Jordan: Time to work on living

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

School guidance counselors have a special job.

While others are teaching math or bandaging scraped knees, counselors help coach students through bullying, bad home situations and the worst of emotional trauma.

They are the nurses of the psyche.

This year, four retiring guidance counselors will take with them a combined 152 years of experience in Suffolk Public Schools.

“There are a lot of people leaving this year,” said Barbara Jordan, a guidance counselor at Kilby Shores Elementary School. “There are four from Kilby Shores retiring. But it’s time to let some younger folks come in. It’s time to go enjoy life and leave this to the young folks.”

Jordan began her years with Suffolk Public Schools in 1972 as a teacher’s assistant at William Jones Elementary School, now closed, in Whaleyville. After three years, she went to Norfolk State University to finish her last year of college and received her bachelor’s degree in science. In 1976, she began teaching English and Social Studies at Southwestern Elementary School and transferred to Nansemond Parkway Elementary School, where she taught fourth grade for 10 years.

After receiving her masters at Norfolk State, she began teaching at Robertson and Kilby Shores Elementary School, and has been the full-time counselor at Kilby Shores for the past 20 years. She also received a certificate of advanced studies and administration through Old Dominion University.

“It has been a wonderful 36 years,” Jordan said. “As the years go on, a lot of the times you have kids come back and remind you of something you helped them through. It means so much to know you’ve helped. That’s why you do what you do.”

As a guidance counselor, Jordan wears many hats — including being responsible for many Standards of Learning test responsibilities.

“I developed a rap to help children study for the SOL tests,” Jordan said. “I run into students at the mall who remember me and the rap and will start rapping there in the mall.”

While SOL preparation is an important part of the school system, Jordan’s focus is the health and safety of her students.

“One girl I worked with, left in fifth grade,” Jordan said. “I worked with her through different problems. She had some behavioral problems, and I wanted to give her the skills to be a conflict mediator. She came back the next year and told me she’d remembered what I taught her and used them with her family. She said I taught her how to walk away from some situations without fighting.”

A key to her work with the children has been respecting their intellect and ability to learn.

“All children can learn,” Jordan said. “No matter how difficult things are, they all have the ability to improve. They might not learn at the same speed, but if you constant teach them they can learn.”

While Jordan said leaving the students at Kilby Shores will be difficult she knows it’s time to move on and knows they’ll be left in good hands.

“I have a poster on my blackboard that says ‘Retirement is when you stop living at work and start working at living,’” Jordan said. “That’s what I’m going to do. I signed my paperwork a long time ago. I’ve been here for nearly 40 years. That’s almost three-quarters of my lifetime. It’s just time.”