With a cozy chair, student artwork, stuffed animals, inspirational quotes, costumes and multicolored lights, Elementary School Counsellor Shiri Benoualid’s third-floor office is a warm and inviting place. So inviting, in fact, that students eagerly sign-up for a turn to play there during recess – and hang out with Shiri, of course!
We asked Shiri a few questions to learn a bit more about the important role she plays at Hebrew Academy Elementary School:
HA: What days do you work at Hebrew Academy?
SB: I work at HA full-time, so I’m here every day! On Tuesdays I’m here in the afternoon and Fridays until noon.
HA: What are some reasons students may visit you and do they come on their own or do they get referred?
SB: Students know they can come see me to either talk or play. When it comes to talking, the kids know they can come and talk to me about anything that bothers them – from friendship conflicts to issues they have a hard time dealing with in school or at home. Kids either come on their own to report issues or things they experience or see. I also get referrals from parents and teachers, as well as from my own observations. Kids can also come and play in my office during recess. I have a first-come first-serve list, so everyone has a chance to come and play – this is a good opportunity for the kids to have a little time to enjoy themselves in an unstructured setting while building and creating friendships with their peers. It’s also a chance for me to get to know the kids better and to help them develop healthy social skills.
HA: Will you be running any programs in the coming year for any of the grades?
SB: This year I am excited to launch a program called The Zones of Regulation, which was developed by an occupational therapist and promotes self-regulation and the expression of feelings. I will pilot this program with the Kindergarten classes in the next few weeks, then hopefully move on to Grades 1 and 2. The goal of the program is to get kids to first feel comfortable with all feelings – even those that are more difficult, such as anger and fear. Then we will explore ways of processing those feelings so that students can return to a state of calm and be ready to learn while behaving properly in class.
We wish Shiri hazlacha with the program and look forward to covering it once it’s implemented in the classes!
-by Aviva Engel, Director of Communications