Effortville Primary: a safe haven, and a place for STARS

Usually when I arrive at school, there are about five or six students who are waiting for me at my office door. Oftentimes they start unloading even before I open up. Most times my breakfast is left uneaten.

Effortville Primary is their safe haven; the place where they can enjoy their childhood without fear. After traumatic events of the night they cannot wait for school to tell me about their fears and their pain. We’ve had students and parents who’ve been shot and the stress of these events are evident on the faces. As a result of violence, our enrollment – which should have been 330 – is now down.

I’ve been a teacher since 2001 and a guidance counsellor since 2008 and during that time I have seen the violence in the community increase, and so have the demands on me. This is so, because it is not only the students that are affected. Everyone wants to release their fears and pains: parents, other staff members and administrators. Everyone seeks advice from the counsellor.

Guidance counsellors themselves need help

A few months ago I did a stress test and the lady told me, “Compassionate fatigue has taken you over and you have to let it go girl!” So yes, I’m recuperating.

At times I honestly feel that my work is not of any worth because there are so many issues coming at you and you don’t see yourself making a difference. Guidance counsellors like me, we have to find a better way as we cannot do it alone – we need a framework where the entire school is involved.

About two years ago, I got an email about a town hall meeting where Albert Town High School was sharing their experience of being part of the Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) pilot. 

Children respond to positive behaviour incentives

As I sat there I could relate to their situation, about what they’ve done to encourage ‘being RICH’ (Respectful, Industrious, Courteous and Honest) and I’m glad that we’ve reached a point where Effortville too is joining SWPBIS.

I believe people are motivated by incentives and I see where reinforcing positive behaviours works. I know our culture is to highlight negatives but we need to move away from that and have a child-friendly environment.

Our Boys and Girls Day, which we just held, is a springboard. We wanted to get our boys and our girls to appreciate themselves more. Normally in schools it is done on separate days, but while we had special activities for each gender, we also wanted to make them more away of each another.

Male role models lend a hand

We have just one male teacher, the principal, yet most of our students are male. So you can imagine how important it can be to have other male role models. The police superintendent did a rap session for the boys and the social workers from the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) did separate sessions for each gender. The social worker for the Ministry of Education Region Six addressed the girls.

“Be STARS wherever you are” was the theme for the day. STARS being: Smart, Trustworthy, Ambitious, Respectful and Safe. I’m looking forward to Effortville Primary doing that 365 days of the year.

For experiences of schools participating in SWPBIS click here. For schools who would like to join, contact Fern McFarlane in the Guidance Counselling Unit at the Ministry of Education.

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