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4 Things to Keep in Mind This School Year: a Social Worker’s Perspective

4 Things to Keep in Mind This School Year by Tara St. Louis, ESC social worker

As children and adolescents go back to school across the country this month, they face escalating mental health challenges. Clinical anxiety and depression among youth has doubled during the pandemic. Gun violence in the U.S. has reached an unprecedented level, and according to a June 2022 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, school shootings during the 2020-21 school year reached the highest number in two decades. The rights of LGBTQ+ youth and their families are diminishing in many states, including alarming restrictions eroding school safety and creating chronic stress that has long-term consequences.

Students are also struggling to catch up from learning lags and social delays due to distance learning, with students of color and lower-income students hardest hit due to lack of access to technology. There has never been a greater need for school social workers, yet many people — even some educators and administrators — do not know what a school social worker is or how they can help address large- and small-scale challenges of student life.

Unlike school counselors or school psychologists, school social workers are trained to address trauma within systems as well as with individual youth. Social workers have a deep understanding of the context around various types of trauma, including personal chronic or acute trauma, historical, racial and other population-level traumas. In a school setting, their clients are the students, but also the environments or systems that contribute to or disrupt a child or adolescent’s ability to learn.  School social workers are key to identifying students in need of additional resources before they reach the extremes.
 
Examine your Narrative
The Narrative Approach is grounded in the use of stories to explore circumstances, identify themes and realize how people make sense of their lives and the world in general. As we prepare to enter into a new school year take time to reflect on this past year and create your own narrative.
https://swhelper.org/2017/01/31/four-social-work-practice-models/.
 
Break free from Comfort Zones
Staying within our comfort zones may keep us from repeating certain behaviors and hindering growth. In preparation for the next academic year what new goals, objectives, and action steps do you want to pursue?
 
Create a vision
Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning, it is 2022 and your counseling career is all you ever dreamed of. What would that look like? Questions like these help us to identify priorities and clarify where we are focusing our energy.  
 
Last, but not least ……
 
Self-Care
Take time to care for yourself this summer. Burnout is very high in the education field and recharging for next year can benefit you not only this summer but throughout the academic year.
https://brightfutures-counseling.com/blog/5-summer-self-care-tips-for-school-counselors
 
For More Assistance
At the ESC, our Attendance Team brings together expertise not only in truancy and HB410 but in mental health and trauma and how these risk factors can be so predictive of a student’s inability to maintain good attendance and have a successful school year. 

Our Attendance Team is small yet mighty!  We work within school districts to help examine school climate and structures within buildings that may be affecting truancy in the schools. If you would like to learn more about our services, please reach out to [email protected]..


Tara St. Louis (she/her) is a graduate of the Social Work program at the Ohio State University with a specialization in trauma informed care. She is a member of the ESC Attendance team where she works towards developing strategies for culturally inclusive school environments that enhance student and staff relations ultimately leading to better student success. Tara and her team also work with a prevention model in regard to truancy in hopes of reducing recidivism rates.