Counseling: An Innovative Approach to Listening

Teach Better TeamBlog, Connect Better


  • Counselors can continue to support school communities by digitally providing resources, ideas, and learning opportunities.
  • CASEL’s SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools helps guide counselors’ efforts to connect with students.
  • There is value in all educators delivering SEL content to students.
  • Resources from American School Counselor Association (ASCA) are shared.

We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy.  Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know” – Carl Rogers.

When COVID initially struck and our educational world was turned upside down, I’m embarrassed to say I felt almost instantly useless.  My superpower of being able to understand students, staff, and parents, and tap into my training and experience to offer support, felt immediately nullified by my remote work setting.  I vividly remember wallowing in my self-pity. I remember feeling helpless and irrelevant in our new normal.  But time has a funny way of reshaping one’s perspective.   

Counseling to Connect with Learners

Indeed, time influences a person’s opportunity to buy-in” – (Award Winning Culture).

As a counselor working in a remote, hybrid, and/or newly in-person atmosphere, people are basically seeking the same support they’ve always sought.  On some level, everyone desires to be seen, valued, and accepted.  As highly trained listeners, our most crucial work isn’t in the inspiring advice or insight we bring to others. It’s our ability to create such a unique culture where others feel empowered to uncover their own JOY through guided self-discovery.

Many counselors are taking advantage of their new tools to carve out special connections with learners.  Google Classrooms, websites, and social media are all regular mainstays for counseling outreach.  Providing resources, ideas, and learning opportunities through digital platforms continue to be a strong way to support our school communities.  

Our most crucial work isn’t in the inspiring advice or insight we bring to others. It's our ability to create such a unique culture where others feel empowered to uncover their own JOY through guided self-discovery. Click To Tweet

Counseling Using Technology

Innovative counselors are using a host of technological ideas to connect with students, while pushing the envelope in relationship building.  Some educators are using a digital journal to communicate with students on a consistent and ongoing schedule. 

Google Slides is a great platform for creating such a journal.  Check out this example counseling journal adapted from SlidesMania.  Of course, platforms like Flipgrid, Seesaw, and Zoom all offer video and audio style sharing capabilities that align perfectly with regular contact.

Counselors are also discovering numerous resources for teaching and modeling impactful social emotional learning during this pandemic.  For instance, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) has put out a 52-page SEL document of best practice titled: Reunite, Renew, Thrive.  This supportive resource is helping guide counselors’ efforts to connect with students while continuing to practice self-care for themselves.

As an “SEL roadmap for reopening schools,” CASEL is providing school personnel with a template of infusing SEL through a trauma informed, anti-racist, and equity inclusive lens.  These conversations for change have the ability to both remove systemic barriers and repair the whole child when we truly hear and see all parts of our learners. 

Educational Cross Training

However, counseling skills are not limited to counselors.  Educators are finding these skills increasingly relevant in modern times.  In my book, Award Winning Culture, I share about a concept I call Educational Cross Training.

Essentially, it’s the idea of learning other educator’s skills so that you can greater support the educational ecosystem.  COVID has clearly highlighted the need for all educators to functionally deliver SEL content to our students.

In fact, there are incredible educators who are taking SEL a step further to generate virtual reflection rooms.  My friend, Reyna Texler, is an SEL teacher in the North Rockland school district in New York.  Her virtual reflection room is widely considered the gold standard for reimaging an online world. The room incorporates the practice of mindfulness, guided imagery, and endless opportunities to explore coping strategies.

Perhaps, my favorite component of Texler’s room is the live animal cam to help children calm down while viewing their favorite 4-legged creatures.  By being willing to step outside the box in our diligence to create a safe and healthy space, educators are meeting the needs of our most impacted youth.

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ASCA Resources

Furthermore, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has created a number of useful documents to help professionals wade through the myriad of legal and ethical dilemmas of virtual guidance.  Here are a few:

By combining innovation, virtual best practice, and advanced empathy skills, educators around the world are continuing to reach learners during remote times.  Truthfully, the ability to sit with someone and understand, support, and challenge them is an incredible gift to share. 

Thanks to dedicated mental health practitioners who cultivate a warm and inviting culture, students are once again able to focus on discovering and developing their JOY through these remote safe spaces.    

Culture Better.  Teach Better.

About Hans Appel

Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, and writer deeply committed to inspiring the whole child. He’s the author of, Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. Additionally, he’s the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team, co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture.

Hans is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.