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Providing social-emotional care for today’s students

FFCSD School Psychologist Ms. Nelson in her office in the middle school.
FFCSD School Psychologist Ms. Nelson in her office in the middle school.

During a school year, there are a number of resources to ensure students are receiving proper care and outreach to be successful inside and out of today’s classroom. Whether it’s the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a teacher or counselor, expressing their feelings or achievements and finding the security to be themselves during a moment of need. Each student has a different pathway that they are implementing to become a better student/person, while keeping their focus on school work, extracurricular activities and much more.

A school environment can present challenges for today’s students. The opportunity to provide counseling and additional services can provide growth, stimulation and address areas of need. That’s where our district school psychologist can play a role in providing access to the necessary tools and programs to keep students focused and aware of their own social-emotional needs.

We are sharing our latest Q&A interview with FFCSD School Psychologist Ms. Nelson to bring to light some of the resources the district is providing to ensure our students feel safe, confident and secure in their own personal wellness.

How do you approach assisting students with wellness in a school setting?

Being present and accessible to students is such an important thing. If students don’t feel comfortable going to me, or even know I exist, I’m not going to be able to help students when they need it. Making myself as visible as possible is something that I have been trying to do since starting my career at Fonda-Fultonville CSD. Walking through the halls as students are changing classes, popping into classes in the elementary school when I get a chance, anything so that my face becomes a familiar one.

In terms of promoting wellness within a school setting, it is so important just to talk about it. Honestly, it is as easy as that. There are many students  that don’t get the chance to talk about mental health inside their home. Students need to know that their struggles are normal and they should never be ashamed for what they are going through. Creating a safe space at school to discuss mental health is important so that students receive the narrative that it is okay to have the feelings they have and learn appropriate ways to cope with them.

What processes have you found to be successful in engaging students during this time?

This is tricky because every student and situation is so different. However, being vulnerable myself is something that I have found to be successful in engaging students of all ages. Since March of 2020, every single person has experienced some degree of hardship, that is all something we can relate to. If a student comes to me, struggling with their mental health, I will be honest with them and share a few struggles of mine. This shows them that they’re not alone with these feelings, there are ways to cope, and that they have support. In my role at FFCSD, I work across all buildings (K-12) but I’ve noticed that no matter what the age, transparency goes a long way. Additionally, as cliche as it sounds, a successful way to teach kindness, empathy, positive thinking, all the things that promote wellness and mental health, is to practice it yourself. If students see you modeling self-care, they will recognize the importance of it and be more inclined to do so themselves!

How are today’s students seeking to access programs and services at FFCSD?

At FFCSD, students are lucky enough to have staff and administration that genuinely care about their well-being. Across all buildings there are efforts being made and programs that have been created to promote wellness in our students. We are embedding social-emotional learning (SEL) right into some of their classes so they are exposed to it on a regular basis. This will look different throughout the year but it could be as simple as doing a deep breathing exercise for one minute, or showing a quick video on various coping skills. Hopefully with the more exposure the students have with these topics the more they are willing to engage in them and will become a part of their everyday life.

Finally, what recommended social-emotional development resources are available in the district?

While I am still new here, I have quickly learned that there are endless resources available within the district. The support staff here at FFCSD are so knowledgeable about not only resources available within the school buildings, but within the surrounding community! Within the buildings, we offer a variety of services depending on the situation, such as: individual or group counseling, support within classrooms, and crisis intervention. If students or families are in need of additional resources, reach out to myself, social worker, or one of the school counselors, we are all happy to help!