asked to think back on something bad that happened to you during your schooling and something that happened to affect the whole school. As mentioned, there are crises that might be considered minimal, while others may be catastrophic. For example, a young kindergarten student may become very upset by being separated from his or her parent for the first time. School counselors understand that this is a big deal in the life of this child and that if not dealt with appropriately could interfere with the success of the student. However, this problem is relatively common and is not likely to result in injury or death.
Other common and non-life-threatening, day-to-day crises might include the death of a pet or loved one, a fight with a close friend, divorce of the parents, moving, a low test grade, being bullied, or perhaps for older students, a breakup with someone he or she was dating. These issues that begin as relatively small problems could easily grow into severe or even life-threatening issues if not addressed. Again, school counselors are highly skilled in identifying these struggles in students and empowering them with the support necessary to overcome the resulting anxiety or sadness.
Sometimes, school crises are more significant and far reaching than those mentioned above such as violence, deadly accidents, drug use, unplanned pregnancy, terminal illness, sexual assault, natural disaster, or even suicide. These issues can devastate the lives of students and the effects may ripple outward to impact the entire surrounding population. School counselors recognize the severity of such issues and must act quickly to minimize the impact on the students. Early intervention is key in all school crises. An intervention is something designed to prevent a crisis from happening or to attempt to solve a problem that has already occurred.
Strategies for Intervention
Please think back on your experiences with school crises once more. What could have been done to prevent those problems? Perhaps nothing could have stopped the crisis from happening, but what might have helped you in the aftermath of it? These are the types of questions that school counselors must ask to prevent and solve crises in schools. These efforts at intervention may happen at the individual level, the classroom level, school-wide, or even within the surrounding community. Let's walk through the different levels of intervention with a specific crisis.
Bullying is a common problems in schools. The effects of bullying are far reaching and create severe problems for all affected. The good news is that the crisis of bullying is largely preventable if effective intervention is in place. At the individual level, school counselors may work directly with the victim and with the bully, each individually, in a one-on-one setting. The victim may need help dealing with feelings of fear, shame, and embarrassment. The bully may need help with feelings of anger, guilt, or confusion. School counselors use specific techniques to address these feelings in the students and to prevent the bullying from happening again.
At the classroom level, school counselors may meet the students as a group to try to get a better picture of what is taking place in terms of bullying. They may teach students how to identify bullying, how to stop it in its tracks, or even how to deal with conflict among their fellow students. The school counselors would make sure to include the teacher of the class on these discussions as he or she sets the stage for acceptable behavior in the classroom.
With the issue of bullying, it is common to host school-wide events for students, families, and staff. These events would be geared toward awareness and education. In other words, the risk factors for bullying behavior might be presented along with strategies to prevent bullying from happening in the first place. This approach rallies all members of the school community around a common cause, thus creating a strong force for prevention.
Community-wide efforts at intervention can also be very effective in preventing and solving crises. For example, school counselors may post flyers, host events, or even have fund raisers to call the community's attention to a crisis in the school. This creates a network that exists beyond the borders of the school to effectively prevent and solve issues that affect the students.
School counselors deal with many different types of crises in students. A crisis is something that causes distress among students. Some crises are unavoidable while others may be prevented. School counselors provide support at the individual level to help students deal with problems. They also work with individual classes, the entire school, and even the community at large in an effort to prevent crisis from happening or to help solve them once they have occurred. This type of work is called an intervention.
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