Remote learning, upended routines, social isolation... A long list of challenges faced students in the past eighteen months and, unlike COVID, no vaccines could provide protection against them. Fortunately for Pacific Ridge, we have experts who can help students thrive in both favorable and difficult circumstances: The Student Support Team.
“Many parents are unaware of the services we offer and don’t know we provide resources that can benefit every student in the school,” said Erika Pike, Director of the Learning Center and Student Support Specialist.
Over the summer of 2020, when it became clear that remote and hybrid learning were on the horizon, Ms. Pike and fellow Student Support Team members Juan Trevino and Marcy Ryan looked for ways to strengthen their already comprehensive program.
An important aspect of the team’s work is one-on-one counseling sessions with students to support social-emotional wellness and academic functioning. Ms. Pike, Mr. Trevino, and Ms. Ryan increased their accessibility and made sure students and faculty knew they were available. The sessions were also very helpful for students who desired referrals to outside resources.
“Being present is so important in the work that we do with kids. Doing it online is difficult, but we were able to provide a sense of connection to help them address what they were going through,” Ms. Pike said.
Spreading the Word
Coping strategies, structures and routines, exercising, and sufficient sleep are proven methods to deal with stress. Faculty advisors and student peer helpers regularly reminded students about self-care. Webinars informed parents about ways to support children at home.
“It's hard for everyone to remember those pieces, and students are often preoccupied with their academic success. We really encouraged them to prioritize themselves,” she explained.
A Watchful Eye
The Student Support Team educates teachers each year about how to recognize potential anxiety or depression in students, and how to help them get the support they need. This past year, teachers worked with the team during weekly grade-level faculty meetings to devise ways to de-stress the academic experience of their classes.
“We focused on being flexible, making personal connections with kids, and checking in with them regularly,” said Ms. Pike.
To provide a substantive library of resources for the community, the team developed a Virtual Student Support Center with information on a wide variety of topics, including organization, test anxiety, self-advocacy, relaxation techniques, LGBTQ resources, COVID information, and substance abuse, as well as parent-specific resources and an archive of Student Support webinars. They also made self-scheduling appointments available through an app students can use anywhere.
“We created the Virtual Student Support Center so students can explore topics and resources any time, in addition to making appointments with us,” she said.
The Whole Package
Mental health and social-emotional wellness are closely linked with learning outcomes and the pandemic has affected both for students throughout the world. Each of Pacific Ridge’s Student Support Team members work with students in both realms, taking a holistic view of what it means to be a healthy learner. In addition to providing extra assistance during a difficult year, Ms. Pike hopes that their efforts have informed students and families about the resources available to them and how the team’s work can help all students thrive.