Teachers need to be counsellors. Carean Lisbeth Oh shares.

Teachers need to be counsellors. You can use the extensive time spent in the classrooms to make a difference. After all, we understand our students. Using this knowledge, we can help counsel them to overcome hurdles in life. This builds resilience in children from a younger age. Carean Lisbeth Oh of Writers Studio believes in wearing both hats.

By Carean Oh, Writers Studio School of English

Teachers have to be counsellors

I believe that the role of a teacher is important. But counselling is equally important when we teach. You can give students proper guidance on how to deal with psychological problems which can better their performance and confidence in schools. After all, it may not be practical for a student to have the privilege of time. That is, to both attend counselling while also side aside time for enrichment classes. (This makes a student very busy)

When I first started teaching, I had the opportunity to teach what many teachers would label as a ‘tail-end’ class. Although the students are hopeful individuals, they are often crushed as they are labelled as underperforming or impossible to teach.

Investing in time with students

However, I realised that all these students needed were understanding and compassion. Although they could learn, that their backgrounds were challenging. Hence, two remediation lessons were given to the weaker ones weekly. These classes were my best opportunity to strike rapport with them. Eventually, they all graduated with results that were beyond their expectations. This approach earned their trust and respect. So, I am happy to share that I still in touch with a number of them. That was back in 2008. Now that we are already in the year 2022, can you imagine the impact this created on their lives? Several are now teachers in kindergartens while others are holding stable jobs in offices. They have their own families now, and they lead purposeful lives.

I gave the weaker ones remediation classes. This was my best opportunity to strike rapport with students, while mentoring them.

~Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Catering to different students is important.

So, do you agree that students can come from all walks of life? Students differ widely in their financial background, language proficiency and learning styles. Also, their social behaviour and preferences matter. Thus, it is insufficient to follow a cookie cutter approach to teaching. To be successful coaches, teachers must show empathy and sincerity to get to know students better.

If we simply covering the minimal syllabus and expect them to do well at the end of the school year, we will not achieve the best results.

This goes to show that it is important for teachers to learn to be counsellors. Make it a point to understand our students emotional concerns and give them the best moral support and guidance on a regular basis. Ultimately, this can make a remarkable difference in their academic performance over time.

“It is insufficient to follow a cookie cutter approach to teaching. Empathy and attention to the needs of students are the key to successful coaching.”

~ Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

How teachers can help students cope with stress

A little more attention from teachers can certainly overcome the emotional stress experienced by children. Children can suffer from chronic family problems, heavy financial burdens or even cyber bullying. All these can take a severe toll on student behaviour and performance. We can do these as teachers. This is true since we have time on our hand. The truth is, we get a chance to interact with our students.

This is when counselling as a part of school life becomes more purposeful. I have been in the teaching service for a long time. Inevitably, there are friends who are really good at counselling (despite being only classroom teachers) take on courses and embarking on a career switch to be counsellors. For me, I prefer to play both roles.

We can, as teachers, also become counsellors. I prefer to be both.

~ Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

The role of teachers in the 21st century

In the 21st century classroom, teachers have to undertake some form of training as counsellors. Because no other person in the classroom fosters more care than a full-time teacher. As a matter of fact, teachers can reach out to needy students. I am not talking about finances alone, but students can come from well-to-do families yet face issues following the lessons in schools. Besides, they may even be troubled by time management issues.

It will become more and more necessary that in the 21st century classroom, teachers undertake some form of training as counsellors.

~ Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Create a better childhood for your kid

Every child has important landmarks in life. And childhood is one of them. More significantly, a negative childhood can affect them socially and emotionally. Every day, I see parents walking into my English enrichment centre with bright smiles. Their children’s faces would shine with love and pride for themselves. They are confident kids. On the other hand, some parents are discouraging towards their children. The quality of the child’s relationship and the environment in which they are growing greatly affect their cognitive, emotional and social development. We can change all this – our role as teachers, classroom caregivers and nurturers give us the immense power to change lives for the better.

Our role as teachers, classroom caregivers and nurturers give us the immense power to change lives for the better.

~ Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Tapping on a more holistic school network

What if your adolescent displays problems that arise when they were younger? What if your teenager faces problems that he cannot share with you? There is a rise in the awareness of mental health issues affecting children and adolescents. Yet it is underestimated (and unknown) the impact that some adverse conditions and experiences have in our children. You may be wondering if there is a reason for your child’s failure in a school test, or that he has fallen short of expectations. Working with a responsible and perceptive teacher can help raise the effectiveness of the outcome. The more support is given, more attention is centred on the child and he will benefit from the collective strength of well-intended adults.

Providing integral support to handle challenges

Children can be exposed to many issues ranging from academic and social pressure to more severe life experiences, such as cyberbullying, dysfunctional families, poverty, violence and inadequate care. In the long run, this is very likely to cause emotional, physical and mental health problems which can influence the way they behave as parents one day too. As parents and educators, the best gift of life we can provide is to listen and help them become self-sufficient and discover their own strengths in resolving difficulties and challenges in future. The future starts here and now.

Understand instead of discipline

For instance, it is common for children to display challenging and defiant behaviours. However, some children present behaviour which we cannot accept. Although this is so, we should avoid labelling them as having learning issues or simply stereotyping them as rebels. These labels may cast the kids into the deeper end. Tiger parents might even mete out the most severe treatment to correct their behaviour. Or failing to recognise that it is possible to help them with empathy through counselling.

Creative Writing as a counselling tool

A teacher-counsellor helps to build trust in these children. During the course of my career, I have helped many children regain confidence through writing. They realise that only the pen holds the power to change their lives. They take on characters in their stories. The kids immerse themselves in an imaginary world and depict themselves as heroes of their ideal lives within their creative writings.

They learn how to understand their own feelings. These kids verbalise how they feel and find ways to manage them through writing lessons with me. They develop the ability to understand the emotional state of others by creating better decisions for their characters.

The power of empathy

Before we give any child our verdict of how their lives should be, be aware that we were once children.

~ Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Before we give any child our verdict of how their lives should be, be aware that we were once children. As children, it is more difficult to self-regulate our emotions and behaviours. After all, this is due to a lack of awareness of the way the world works. Some adults take long to even see the broader picture. In their late 30s or mid-40s, they then realise the folly of words they should never have said and relationships that they should not have broken.

Good teachers make a difference

Yes, our students or children might present themselves to be more anxious and aggressive than their peers. Their social skills are impeded. But these are important in building friendships and meaningful relationships. We need teachers to step in and point that out to them. Good teachers who care and bother to spend time noticing and making that difference.

As parents and educators, the best gift of life we can provide is to listen and help them become self-sufficient and discover their own strengths in resolving difficulties and challenges in future.

~Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Learning child therapy

Here’s how you can make a difference.

If we, teachers, know child therapy, there will be an opportunity for the child to learn to regulate their emotions and understand the connection between their feelings and behaviour in order to have more control over the them.

As a teacher, you can promote:

  • Increase in self-esteem and confidence
  • Decrease of anxiety and depression.
  • Development of a healthy sense of self
  • Increase of social competencies

Creative writing, reading, playing, drawing, colouring, building are ways to explore feelings and solve problems with the teacher.

~Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Using language as a form of self-expression

During an English lesson, you can build a relationship of trust with the child. Allow the child to freely express themselves and gain an understanding of the inner-self. In the therapeutic space, the child or adolescent can feel safe, comfortable and understood. This makes it easier for them to not only respond to your lesson well, but also feel less alone. Whether or not you involve parents at this phase is not important. However, it will be necessary to give timely reports to parents. They will be more aware of what has been done in the classroom. This may make them more sensitive towards the way the child is handled at home.

In the therapeutic space, the child or adolescent can feel safe, comfortable and understood.

~Carean Lisbeth Oh, Writers Studio

Explore a variety of counselling techniques

As an educator, you have the best experience to be very creative in delivering the intervention. Creativity is the medium children use the most to communicate. Creative writing, reading, playing, drawing, colouring, building are ways to explore feelings. They help the child solve problems with the teacher. It is one of the best ways to impact a child’s development. And a very meaningful one too.

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Carean Lisbeth Oh is a professional educator with successful strategies for motivating children. Her forte lies in blending a myriad of approaches to teach, coach and counsel students whom she teaches. Carean Oh runs an enrichment centre, Writers Studio, in the heart of Bukit Timah. Her teaching team comprises teachers who share her philosophy in the teaching of English Language. Once, Mrs Neo, a parent gave Carean a card, thanking her not just for helping her child score a distinction for English, but also helping her child build resilience.

By Carean Oh, Writers Studio.

- Carean Oh

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