When Dara Hardesty shared with her students that she was pregnant, the results were both revealing and unexpected.
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Hi! Welcome to Encouraging Words for School Counselors. I’m Matt Fleck with Inspire Success. Dara Hardesty is our guest today. She is the upper school counselor at Enlace Academy, a K-8 charter school with about 600 students — many for whom English is a second language, which is especially challenging for Dara who only speaks English. She says Google translate is her constant friend and companion. But we digress, because Dara’s story is not about language barriers, but about a new arrival.
Last year, I was pregnant with my daughter and my students — this is my third year here, and so some of my students I’ve had for a while. And when I announced to them that I was pregnant, I mean, it was as if their best friend was pregnant. And so, for the entire school year, until COVID hit and we shut down, I would have students check on me. They wouldn’t let me carry — if I carried, like, my laptop somewhere, they would want to carry it back. They wouldn’t let me carry it. And it was not a high risk pregnancy. I wasn’t, there were no concerns. But they were concerned!
And then thankfully, I got to find out the gender right before COVID hit. And my sixth grade students threw a gender reveal party for me at lunch and it was so much fun! They had purchased blue and pink post-it notes and every student that came in would pick up a post-it note. And we have two windows right outside our cafeteria, and they, like, put them up on boy and girl. And then they took a balloon and they filled it with, like, the confetti. A couple of students, I told them, and we popped a balloon in front of the whole cafeteria and the — we have it on film — the eruption from the cafeteria could probably be heard by our next door neighbors, it was so loud! And it was so it’s just, that was so fun. It was so fun!
And then COVID hit and Dara didn’t get to see her students until this fall, after the baby was born.
And when I came back this year, I got on a Zoom call with my now seventh graders. I wanted to check on them and see how they were doing and see how COVID was affecting them. And the very first question is, “Where’s the baby?” “I need to see her, show us a picture.” And it was just that connection with them. It’s just so fun. I just love it. They weren’t going to give me a word until they saw the baby.
What’s especially intriguing about Dara’s story is that there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. When Dara discovered from involving her students in the reality of her life, including the ups and downs of her pregnancy, was that it had an interesting impact on a particular group of girls in ways that she did not anticipate.
Last year, they were just kind of getting into some trouble and not making great decisions. And when they kind of like took ownership of this, telling the whole grade about me, and giving updates on me and my health, and magically, they stopped making those decisions. And their grades improved, and their attendance improved. They wanted to come to school. And I, I mean, I had them in counseling. I was counseling them, but that wasn’t what made the impact. It was that they had an opportunity to serve me. And so, it helped them. It was so neat. And I joked, I actually joked with them, I’m like, I wish I could be pregnant every year because it makes such a great impact on my students.
Well, it’s effective, but not a counseling technique we recommend for everyone. But isn’t Dara’s story true? I remember a counselor educator telling me once that the best way to work with some students is indirectly. Not looking them in the eyes, or forcing them to confront an issue directly, but just being there alongside them, perhaps playing a game of cards or talking about sports or working on a project.
I let my kids be in my life with me and that’s made a huge difference in my life and their lives.
Thanks, Dara, for a great story. And thank you for being here with us. We would love to record your humorous or touching story to encourage other counselors. So drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a like, or a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram under 1nspireSuccess. Just replace the first I with the number one. Or ask your smarty-pants speaker to play the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast.
We are expecting to hear from you! Have a great week!