In the absence of a trained counselor, a teacher can don the role of a lay counselor and help students
Think about your days in school or college and identify your favorite teacher. What made them so special? There are those who you remember for their riveting lessons but there are also those you think of fondly for their supportive behavior, and the empathetic ear that they lent to students. The best teachers, are often a combination of the two.
As students spend half their growing years in school and college, teachers have a significant role to play in shaping the personality of the students. While school counselors are trained to address a range of issues such as broken relationships, strained relationships with parents, self-esteem and body-image issues, addiction and thoughts of suicide or potential career paths, a teacher who is in constant touch with the students can also intiate conversations and encourage students to open up. This makes the role of a counselor imperative in an academic set up, and teachers can become the primary source of on-campus support for the students.
Though the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) India recommends that schools employ a fulltime on-campus counselor, more often than not, this is not implemented. Sometimes this is a result of disinterest by the management, and often due to the unavailability of trained counselors. The other challenge is to nudge students to meet school counselors when they find themselves in troubled situations. Teachers play an important role in bridging this gap. A teacher who can be trusted and shows empathy, can offer support and then guide students to the school counselor when necessary. However, not all teachers have what it takes to become one.
Who can don the role?
It is not easy for students to share their issues with a teacher. It is important for teachers to be open-minded and willing to help. Building trust in the minds of students is essential if a teacher wants to be a confidant.
Some qualities that encourage students to talk to a teacher are:
What should a teacher do when a student approaches them:
Maintain complete confidentiality: Make the student understand that the information they share will remain confidential and not be leaked to anyone. (If the issues shared by the student are harmful to themselves or others, then it should be brought to the notice of the school management.)
In addition, the school management can also spot teachers who can be trained to provide counseling to students.
This content has been curated with inputs from Dr Uma Warrier, chief counselor at Jain University, Bangalore.