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PreK-12 and Education Evaluation TIG Week: Treating the Whole Client and Teaching the Whole Child through Interdisciplinary Collaboration by Leigh M. Tolley and Morgan Fontenot

Hi everybody! We are Dr. Leigh M. Tolley, Assistant Professor, Secondary Education in the Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, and Ms. Morgan Fontenot, master’s student in the Counseling Department, both in the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. For the past several months, we have been working together on designing and developing a set of resources, which we are currently calling the Psychoeducational Knowledge Base, in order to support PreK-12 teachers and their students. This work is grounded in the concepts of counselors aiming to treat the whole client to do the best counseling, and educators who teach the whole child to do the best teaching. It initially was sparked by conversations with preservice teacher candidates in the first semester of the year-long teaching residency, required in Louisiana, as part of a formative evaluation of the residency-supporting course in the teacher preparation program. These teacher residents wanted to learn more about how to best support students’ needs, including forming and representing their identity, handling personal crises, and fostering mental health and wellness.

At this time, major categories of resources that we are compiling include emergency/crisis response and mandated reporting; allyship and/or awareness of LGBTQ+ students, gender identity, and sexuality; bullying prevention and resolution; addressing challenging behaviors in the classroom; dealing with grief and loss; supporting students who are neurodivergent, have a disability, or may otherwise be marginalized; mental health resources specifically for teachers, such as mitigating compassion fatigue; and classroom activities to support mental health and wellness. We have found that this collaboration across our respective content areas has helped us both better understand how these situations occur in context. Ultimately, we believe that this collection of resources will have positive impacts on preservice and inservice teachers and their students, all of whom are likely stakeholders included in educational evaluations.

Lessons Learned

Even though our work is still in the early stages, it contributes to reducing the “ignorance gap” that exists when we continue to stick to our own fields and silo our knowledge instead of sharing that information. We have discovered a number of overlaps where we can help to support each other, as well as where we will seek more input from preservice and inservice teachers in the field about their (and their students’) specific needs.

Understanding that mental health and wellness can be daunting to those for whom this is not their professional focus. Even an increased awareness about resources that exist and knowing more about who *can* provide supports (especially school counselors!) can help educators and evaluators alike in being more sensitive to issues that may exist within the context of our work.

Rad Resources

The School-Based Health Alliance’s website, Hallways to Health: Creating a School-Wide Culture of Wellness is a great starting point for thinking about counseling in education. There is a wealth of resources provided through this site, such as engaging youth and parents and guardians, and building buy-in and engaging stakeholders and partners while building and sustaining this shared culture.

The Child Mind Institute’s Resources for Teachers page provides information about mental health in the classroom. Guides are available in this section about supporting students with different needs, and other parts of the site address additional facets of teaching and aiding children in various learning contexts. These guides can help educational evaluators in being more mindful of the students they may encounter in their work and encouraging empowering conversations with teachers and other relevant stakeholders to support their needs.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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