By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant

“There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.”
– Clare Booth Luce (1903 – 1987)

The main goal of all professional guidance counselors in schools is to guide and counsel all students; but their top priority is to try to help the troubled ones. During my recent 2 year experience as a guidance counselor in Belize, I worked with many high school students (all levels, from 1st to 4th formers) to help them confront and try to overcome many of their recurring problems. My overall goals included: helping students to improve their learning skills, guiding them toward becoming more goal-oriented and having better self-esteem, and helping them advance to the next higher level in education. Some of their recurring problems and the strategies I used to try to help students and teachers overcome these problems include,

  • lack of student motivation to learn – I tried to create maximum-strength motivation in students to encourage them to “want” to learn; I encouraged teachers to do the same.
  • physical and emotional aggression – I tried to spot aggression in students before it exploded in the classroom. I worked with administration to provide alternative positive outlets for students to vent their frustrations and aggression. (Everyday many students bring so much anger from outside the school, i.e. from home)
  • abuse that students receive at home – As an administrator I made every effort to work closely with social workers, and the police when necessary, because no learning will occur when students are not physically and emotionally safe. (Safety should always be a major concern for all schools!)
  • lack of coping skills for all students – Educators are educators, not problem solvers; however, I provided a wide variety of strategies and coping mechanisms to students to help them learn to deal with a wide variety of problems such as: substance abuse (alcohol/marijuana/hard drugs), bullying, special needs (ADHD and other disorders that create ‘slow’ learners), conduct disorders that can be traced to a total lack of early discipline training in the home, and many other behavioral problems. (In School Suspension included mandatory drug education!)

Working with young adults (students) can be challenging, but the rewards are priceless. Seeing high school students confront their problems, and then overcome them is exhilarating! How, though, do we provide similar strategies that work to so many unmotivated adult Belizeans? Is it too late to try to overcome the pervading apathy, even defiance, that pervades most of the country like an all-encompassing cloak of death? Guidance counselors and educators at least have 4 years to work with students in high schools. We no longer have 4 years to help unmotivated adults to change. How can we now motivate so many unmotivated adult Belizeans when the country is in DIRE need of immediate action to prevent it from sinking any lower that it has already sunk?

Author’s Note:

These articles on Education are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. When we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, we learn from our mistakes as well as success. Here’s to fining the best path to follow, fellow educators!

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About Gustavo Ramirez

Gustavo A. Ramirez is an educationist with many years of experience in the field of education. He has worked in capacities as teacher and guidance counselor in secondary schools since 1978, and has been instrumental in incubating and nurturing guidance counseling through systems, curricula and people development, both in Belize and the United States. He writes several columns dealing with the constant need for adapting and embracing “change” in Belize’s Education systems. Ramirez holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology (Guidance Counseling) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin. He attended Holy Redeemer Boys School, St. John‘s College, and St. Michael’s College (Sixth Form/Junior College) in Belize City.

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