Today’s youth are living in the most exciting time of human history, within increasingly diverse communities and cultures, newer and fast-evolving technologies and ever expanding horizons. Against this backdrop, the challenge confronting school managements is to ensure that their students evolve into sensitive, responsible citizens of the new world. Therefore, it is vital for schools to establish a robust team of counsellors and teachers who can empathise with the young, and successfully provide guidance and support to students regardless of age and grades.
Teacher-counsellors’ responsibilities vary depending on institution size, focus and unique requirements. Day schools — especially smaller ones — may not need counsellors whereas its essential for residential schools to have a team of teacher-counsellors because of the additional responsibility of providing personal and social guidance to boarders. However, the fundamental responsibilities of teacher-counsellors are to build an environment of mutual trust and goodwill, establish strong personal rapport with students and discharge the role of catalysts, enhancing and complementing the academic and social progress of students. More specifically, teacher-counsellors must assume the following responsibilities:
It has been proven extensively that in times of crisis, the only person other than a parent that youth turn to are teachers whom they find worthy of their trust and confidence. Great mentors have the ability to recognise the need for timely intervention and guide their mentees through any kind of difficulty, especially emotional and behavioural. With their ability to empathise, counselors help improve students attitudes and motivation, encourage positive social behaviour, cultivate a sense of responsibility and set appropriate career goals.
Trained counsellors are patient, open-minded and flexible. Those with good interpersonal skills and instinctive understanding of the disposition of students are usually given the responsibility of providing consultative assistance to class teachers. Progressive schools encourage class teachers to collaborate with counsellors and seek their support in resolving specific problem cases in classroom situations. Likewise, teacher-counsellors also host student-parent-teacher meetings and initiate discussion of specific issues.
Document cases of problematic behaviour and devise solutions. Identifying, recording and reporting cases of misconduct and disruptive behaviour is an important responsibility of teacher-counselors in most schools. They work closely with school administrations to devise codes of conduct and implement policies to curb anti-social behaviour. Teacher-counsellors play a key role in defining aberrant behaviour and drawing up guidelines for students.
Due to regular interaction with students, counsellors are more aware of their individual traits and better positioned to provide timely intervention. They are usually called upon to resolve student conflicts inter se or between students and parents or teachers. They are trained to mediate and deal with such situations prudently and expeditiously.
Evaluation is a continuous process and the counselling team keeps track of students socio-emotional crises and how they cope with them. Counsellors are expected to provide comprehensive summative assessments which map the social and emotional progress of students.
In residential schools, teacher-counsellors usually fulfill the responsibility of managing and overseeing the operations of dorms and assume the role of dorm parents. They develop the residence curriculum and implement it, supervise study halls and measure the academic progress of students under their care. Moreover, teacher-counsellors in residences discharge the responsibility of initiating extra-curricular activities that yield cooperation and teamwork, reinforce values and promote harmonious living.
In essence, in the newly emergent, multi-cultural globalised world, teacher-counsellors are beginning to play an increasingly important role in providing stability to young students during crucial emotional transitions, which is vital to the serenity, sanity and good health of education institutions.
(Atula Ahuja is the founder-director of Reading Rainbow, Ahmedabad and a teacher-counsellor at the Woodstock School, Mussoorie)