School counselor sees need for more empathy in schools
By Riley Quigley
Graduation rates across the country have been steadily rising in recent years to the delight of many school workers. However, students in the United States still lag behind many other developed countries, with countries like Finland and Japan having a graduation rate that’s almost 10% higher.
Dezaree “Ms. Dez” Doroliat has worked at Nea Community Learning Center, also known as Nea, for almost six years. Her job as a school counselor entails monitoring students’ “social, emotional and academic health,” as well as crisis management and conflict resolution. She provides these services for all children who attend Nea’s “Upper Village,” or grades 6-12.
“In the last six school years I’ve only had three students not graduate,” she said. She claims that the graduation for her school is around 99%.
Right now, Ms. Dez has five learners who are not on track to graduate. “We have regular meetings, I talk to their families and teachers, and we work on time management and organizational skills,” she said.
Additionally, she said she tries to address any trauma that may be holding them back from graduating. “The learners that didn’t graduate usually had some sort of extenuating family circumstances. One student lost two parents throughout high school,” she said. “ Another student had an untraditional family with only one mom and some mental health issues.”
“If you want to look for a unifying theme, mental health due to trauma would be my biggest summarizing statement,” she elaborated.
Part of her job as a school counselor is “to show students how to help themselves. I ask them questions to get them thinking about the role they play in their own success.”
Ms. Dez says that part of Nea’s success is the way that they look at students as learners. “The biggest thing is that big schools look at students like a statistic, whereas at Nea we look at them like someone’s brother or sister, or family. I have students who call me mom,” she said.
Nea differs from other public schools in the way counseling is provided to students. Ms Dez thinks it’s more successful. “At many schools you are told how and when to help people. Instead, at Nea we’ve created a curriculum that allows me to spend almost all my time with the kids. If I’m at school, my job should be to help those kids.
To benefit a student’s learning, Ms. Dez said, “The biggest thing we need to do is create a trauma-informed curriculum that can help the learner. Additionally, training for teachers on working with kids who are going through trauma. More informed educators and education resources are needed as well. Another big thing we need is more counselors. I think California’s current ratio of counselors to learners is around 1-800. It’s a lot to handle.”
Finally, Ms. Dez wants facilitators to look at the reasons behind the student’s behavior before punishing them. “I saw a commercial, a PSA, where the student had to travel through five different cities to get to school doing his work on the BART train. When he got to school, the teacher yelled at him for not having a pencil,” she said. “There’s a lot to look at and consider.”
FEATURED IMAGE (at top of post): Guidance counselors provide pivotal role in keeping children in school. PHOTO CREDIT: Wiki Media