At Vermilion Outreach School, we become invested in our work. The result is that we want to see immediate change and growth in our students. The reality is that teaching and counselling are what I call a “long game”. I have a dedicated staff trained to assist students returning to high school; students attending our alternative school often face personal issues and past trauma. We have found that because students have not experienced success at school, there tends to be a reluctance to talk and work with us.
One particular student spent most of her first year virtually silent. Fortunately, she connected with one of the school coaches. During their conversations, the young woman revealed her anxious thoughts. It was clear to the coach that this student needed to connect with a community counsellor with proper resources and training to help her move forward. The coach offered the young girl the opportunity for that connection, however, the student remained uncertain and provided no definite answer.
It was not until nine months later that this individual approached the school coach and said she was ready to see a counsellor. It is no surprise that the staff member was full of excitement and energy at a staff-planning meeting. We needed to connect her right away, and we needed to talk to her mother as soon as possible in order to gain for permission for a referral to our mental health professional. The excitement was infectious and soon everyone on the team took on a task.
Days passed quickly. Mom said she was willing to sign papers but they were routinely forgotten or misplaced. My staff grew more concerned that the student herself was falling into a “silent mode” again. Staff excitement turned to concern and then worry.
This was a time for us to come to a realization we knew, but often forget. Change is not something that comes quickly. Often change is a long process; this is why we have come to label counselling as the “long game”. It is unfortunate that many of our students are not with us for long. A significant number enroll in school and withdraw during the year for many reasons. Sometimes, we are fortunate and honored to see them grow and graduate. For others, change takes many more years and they leave school and the community. We rarely find out what happens with those students. As for our young student, she eventually met with our community counsellor and made plans for more meetings over the summer. We all look forward to hearing more from her when school reopens in September.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA