Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Will Not Be Ignored! School Counselors Doing It For Themselves

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Well, it is the apex of our year (supposedly)...National School Counselor Week!  Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing our counseling colleagues honored by the First Lady at the White House and I was so proud for them!  Although there was much fanfare in Washington, around the nation there were many school counselors who were unaware this event was even going on...how sad.  For instance, many of the school counselors in our district county were unconsciously unaware that the White House was throwing this amazing affair.  Sigh...
Makes me so proud!

Now let me digress for a minute...

Before going to college, I worked in a video store.  Each month, we would get about ten new movies to watch, tell our patrons about them, and either recommend or not recommend that particular film.  So, during this time I watched a lot of movies and I still remember a lot of them (especially some of their one liners).  Thinking about our profession, I remember one quote from a movie during that time period that is pertinent to our situation.  First, a brief synopsis...

Man has a happy family, but meets an attractive woman who seduces him into an affair (that is not the part that is pertinent to our profession...stick with me).  The man feels so bad about the affair that he breaks it off with her.  Woman doesn't take it well and stalks man and his family.  Eventually woman faces off with man, with a butcher knife no doubt, and tells him "I will not be ignored Dan."

Okay, I know you are thinking what does this movie have to do with this school counseling post?  Well, actually the movie is irrelevant, but her quote stood out in my mind.  I realized that she had been discarded and was going to do what she needed to do to get the attention she thought she deserved.  Now, I am not advocating for violence, stalking, or insanity; however, as school counselors, we need to bring attention to our profession by standing out and showing how we benefit our schools.

In an article written by Anne O'Brien, she found that even though research shows that school counselors are important to academic success in schools, they are highly undervalued. Further, she indicates that school counselors are still considered a luxury in most states.  In fact, the Office of Civil Rights found that one in five students still lack a school counselor and some counselors have caseloads up to 1600 students (I am shaking my head on this one).  What really put our current professional situation in perspective for me was a quote I read by one of my counseling friends, Carol Miller. Carol writes a great blog and manages a Facebook page for middle school counselors.  On this Facebook page, Carol posted a quote that reflects the belief that many school counselors have about our profession. Many school counselors feel that people should know what we do and so why should we bother promoting our profession in our school.  She had an amazing response to the counselors who said that they were too tired, it didn't matter, or people should be celebrating that they are school counselors.

So why bother? Because I hope these things bother you as well. I hope that you will find the strength to promote our profession. Because that profession helps kids. They are the reason we go to work in the morning. They are reasons why our jobs exists. That are the ones who ultimately benefit from our advocating. If you think it doesn't matter, you're wrong. Sometimes it has to be played like a broken record, being repeated over and over again until the words are embedded in our brains. But, it does have impact. Our words matter. Just as words you say to a student may not seem to have any impact, but then years later that student sees you and says, "Remember what you said to me? It made all the difference."

Side note: Carol posted a comment on my blog and I wanted to share her thoughts with you.

"One thing I want to add is that if you missed National School Counseling Week this year, don't worry.  Just pick another week and participate.  You don't have to wait until next year.  We are, after all, School Counselors 52 weeks a year, not just one.  While you're at it, remember what you learned in Kindergarten.  Remember to say 'Thank you.' I'm sure you had a school counselor who has touched your life.  Let them know."

So, the reality is that we are not where we need to be.  Even the First Lady recognizes that school counselors are often treated unfairly by our schools.


Okay, so what can we do to change this mindset by our stakeholders?  I have been a professional school counselor for a while now and I believe the key to not being ignored is to show your existence matters.  In this post, I would like to include some suggestions from other school counselors and experts about how to show others we make a difference. 


Jeff Ream, The Counseling Geek, gives some great advice on how we can show our value by marketing our programs.  Some of his suggestions for school counselors include:

• Highlighting the number of students who have improved their grades after participating in study skills groups.
• Showing the increase in number of students who want to go to college.
• Sharing the number of students who participated in intentional guidance groups to improve behavior, and the reduction in discipline referrals.
• Identifying and featuring improvements in feelings of school safety and connectedness.
• Recognizing the increase in students who are taking and passing AP courses and/or are graduating from high school and entering post-secondary education program.
For those counselors who may not be the best at collecting data, Mr. Ream suggests we report the number of parents who attend our parent nights/parent conferences, collect quotes from parents and students about our services,

The Urban School Counselor suggests that is important for school counselors to create partnerships with teachers and other staff members.  For example, one school counselors even made a sign for the school nurse to put outside her door when she was out of the building.

The American School Counseling Association gives an excellent description of the role of the high school counselor and the types of collaborations we should have with staff, students, and parents.  Also, ASCA has a brochure to download for parents explaining the role of the school counselor to parents. 

In an article by Economists, Carrell and Hoekstra, they determined that hiring one additional counselor has more impact on academic performance than teacher quality.  This would be a great research study to share with stakeholders to show how important school counselors are to students and schools.

For goodness sakes, don't forget to promote your program. One great week to do this is National School Counseling Week.  Let's say you missed this week...do it next year.  It's never too late to start to promote the importance of a school counselor.  Here are some ideas for future reference.

School Counseling Week Ideas

A Second Look at National School Counseling Week
Nine Easy Ways to Promote Your School Counseling Program
National School Counseling Week
ASCA School Counseling Week Photo Challenge
10 Ways to Celebrate National School Counseling Week
The Ten Key Questions for NSCW



 
Get Involved in Initiatives Based on Your Data

Based on the needs of the stakeholders, school counselors can create initiatives that address the issues in their schools.  Whether it is college application assistance, conflict resolution/soft skill training, attendance intervention, tardy reduction, you can make a big difference in your schools.  Take the School Counselor of the Year, Kat Pastor.  Ms. Pastor, a school counselor from Arizona, was instrumental in making a huge impact on her students by helping them access resources that would have been unattainable without her help.  According to her principal, Ms. Pastor is the type of counselor people seek because they know that she is consistent, helpful, and resourceful.  Sounds like a great model we should all be following (I am preaching to myself as well).

Kat Pastor, 2016 School Counselor of the Year

Don't Get Stagnate

I speak from experience when I say that it is easy to get so bogged down in the daily grind that you neglect your professional learning and fail to connect with other counselors.  One way I try to keep excited about school counseling is to continue learning and I love, love, love to connect other school counselors whether on social media, at conferences, or meetings.  Also, I have found reading other counselors' blogs has been so refreshing and inspiring to my personal development.  Don't know who to follow, please check out my post regarding school counseling superstars!  I am sure you will find a few favorites.



Well, that is the end of my rant, but if you need more information about promoting school counseling?  Check out these additional articles...

School Counselor (Yes) vs Guidance Counselor (No)
Before You Scream At Your School Counselor
Wearing Many Hats: School Counselors Vital to Student Growth While Juggling Many Roles