5 Ways to Reach All Students During Virtual Learning

by Jamie L., Professional Elementary School Counselor

Being a School Counselor on a typical day is unpredictable; Throw in a pandemic, virtual learning, and an increase for social-emotional learning and you have the perfect storm. Expectations to support our students in this new normal have not only increased, but have left many professional school counselors unequipped and unprepared to adapt to our 'new normal.'

While I know it will not provide all of the answers, here are some helpful tips that may assist your school counseling program with reaching all students, both remote and in-person:

1. Student Self-Referral Forms

Student self-referral forms are an important resource for any age group. It provides students with the opportunity to practice advocating for themselves, recognizing when they may need help, and allow you as the counselor to gain a daily awareness of student needs.

Typically I provide all homeroom classes with a stack of student self-referral forms that students can fill out and leave in a confidential folder in my office. In order to adapt into distance learning, I have converted this student self-referral form into a Google Form. The student self-referral Google Form is available on my website for students to access no matter their physical location and my email is notified immediately upon submission of a form.

In addition, I screen recorded myself filling out and submitting a mock form, which I shared with students during my September guidance classroom lesson. This way, they could go through the motions with me and become familiar with this new form of communication.

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2. Parent/Guardian Referral Forms

Similar to the aforementioned form, I converted my Parent/Guardian referral forms for school counseling services into google forms as well as my school counseling services consent forms. This way, I can have documentation of parent/guardian referrals and a 'signed' consent form that indicates submission of the form is equivalent to a hand signature of informed consent.

3. Boom Cards

Heard of Boom Cards? If not, GO CHECK IT OUT! Boom Cards have completely revolutionized my virtual school counseling program. This website, similar to Teachers Pay Teachers, offers pre-made, interactive resources that you can use with students at the individual, small group, and whole group level. You can also create your own resources and if you are savvy enough, publish them to be sold! Earning a little extra cash while creating useful virtual counseling content isn't too bad of a deal if you ask me'

4. Zoom

I know each district probably has their own preferred platform, but mine is using Zoom for all virtual counseling sessions, 504/I&RS meetings, as well as any parent/guardian meetings. I can't speak for other platforms but, I can tell you that Zoom has been an awesome one for us to use for these needs specific needs. I'm still trying to figure out all Zoom has to offer in relation to screen sharing and mouse sharing capabilities, but it has been awesome with playing virtual counseling games during individual counseling sessions.

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5. Google Meets Guidance Lessons

When this school year started I was worried I would not be able to deliver my whole-group instruction due to the nature of our students' physical locations and modified schedules. Each period for virtual students is roughly 25 min, and here I am used to having a full 40 min. for my guidance lessons. While I typically schedule the classrooms on my end, in order to adapt, I provided the teachers with a sign-up sheet in which they can input their classroom Google Meets link at a time that is convenient for their seemingly ever-changing schedules.

This way, I am able to pop into their 'classrooms' without interruption. I'll admit, this was odd to get used to, but it's been beyond successful and wholeheartedly necessary in providing my students with a sense of normalcy during this abnormal time. Through Google Meets, similar to Zoom, I am able to share my screen with students and deliver my lesson in this space.

I hope these tips can be useful for any counselor struggling during this school year. If you take nothing else from this post, I hope you can take this: Remember that as counselors, we sometimes have to practice what we preach. So the next time you feel down or discouraged, remember to take a deep breath, repeat a positive self-affirmation, and remind yourself about the INCREDIBLE COUNSELOR YOU ARE!

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