Psychologist and school social worker make themselves available during recess

Published: 10.1.2022 11.03
School psychologist and school social worker at recess wearing safety vests. There are children playing around them.
Kati Wilska-Seemer ja Henna Savolainen haluavat tehdä kuraattorin ja psykologin palvelut tutuiksi koulunsa oppilaille, jotta kynnys avun hakemiselle olisi entistä matalampi. Photo: Taru Turpeinen

During recess at Matinlahden koulu primary school, a couple of orange safety vests can be spotted among children and young people. On the back of one vest it says ‘KURAATTORI’ and on the other ‘PSYKOLOGI’. The KURPSY team, as they playfully say at school, spends once a week the longest recess of the day among the children and young people.

Regional School Social Worker Kati Wilska-Seemer and Psychologist Henna Savolainen want to make the services of school social workers and psychologists visible and familiar to pupils. 

“At our school, pupils do not hesitate to use the services of the school social worker and psychologist. Pupils may even come up to us at recess to ask when they can come and talk to us next time,” says Wilska-Seemer. “Pupils themselves may also suggest that they could start seeing us and thus have a chance to talk about stuff on their minds.”

Wilska-Seemer and Savolainen got the idea to reach out to children and young people at a meeting of the communal pupil welfare team a couple of years ago.

“We wanted to make our services known to pupils, and we thought that recess would be the most opportune place for that,” Savolainen recalls.

“The school bought us orange safety vests, on the back of which we wrote school social worker and psychologist with a black marker. This way, students can easily spot us during recess. Teachers can also easily direct pupils to the ‘one wearing an orange vest’,” says Wilska-Seemer. 

Last spring, for example, 6th-graders wanted to discuss the transition to upper comprehensive school.

The activities started in January 2020. At first, they introduced their activities to each grade level and spent recesses in one specific yard for one month. Matinlahden koulu primary school has more than 500 pupils and grades 1–6, so the school is divided into five different recess yards.

Nowadays, they go around several yards during one recess, because the children already know to expect them as their outreach activities have become familiar. Teachers and recess supervisors may also consult them at recess, if there are no children wanting to talk with them at that time.

School provides access to the children’s world

They both feel that their own well-being at work has also improved with the outreach activities, as they get to take a breath of fresh air and follow the children’s activities during recess.

Overall, working in the world of children is the best part of their work and the main reason as to why they both want to work specifically at school.

“Working at school is true to life. It is wonderful when pupils take an interest in you and run around you,” says Wilska-Seemer.

“Working at school is also very diverse,” Savolainen continues. “We are dealing with different phenomena, we support learning and sense of community by creating an operating culture that makes everyone feel good.”

They are also an integral part of the school community and collaboration with the teachers seems close and straightforward. Before COVID-19, they both also attended school celebrations.  

In addition to appointments with pupils, Wilska-Seemer runs ‘Arvokas’ classes together with teachers and also friendship clubs. In friendship clubs, children learn to get along with each other and how to be a good friend.

How are kids like nowadays?

They both agree that children are the same as before, but restlessness and concentration difficulties have increased and the threshold to resorting to violent speech and behaviour has become lower. There are certainly many reasons for these, but they both say that one possible reason is the fact that reading to children at home has decreased. Reading would help in recognising emotions and putting them into words.

Also interactions within families may have been reduced if everyone is glued to their own screens all evenings. The child’s self-regulation develops precisely in interaction with an adult close to them. In addition, the child is unable to regulate their own screen time; it needs to be done by an adult. Screen addiction affects adults and children alike. It is the adult’s responsibility to face the child’s emotional outbursts when regulating screen time.

Although the school psychologist and school social worker do not provide family services, their job description includes guiding and supporting parents in matters related to the well-being of children at school, thereby positively affecting the child’s well-being. They both say that moments, when children come to thank them for the help they have received or come to tell them how well they are doing, are invaluable in this line of work.

On the back of Kati Wilska-Seemer and Henna Savolainen’s safety vests it reads ‘school social worker’ and ‘psychologist’. This way, it is easier for children to spot them during recess. Photo: Taru Turpeinen
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