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Counselors At Academia Maria Reina In Puerto Rico Help Students Navigate Covid-19 Pandemic

By June 9, 2020December 18th, 2021No Comments
This article was submitted by Department of Student Services at Academia Maria Reina, which holds a Middle States Program of Distinction in School Counseling. 
As soon as the Governor of Puerto Rico announced that the entire island would be in a lockdown, Academia Maria Reina began the process of virtual learning through the digital platform Microsoft Teams. During the first days, the faculty was given virtual workshops to be able to master the platform. As an immediate response, each department continued to work as established in their syllabus. The Counseling Department continued to use Naviance as the primary tool for assigning tasks in our guidance curriculum, while Microsoft Teams was used by the counselors as a virtual classroom to host presentations on a number of topics including college admission testing, college applications and writing the college application essay. It was also used for sharing articles on COVID-19, as well as reflections on how to stay mentally, physically and spiritually healthy during the lockdown. Microsoft Teams was also used to assist in the process of monitoring academic progress as well as the main resource of communication with professors and students. ZOOM was another tool used by the college placement advisor to host virtual college visits and information sessions for students and parents.
Communication Key for Success
Without a doubt, one of the biggest issues our students and we faced during the lockdown as we engaged online/virtual learning was the use of extra Internet data and the stability of the system. Many of the faculty, staff, and families had to make an upgrade in their internet programs in order to work more efficiently, and some had to invest in equipment that they did not have. Also, this new norm of virtual learning is not meant for every student. We had many cases of students that in the beginning did not attend class because they would forget resulting in an absence. For these students to succeed, we had to provide them with the proper tools to organize themselves and keep up with a structure as if they were still present in the classroom. The key for success was the constant communication with the students as well as with their professors. Other issues that were of concern to the students were doubts about their summer plans, summer programs, AP exams, and college admission testing requirements.
Returning to School
Returning to the school routine involves many emotions for students, one of them can be anxiety. It is important to consider the mindset that is fostered before returning to the physical classroom. Our students will need to hear that their emotions are valid. On the one hand, for students, going back to school means that they will see their friends again, that there will be a more direct connection with their teachers and that they will retake the space that makes them feel that they are part of a community. On the other hand, for some it will mean facing the fear of separating from their families, of getting infected and/or not having the tools to adapt to the new reality. For others, it could mean coming back with the feeling that there was no closure of the previous school year.
Although each person is different and handles their experiences in a unique way, our effort will be aimed at facilitating the adaptation to a new structure, and to changes in routines and the school environment. In general terms, without limiting the variety of needs that may arise, before returning to the physical classroom students will need support in four main areas: the sense of security, emotions, interpersonal relationships and academics.
Photo: AMR Student Services Department

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