Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Useful Counseling Skills for Teachers (guest post)

by Catharine Hannay

This is my latest guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog

It was one of those moments when someone’s trying to be helpful but says exactly the wrong thing. 
A student walked into the office while I was chatting with another teacher. In response to our cheerful “Good morning. How are you today?” he looked at us sadly and said, “Bad day.” 
“You shouldn’t say that,” my colleague informed him. “In English we say ‘I’m fine, how are you?’”
She did have a point. An important part of our job was teaching American culture, and there’s a big difference between “Hey, how are ya?” and a heartfelt “I know things have been tough lately. How are you doing today?” 
But our students also relied on us in a multitude of ways as they adjusted to life in a new country. A ‘bad day’ could simply mean he felt a bit homesick, or it could mean he needed help with a serious problem and had nowhere else to turn. In either case, this young man didn’t need an English lesson just then. He required a very different type of support. 
As teachers, we often find ourselves in a de facto counseling position because there isn’t a counselor available or because our students are more comfortable talking to someone they already see every day. Unfortunately, most teacher training programs don’t prepare us for this important part of our work. 
Counseling skills like thoughtful self-disclosure, deep listening, and maintaining appropriate boundaries are not only useful in one-on-one situations but can also help us manage our classes more effectively and compassionately.

photo source: Pixabay via