In the stressful world that teenagers live in, it’s clear that more than just academic learning is required for true success. To deal with current and future pressure, and to learn work-life balance, students need to develop social and emotional skills. But for teachers whose days are packed with teaching (and yes, oh so much more) and guidance counselors who struggle to find the time to give students the help they need…how can this be done?

The Struggle of the Guidance Counselor

A guidance counselor fills a much needed role in a school. They’re there to help students figure out their schedules, figure out what they want to do when they get out of school (which is no simple task), and help students apply for college. And they’re there when students need emotional support, someone to talk to.

But here’s the predicament: what dictates when a student needs to see their counselor? When is it appropriate to take that student out of class, missing important class time? Because academics are important too. But do guidance counselors, or school therapists, have to wait until it’s a crisis situation to take the student out of class?

A Solution

A flex block, or activity period as some schools call it, is a low-impact solution. Why low impact? Because adding one to a school schedule requires no impact on instructional time in the school day. Usually lasting somewhere between 30-50 minutes, this flexible block of gives students time for extra help in classes, enrichment activities, and in many cases, social-emotional supports.

What It Looks Like

This flex block can serve as almost a class for school counselors. A designated time for students who need help to get it, without sacrificing class time. In some schools, counselors would meet with small groups of students repeatedly, throughout the whole school year, to create a discuss plans for what they were going to accomplish that school year, and in the future. With this strategy, those counselors were meeting with every student in the school multiple times.

At one high school in New Hampshire, the work counselors have done for students during this time is tremendous. They offer numerous groups for students, and even have a time during flex block where they have organized mindfulness activities when students just need a mental break.

Effective social-emotional learning helps students to find a balance between the instruction they need in their classes to succeed academically, but also the emotional support and mental help they need to succeed as a child growing into an adult. Providing time to give students these supports in a timely fashion, during the school day, has an immense positive impact. Why not give it a try at your school?

Let’s build a path to close the learning gap and enrich students’ futures.