‘I love my job’: Guidance counselors meet with kids in pandemic

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 6:26 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Guidance counselors are tasked with talking with students about academic issues or personal problems, but they’re also the ones who often can spot warning signs for neglect or abuse.

So just as students have to navigate learning in a pandemic, guidance counselors must navigate how to keep those students happy and safe.

For counselors like Kristian Woodward, helping students through a screen wasn’t something she’s done before.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in. I just knew that I would have to be flexible and things would change quickly and I would just have to adjust,” Woodward, a counselor at Warren Road Elementary School, said.

For students like Lily Johnson, seeing her guidance counselor online was new, too.

“She enjoys to help and she is very nice,” Johnson, second-grader at Warren Road, said.

But new doesn’t always mean easy, especially when people like Woodward can be the difference-maker in a student’s mental or personal life.

“Part of my job includes making sure that the student is happy and healthy outside of school, in addition to while they’re here in our care,” she said.

Ensuring happiness and healthiness behind a computer screen can be challenging and comes with questions about whether certain warning signs may go unnoticed.

“As long as our team, our teachers, the counselors, psychologists, social workers, administration - if everyone is working together, I do think that we will pick up on any issue that exists,” Woodward said.

She meets with each classroom once a month, be it virtual or in person. She says students also have the option to request one-on-one or group counseling sessions.

“It was just nice that just because she was not going to school, she didn’t get excluded from at least communication with a guidance counselor,” Tia Johnson, Lily’s mother, said.

For students who can meet with Woodward face-to-face, she says that hasn’t come without its challenges either.

“Face-to-face when I work with students, we’re both wearing masks. When you conceal half of your face, it’s really difficult for me to judge their non-verbal cues,” Woodward said.

But seeing students through a screen or through a mask is better than not seeing students at all.

“I love my job. And it didn’t matter to me - as long as I got to work with the kids. If that was in person, great. If that was online, great,” Woodward said.

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