The Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education (JAGCE) and CHOICES Career & Education Advice have started a series of “REACH OUT” Zoom Sessions to help and support counsellors, parents and students during the Covid-19 crisis.
At the first of these initiatives, over one hundred guidance counsellors representing schools across the six educational regions in the island met virtually to discuss strategies to deal with the impact of Covid-19 on their students and parents.
Guest presenter at the online event was Dr. Karelle Hylton, a counselling psychologist and herself a guidance counsellor at the secondary level, who addressed participants on the subject “Helping Students & Parents Through The Covid-19 Disruption”.
In her presentation Dr. Hylton went through means for counsellors to equip themselves in order to get the minds of people adapted to the reality of life before, during and after Covid-19.
According to her, with Covid-19 changing what we accept as normal to a new paradigm, “We are in a valiant fight for a sense of normalcy. Our equipment to fight is our training and our unique ability to empathize with our clients. We are very important change agents”. As examples of this she cited how persons are now expected to interact with each other and the cultural changes we now see in how funerals, marriages, social gatherings and even with education now being online.
She referenced the 4F’s – family, food, friends and fitness – as being of utmost importance. Also under discussion for them, along with individual representatives from St. Kitts-Nevis and Grenada, were personal self-care tips for themselves in view of the fact that as counsellors this group are the front-runners in the psychosocial, emotional and cognitive war against Covid-19 and so must put themselves in a position to manage and assist others.
The Reach Out Zoom session organised by CHOICES Career & Education Advice (Wednesday April 29) ended with those present overwhelmingly pledging their support for the formation of a network of Caribbean counsellors and committing to a follow-up session. The online forum on the theme “Joining Hearts & Minds in Coping With Covid-19” attracted the participation of close to 300 counsellors, ministry of education officers and social agency representatives from 13 islands across the English-Speaking Caribbean. It was presented in association with The Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education (JAGCE) and the Barbados Association of Guidance Counsellors (BAGC) with the aim of helping attendees to understand approaches being used in sister islands and also for them to share new best practices which are working in this unprecedented Covid-19 situation.
Co-hosts of the event were Jamaicans, Mrs. Angela deFreitas of CHOICES and Mr. Richard Skyers of JAGCE and Barbadian, Mrs. Margaret Grant of BAGC.
Special guest presenter on the subject was Dr. Karelle Hylton, counselling psychologist and school counsellor. Dr. Hylton covered the subject in detail looking at many aspects relating to counsellors and their responsibility to individual students, their school family and community and also to their own personal family and well-being as they take on the heavy burden of providing psychological and emotional support across various communities at this time during Covid-19 and afterwards, all in a new environment of having to use internet technologies.
She said, “I realise that we are all giving dedicated service in this whirlwind that we have all found ourselves of using technology to get our guidance and counselling skills across”. Her presentation looked at areas relating to personal finance, health and fitness, good nutrition, professional development and refreshing and rebuilding their own personal counselling skills in the vital areas which will be required such as grief therapy when persons have lost a family member, lost their source of income, lost a relationship and many more scenarios.
She stressed the importance of finding the positive in Covid-19. “We can spend more time with family; we can connect and reconnect with family; we are alive and still active and healthy. We have to help people to see the hope and that there is life after Covid”, she shared with attendees.
In advising counsellors on how to prepare themselves for their task, she urged counsellors to come out the Covid-19 “fear zone” and get quickly into the “learning” and “growth” zones if they are to help and serve others. “Lift yourself with self-affirmations, remain calm, patient and giving of self but without hurting yourself”. She used the example of a tea bag being prepared for hot water in a teacup. Counsellors know that they must jump into hot water so they must prepare for it was her point. “Clients will be coming to us with ‘grey’; we will have to be the change agents to add back the colour they need”.
She looked at burn-out and warned her colleagues to recognize this in themselves while also guarding against empathy with clients becoming sympathy for them in their many and varied situations. She also advised them to know when they themselves need help and how and when to say “no” in order to create a balance between giving selflessly to others and caring for their own mental and emotional selves.
In her opening remarks, Mrs. deFreitas acknowledged that this was an unprecedented gathering of so many persons of like mind in pursuit of common goals. She identified the need for the digital divide between Caribbean countries and within groups and communities within Caribbean countries to be bridged if students are to benefit from online education and if counsellors are to be able to reach out to their clients to provide the services required through internet technology. She also posed the idea of the next step being the formation of a Caribbean association for guidance counsellors.
In sharing individual island reports a representative from each island was asked describe initiatives implemented by their ministries of education and counsellors to lend assistance during Covid-19. They revealed initiatives such as implementing active Whatsap groups, using radio and television broadcasts, Facebook and Instagram pages, You Tube channels, hot-lines for real-time call-ins, training seminars on psychological first-aid and pandemic disruption, Zoom meetings, online guidance classes, provision of care packages, tele-counselling, forming support groups for students and others, putting out information in public service announcements, providing information in foreign languages for non-english-speaking family members in the home, using virtual education sites such as Edmodo, Google Suite for Education, Zoom, Teams, use of sharing platforms and other internet technologies, providing hot lunches for students and other such activities.
Counsellors need great listening skills to perform their job effectively. These skills are even more important in this new era of technology and virtual counselling.
CHOICES has been offered a great opportunity by Toastmasters International (TI) which we are sharing with counsellors. It is a workshop on the subject “How to Listen Effectively”. This will be a Zoom session which promises to be a great learning experience leading to a certificate of participation.
The workshop will offer nine valuable techniques for improving your listening skills and is designed to help participants:
- To develop skills in active listening
- To gain awareness of how to eliminate hasty judgments when listening
- To provide experience in learning how to ignore distractions
- To practice listening to understand
- To become aware of your mental time when you are listening
- To promote listening readiness
- To study barriers to effective listening
MORE ABOUT THIS WORKSHOP
The best way to understand people is to listen to what they are saying. Good listening skills help us understand the other person’s point of view. This, in turn, helps us to make better decisions. Studies show that almost all of us listen at only about 25 percent efficiency level. That means we don’t retain three-fourths of what’s said to us.
Just because you may not be talking when someone else is speaking doesn’t mean you are listening to what the speaker is saying. You may be thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, or perhaps your own witty response, or maybe you’re totally tuned out. If this is so, you need to work on your listening skills.
Dr. Ralph Nichols, who pioneered the study of listening, says that bad listening is the true cause of personality clashes, poor morale, bad communications, production breakdowns and misguided management.
LISTENING … A LEARNED SKILL
Modern research tells us that, without training, most of us are poor listeners. Research also shows that listening can be improved as easily as any other skill. It’s a learned behaviour. With proper instruction and practice you can learn to listen just like you learned to read.
Sauna Maragh has a Masters degree in Instructional Technology with a specialization in Human Resource Management. She is a former teacher in Jamaica and also spent many years teaching in Japan.
She is a Toastmaster with advanced leadership and communication skills.
We must thank you for your patience as we develop strategies, protocols and methods for presenting our CHOICES REACH OUT ZOOM sessions online for students, parents and teachers. We recognize that your school had dates booked for this period for workshops for your students and we are offering you our REACH OUT Zoom sessions instead. You can book a date for your student only.
We have also created several opportunities for you, your students and parents. These include:
- Having students join one of our REACH OUT Zoom sessions on choosing a career (grade 9), getting ready for the future world of work (upper school) and/or making the transition to secondary school (those coming in to Grade 7). Registration details, dates and times will be on our website as each date approaches – www.choicescaribbean.com/students
- Having an online workshop for your students only. You can communicate with us directly if you choose this option – 876-782-1644 as special arrangements must be made for time and date.
- We can join your online parent, form or grade level meetings to offer our expertise in the areas of career choice, subject choice, parenting support etc.
- Our website is available to all who require career and education information. The site is constantly being updated with more information for students, teachers/counsellors and parents – www.choicescaribbean.com
- Products which support the themes of the sessions can be purchased in our online store – www.choicescaribbean.com/shop .
- The Career Key Test can be done on line by individual students from the link on our website – www.choicescaribbean.com/career-key.
- We will soon be rolling out a platform on which large school groups can do The Career Key Test and teachers/counsellors will be able to access the result of each of their students.
We recognise that this is a very unusual year and that there could possibly be a “lost cohort” of students in every single grade or form. That is why for the remainder of this term, all of our online sessions are FREE OF COST and we encourage you to encourage your students to take advantage of them in this period.
We anxiously await the day when we can return to your school and present to your students face-to-face. In the mean time we are happy to still be able to serve your school populations through these virtual means.
We look forward to hearing from you.
WHAT IS COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly
HOW DOES IT AFFECT PEOPLE?
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate
respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people,
and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes,
chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge
from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that
you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways.
Common symptoms include:
Other symptoms include:
shortness of breath
aches and pains
and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose
HOW CAN WE STOP IT?
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the
COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads.
We can all do the following:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with
alcohol-based hand rub.
Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or
Avoid touching your face.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Stay home if you feel unwell.
Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
Avoid unnecessary travel and stay away from large groups of people.
At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However,
there are many on-going clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.
World Health Organization
Acting responsibly, practising self-management and control, in many cases, can be the difference between positive or negative outcomes. This is an important fact in these times.
How each individual acts now, in the midst of Covid 19, will be the difference between successfully getting through this or being economically and personally decimated as a consequence. Several deaths have already occurred in the Caribbean. We must now stop this virus here, in its tracks. If community spread begins, the consequence of poor self-management and control could flatten our healthcare systems and our Caribbean economies in a flash. None of our Caribbean countries can manage an overload on its healthcare system and no country can manage economic decline.
We do, however, have control. We can beat Covid 19. But first we have to be serious; no pussyfooting and tiptoeing around as if this is a joke. It is not a joke.
We are human beings but cannot put our individual human feelings ahead of the national and global good. This is not the time for that. This is the time for local and universal solidarity, the sharing of vital information, technology and resources.
Let’s not complain or use this as a political football. We’re all in the same boat.
Individual human rights cannot take priority over human safety and health. This may sound autocratic but it’s necessary. This is not about the individual.
So, let us all do what we need to do.
- Follow the recommendations by our ministries of health.
- Act as if you have the virus. Stay away from other people. Self isolate. It’s not forever; just for a short while.
- Work from home. W
- Be our brother’s keeper. Shop for your elderly neighbors, family and friends at a time when least people are there.
- Get a mask and wear it in public- even if you feel silly.
- Maintain sanitizing protocols.
- If symptoms occur call the relevant numbers and follow instructions for what to do. Do not report to a clinic, hospital, doctor’s office or other public facility. This is very important so that you do not spread infection. Call the numbers. Do as Instructed.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle; exercise at home and eat as well as possible.
- Be productive and maintain brain and emotional well-being.
- Most importantly, do not panic.
We have two examples in front of us. One positive in its strategy and results – China. The other is Italy with its increasing negative results which we do not want replicated in the Caribbean.
We can decide what our fate will be.
The new, updated Career Key (Caribbean edition) paper and pen version is now available. It now has 28 full-colour pages and includes sections on Matching Personality to Work Environment, Your Career & Life Success Portfolio, Some Winning Strategies and listings of Caribbean educational institutions.
This psychometric test has been widely used throughout the Caribbean for over 15 years and has been found to be most reliable in helping people to know their personality and choosing a suitable career in which they will be happy and successful.
Email CHOICES at – firstname.lastname@example.org – for more information on our packages for students, parents, counsellors and teachers.
The Career Key Test is also available online – CLICK HERE
Subject choice day for the grade 9 students of Wolmer’s High School for Girls in Kingston, Jamaica, was eagerly anticipated by them. The regular timetable of classes was abandoned and replaced instead by a day of information sessions, workshops and presentations as they reflected and contemplated on how to begin to position themselves for success in their future education, career and life.
The over 200 students were informed through presentations by their peers in higher grades, their teachers, parents and persons in the working world, all with the objective of assisting them in making the right choices.
The task of the day was put into context with a workshop by CHOICES Career & Education Advice during which students did the Career Key Test to help them in knowing their personality – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional – and in which they also received a CHOICES Magazine themed “Your CXC’s” to help them in matching subjects with careers and to learn more about tertiary institutions and the programmes offered there.
Continue reading ““SUBJECT CHOICE DAY” HELPS STUDENTS & PARENTS”