Kate McGonnell

South St. Marys Street Elementary School Counselor Kate McGonnell created her own self care blog this year.

ST. MARYS — South St. Marys Street Elementary School Guidance Counselor Kate McGonnell dedicated much of her time throughout remote learning to ensure students know how to healthily manage feelings of stress.

McGonnell said she has been able to assign activities using the SeeSaw platform during remote learning, as well as face-to-face classroom activities. She has been creating and sharing her own activities and lessons, too, using the “guidance” tab/classroom on the SeeSaw portal.

“All year, whether face-to-face or remote, I’ve been focusing my lessons at every grade level on stress management and coping skills,” she said.

McGonnell typically starts a lesson with a discussion about a problem or concern, such as stress or anxiety, introducing a coping skill or relaxation activity. She has hosted career exploration activities, too, and younger children have created a “worker” by drawing a picture and identifying the tools needed to do that job.

“Older students have done a Friday reflection activity, reflecting back on what they have accomplished that week, and what goals they might have for the upcoming week,” she said. “Students have also had the opportunity to brag and tell me something that they do that they are proud of.”

Students are definitely experiencing more emotional stress, says McGonnell. She also addresses how change can cause stress, even good ones such as moving into a new home.

“In the lessons, we talk about how people like their routines,” she said.

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Children are also picking up on their parents’ stress, McGonnell notes.

“This was especially noticeable before Christmastime,” she said. “Many students were mentioning money worries and concerns for family members.”

McGonnell said the best thing she can do is support students and families throughout “the year of the pandemic.”

“Many of us have felt somewhat helpless, but wanting to be able to do something to support others through this crisis,” she said. “With social distancing requirements, this can be hard to figure out.”

It excites her to hear students use the words stress, anxiety, coping skills and relaxation, says McGonnell.

“They are listening and hearing,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a broken record, but there is always a glimmer during every lesson – a sign that someone needs this information, and that I am actually making a difference.”

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