Counselors Work on Helping Students Focus

Penny Rinker and Leila Nash use a variety of tools to help their students with social and emotional learning. Rinker is the Guidance Counselor at Moorefield Elementary and Moorefield Intermediate schools. Nash is the Guidance Counselor at Moorefield Middle School. They presented an overview of their work to the Hardy County Board of Education on Monday, Feb. 3.

“We are trying to reinforce social and emotional learning,” Rinker said. “That includes self-regulating and encouraging a growth mindset.”

Rinker said she spends the first five to 10 minutes of class encouraging the students to focus.

“I use the 5-4-3-2-1 method,” she said. “I ask them to think of five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste. It redirects their brain.”

Rinker said with younger students, she uses glitter bottles – bottles of glitter suspended in liquid – and breathing techniques to help them focus.

“Because of their exposure to electronic devices, children are not able to focus, to perservere through a task,” she said. “They try something and give up.”

Rinker also said most of her students have scored a 3 or higher on the Adverse Childhood Experiences test. “Some have scored as high as 9,” she said.

The ACE test scores different types of childhood trauma such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect. The higher the score, the more likely the child will experience emotional and physical health problems later in life.

Rinker said she is noticing more students exhibiting empathy. “I’m starting see more students helping each other,” she said.

Board President Nancy Hahn asked if classroom teachers are using the social and emotional learning techniques Rinker described.

“Not yet,” Rinker said. “We’re looking at a variety of curriculum.”

“This is something new for teachers,” said Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Strawderman. “They have not been trained to do this.

“We know this is something we have to provide the training to allow our teachers to do this in the classroom. We need to help them with the tools and training to be comfortable with it.”

Nash said she has 381 students at Moorefield Middle School. She is using the MindUp Curriculum, provided by the Goldie Hawn Foundation, with students in 6th and 7th grades.

MindUp includes lessons on focusing attention, reducing stress and developing a positive mind-set.

“I’m focusing social and emotional learning so the students have academic success over all learning styles,” Nash said. “The lessons I use connect to real-world situations.”

Nash said she is very busy, but has few office hours.

“I am out and about, in the cafeteria before school, during lunch,” she said. “I want kids to know who I am and what I’m here for and that I’m here for them. I have a lunch group, where we eat together. I have a blog group, where the students learn how to create a blog. I have an attendance group, where I try to call the parents to see why a student is not in school. A big problem is the lack of parental involvement and I‘m trying to bridge that gap.”

Nash said she sees approximately 14 students on a formal basis.

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The next meeting of the Hardy County Board of Education will be held Monday, Feb. 17 at East Hardy Early Middle School. The School Calendar Public Hearing will begin at 4:30 p.m. The regular BOE meeting will begin at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend.