We Are Family, Virtually (#7)

Inspiring School Counselors
Inspiring School Counselors
We Are Family, Virtually (#7)

Developing deep connections with students doesn’t have to stop as schools, teachers, and counselors go virtual. Discover how it can actually work in your favor as high school Director of Guidance Aimee Portteus explains in this week’s podcast.

Aimee and her husband

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Matt Fleck:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s Encouraging Words for School Counselors. I’m Matt Fleck with inspire Success.

Today I want to take you behind the curtain, so to speak, to let you in on who we are and what we’re doing. I know you don’t know us, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a former high school counselor. My colleague Kelly Dunn is a former elementary and middle school counselor and the three others on staff here at Inspire Success have all worked with schools for the bulk of their lives. There’s just five of us. And even though we’re professional educators, we are not tech savvy, professional studio people or anything like that. I actually record this audio in the closet of our spare bedroom using freeware that I barely know how to use. And our Encouraging Words podcast was really an idea I had while taking a hike a couple of weeks ago, because we wanted to do something. But so many counselors told us, “we really don’t need another webinar or another zoom meeting,” sort of thank you, but please stop already. So we thought, how about something short and sweet that is focused on encouragement and funny stories. And that’s how this got started. The [Inspire Success] staff liked the idea. Amy is our miracle worker technology expert. She figured out how to do the podcast, how to get it so you can subscribe. And she put together our website. The rest of us helped get the word out. And Kelly’s daughter even created the music for our podcast this week. So it’s a family affair.

Now, why did I want you to know this? I guess, because we want you to understand that no matter how slick it sounds, we’re figuring things out as we go every hour of every day. Probably very similar to what you’re doing, too. So cheers to building the plane as it’s flying! No matter how it appears we’re family.

Now, our story relates to a story told to us recently by Amy Porteous who is director of guidance at Plymouth High School. All of the changes caused by the pandemic actually brought her closer to one particular student facing some significant challenges. And even though she didn’t really want to do online counseling, it actually helped him integrate into the school family.

Aimee Portteus:
One of the things that we have in Plymouth, that lots of communities have, is that we have a group home for kids who are wards of the state. And those kids are a very vital part of our student body. We adore our group home kids and right before we shut down, we had a new student move into the group home. So he didn’t have very much time to get to know us or feel like he was part of us. And without going into details, he has a pretty complex background, and had never had a place that he felt like he would call home. And so I don’t do telemedicine, but the kids are in my life. I run down the hallway and see how they’re doing, right? I couldn’t do that anymore. So this particular young man really took to talking to me over the computer and he’d not really opened up to me at all previous to that. So it was really interesting to see his growth and how he progressed in his attachment to this community when he was very rarely allowed to leave that house. But he literally, every day he would contact me in some way. I gave him once a week that I would call the house. I, you know, I had to set some boundaries because he wanted to talk all the time. But it was incredible to watch his growth as far as feeling like he had a place that was his own and that he belonged, he belonged. And so he is really excited to engage in school again. And I’m really excited to be able to, to do that with him again.

So the student is now connected to the school. Aimee also found herself more connected than ever to the group home.

Because we spent so much time talking, when a local food pantry contacted me and said, Okay, we’ve been given like, I don’t know, 5,000 pounds of potatoes or something ridiculous like that. You got any people who need them? So I called the group home and they’re like, yes, we would be happy to feed all these boys extra potatoes. So it just, it was a cool connection in networking between different things there that, you know, may not have happened necessarily.

It was unique in that, of course I have the potatoes in the back of my car, but I can’t talk to the boys in person. And so I’m like dropping potatoes off on their back porch and knocking and running. I felt like I was ditching them after I dropped off the potatoes. So you kind of get the giggles and doing things that are unique like that, but it was, it’s still connecting. And I think the boys know that they were loved and they felt like it was Christmas with potatoes on the back porch. Or Mrs. Portteus was here like the tooth fairy, you know? So I liked that part.

So whether it’s a group home or your own home or your school home, or even this little closet I’m recording in, we are definitely all connected, maybe virtually for now, but still here and still connected.

Hey, thanks for listening. Remember, we’d love to hear your stories. So go to our website at inspiresuccess.org/podcast and drop us a line there or email info@inspiresuccess.org.

Sending good vibrations your way! Have a phenomenal week.