Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Being a School Counselor: Loves and Challeges

A reader asked me to share the pros and cons of my job as a school counselor. Instead of giving pros and cons I would rather share things I love about my job and some challenges.

Things I love about being a School Counselor

Working with Students.  I love that I am able to offer students a place where they feel safe and will be heard. I have a variety of toys, games, and art supplies so students can express their concerns and feelings non-verbally as well as verbally.

Facilitating Groups. I love facilitating groups. It is very powerful to watch the group change over time and to see students helping other students.  I facilitate groups on a myriad of topics, including anger management, grief/loss, children of incarcerated parents, attendance, character education, and more.

Facilitating Classroom Lessons. I love going into the classroom to facilitate lessons.  Facilitating classroom lessons allows me to connect with all students. Some students with whom I never met before will come to meet with me after classroom lessons. Being visible in the school makes students more comfortable with coming to see me. Some of my favorite lessons have been: "Rumors and Toothpaste," "With Our Own Two Hands," and "Spaghetti, Marshmallows, and Cooperation."

Unpredictability. I love the unpredictability of my day. I wrote about this in blog post called "Plan to be Surprised." The school day is unpredictable and the day may be completely different than you originally planned.


Challenges I Face in my Job as a School Counselor.

Never Enough Time. One of the challenges I face is feeling like I never have enough time. That is probably the biggest one. As a school counselor, you are asked to wear many hats. I am in leadership positions in the school, I have meetings for the counseling division for the district, I have professional development opportunities I want to attend, and I have my normal roles and responsibilities.

Also, the unpredictability I love can also add to the "never enough time" challenge.  Some days I have things planned that I need to get done and there is a crisis that I end up working with most of the day (or sometimes the whole day). I either have to stay after school to finish it, come in early, or get it done later than I wanted to.

Attendance. At my district, the counselors play a large role in the attendance process. We schedule meetings with families called Truancy Elimination Plan (TEP) meetings. Attendance is a huge issue in our district. This process is very time consuming and it is difficult at times to get the families to come in to school. I am going to try to make this process more proactive this school year. I collected data last year of students with the most days missed and plan on running some groups and doing programs specifically for those students.

A lot of the students do not have alarm clocks. My friend and colleague wrote letters to local businesses to get donations of alarm clocks because she was spending so much of her own personal money to buy them for students. I plan to write donation letters also because sometimes the problem of truancy is as simple as the student needing a clock.

Scheduling. I enjoy meeting with students about career development and career interests. Scheduling last year was a daunting task because I was new to the building and did not really know the 8th graders before I assisted them with scheduling. I scheduled about 80 students and entered each one into the computer. It was very time consuming.

This year, I think the process will go much smoother. I plan to do classroom lessons with the 8th grade before scheduling.  I want all of the students to complete a career interest inventory before scheduling as well. I believe that if students have an idea of what they are interested in before scheduling it will help me help them make a correlation between their interests and the classes they want to take in 9th grade.

School Counseling is What YOU Make of it. 

I love my job even the challenges (gasp!). I personally like to feel challenged it is what makes my life interesting. I may not have control over everything, but I do have control over the way I advocate for myself and my program. I have worked a variety of places, but the same theme has rang true for me: School Counseling is What YOU Make of it.

Something my dad always says is: "You don't get what you don't ask for." That statement is very true! I think about that statement a lot in my everyday life. (It stifles my complaining about things... well most of the time anyway ;) ). If you want more time to go into the classroom for classroom lessons, ask! If you don't get it the first time, prove it would be beneficial with data. Show what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of children. Who can argue with that?

I am not saying it is going to work every time,  or that it will happen instantly. My point again (thanks to my dad) is "You don't get what you don't ask for." If no one knows what you do is important or why you want to do it, why would they support it?

At the charter school where I worked as a long term substitute, I did not have a space to meet with students individually. I did however get to go into the classroom more and more because I advocated for myself and my need to connect with students as a school counselor.  I asked about having a space for students all the time, but there was no giving in on the administration's part. I was only there for three months before I was offered a full time position at my current job. So, who knows what would have happened if I kept bringing it up and proved why I needed it.

What are the things you love about school counseling? What are some of the challenges you face? Share your experience below in the comment section or on the School Counselor Blog's Facebook Page.


Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.
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