I think guidance counselors are one of the most underused tools at school. Wait, let me rephrase that I think guidance counselors are one of the tools incorrectly overused.
When I look back at my school career, I can say I remember my elementary guidance counselor. She was tall with brown hair and a kind voice. No clue who the guidance counselors were at middle school. I’m almost sure that I didn’t know they even existed. And for high school, I would invade my guidance counselor’s office for nearly four years, asking her to help me find a college that had a degree in oceanography or something close to it. But not once do I remember my guidance counselors being as present as the fantastic staff at my school.
If parents were to walk the campus of the middle school I work at, I promise you over half of them would be astonished by how present our guidance counselors and behavioral health specialists are. Students of all grade levels know their names, most of whom know where their offices are. The repore the students have with these professionals is impressive. For the most part, they feel comfortable talking about their issues with the staff and even will seek out help. And those students who kept their problems closer to the vest don’t usually fight the extra push in the right direction. I’ve heard from many of my students that after speaking with a guidance counselor, they don’t feel judged but actually heard for the first time. And I agree entirely with them.
I don’t know how often I have found myself in one of the guidance counselors’ offices asking for advice. Sometimes it’s for assistance handling a student with a 504 or IEP. However, I’ve found myself in their offices more often than not with personal questions, sometimes self-care because my students have stressed me the fuck out, sometimes about my kids, and a few times about my postpartum mindset. I’m unsure if this is like that at all schools or if we are just blessed with an and staff.
I think all companies should have guidance counselors. Not HR people because you can’t talk to the person in control of hiring and firing freely. No, a guidance counselor, psychologist, whatever you want to call the person, someone impartial to your career should be available to talk to. I think that could help avoid workplace burnout.
As much as I sing the praises of our counselors, there is something that I disagree with that is done across the county when it comes to them. Guidance counselors are used in so many other areas that are well outside the realm of counselors that I wonder how they can do their actual job.
The district requires them to present Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons to each grade level several times throughout the year. They also have to present to each grade level these mental health suite 360 lessons as well. The one coming up is about the Prevention of Suicide. And while yes, the topic is tough to present, they don’t have control over how to discuss the issue.
I don’t think it’s fair that schools are given those extremely difficult and triggering topics, and all schools are expected to teach them the same way. I believe each school should be able to take the issue and tailor it to the school’s location. Because I seriously doubt that the discussions going on at the middle schools in Boca Raton are the same as Belle Glade and Pahokee. Also, our guidance counselors may know what emotional level to present these topics with better than one size fits all. If the guidance counselors weren’t busy being testing monitors or filling in for teacher duties, they could target groups of kids and have a more personal discussion with them.
I know many of these duties that guidance counselors go through now are because of what happened in Parkland. We don’t want another student to slip through the cracks, but I’m not sure if we keep adding more tasks to their plates, they will be able to see the students. We will have all these fantastic PowerPoint and well-thought-out plans but no students left to save because those who are meant to help are bogged down with the extra work of the School Board bureaucracy.