Counselors Share Insights into Their Work for National School Counseling Week

Counselors Share Insights into Their Work for National School Counseling Week

In honor of National School Counseling Week (Feb. 5-9), we asked some of our amazing school counselors about the challenges and rewards of their job.  Here is what they shared:

What would it surprise parents most to know about your job as a school counselor?

  • I think parents would be surprised, in general, if they spent “a day in the life of a middle school counselor!”  We play so many different roles-part of administrative team, testing coordinators, 504 chairs, classroom guidance, small group, individual counseling, teacher collaborators, parent collaborators, transition coordinators, program managers. . . the list goes on and on.   Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS
  • A lot of parents are shocked when we tell them that we have 300-400 kiddos on our caseload, depending on your school and department size. It’s always funny to see their reactions, astonishment, and the infamous “How do you do it? . . . lots of self-care, coffee, and chocolate! Hillary Nichols, Woodstock HS
  • I think it would surprise parents to know how much school counseling has evolved over the years.  School counselors now use evidence-based practices and data collection to make informed decisions on how to best help and support the whole child.  On an individual basis, school counselors address the social/emotional needs of students to remove barriers to learning so students can be successful in the classroom. School counselors work to be proactive as opposed to reactive and advocate for student success in all realms (academically, socially/emotionally and vocationally). Danielle Mabeus & Kim Holstein, Bascomb ES
  • I treat and care for their children like I do my own. That means loving them when they are struggling and telling them the truth when faced with choices. Wendy Fort, Sequoyah HS
  • How much I worry about their students when things aren’t going their way.  We try not to, but school counselors frequently take the job home with us.  Tracy Tuck, Cherokee HS
  • Parents would be surprised to know the struggles that students come to school with (home life, social pressure, mental health) and have to try and focus and perform academically.  There are students in our school system across all walks of life that struggle, and the most normal part of their day might be the time between when they get on the bus in the morning until they get off the bus in the afternoon. Cliff Hamilton, Teasley MS

What advice would like to share with parents who have children about to start school?

  • EVERY child needs unconditional love from his or her parents and family members. The love, security, and acceptance trio are the bedrock for a child’s good mental health. Make sure children know that your love is not dependent on looks or grades or accomplishments. Above all, make sure your children know that you love them without any boundaries, and always will. Your child’s self-confidence will grow in a home environment of unconditional love. They also need to know as they grow older that they will not find this kind of love on social media. Dede Manzella, Woodstock MS
  • Encourage them to be themselves.  Communicate with their students teachers and support the teachers.  If the student is dealing with something difficult, get in touch with the school counselor and advocate for your student and get them connected to the help the school system provides.  Cliff Hamilton, Teasley MS
  • Let them fail, allow failure to be a teacher, allow them to experience the consequences of their choices both good and bad, give them time in their daily schedule to be a kid and listen to them. Wendy Fort, Sequoyah HS
  • Parents are so focused are preparing them academically, but things that would benefit them most is to develop listening and following directions skills, respect for adults, doing things the first time they are told, and practicing social skills such as sharing, taking turns, winning and losing at games, talking and listening to friends.  The academics will come if the appropriate behavior is there first. Elizabeth Ray, Carmel ES
  • For students starting high school, encourage them to be advocates for themselves and to take the initiative to ask questions so that they can take ownership in choices that will affect their future.  As school counselors, we are here to help and guide them with those decisions. Kristie Sikes, Creekview HS
  • Never stop having open and honest conversations with your kids; even working with 8th graders, where kids often try to distance themselves from parents, many of my students say they want to have more authentic conversations with their parents. Most don’t want to initiate the conversations and it may not seem like they are paying attention, but they definitely are. Phillip Crane, Mill Creek MS
  • In my opinion, building resilient students is the most important aspect of our jobs as educators and as parents.  Life will be unpredictable and unpleasant at times, however, if our children develop skills to face those times without internalizing the negative aspects, they will most likely be successful academically and personally.  My advice to parents is to encourage your children to recognize their strengths and draw upon them in times of difficulty. Angela Wilson, Creekland MS
  • Set a routine early on in life with your child. Young children need consistency in their lives. Mable Ferry, Hasty ES
  • First I would say…they will be FINE! They are going to feed off of your emotions and feelings so make sure you illustrate a positive outlook toward school and they will adopt a positive outlook toward school. Make it clear to your child that you value their education and that you respect our role as educators.  I promise we respect your role as their parents! Don’t forget our goal is to encourage independence and a love of learning in your child. Janeen Bastin, Oak Grove ES
  • It’s okay to need a box of tissues! Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

  • Trying to help students become more resilient.  Social media has made our children more self-conscience, more venerable and less compassionate.  They live in a world where they can reach us (parents) no matter how far away they are within seconds.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  It gives parents comfort but at the same time, has made children much less able to deal with situation on their own making their resiliency decrease dramatically.  Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS
  • Learning everything I need to know to help students and parents. Wendy Fort, Sequoyah HS
  • I enjoy everything from the small talks to the big lessons. Seeing my students smile lets me know that I have done my job. My biggest challenge is trying to meet all of my students’ needs. I have to remind myself that I cannot fix everything. Jenilee Curtis, Knox ES
  • Middle school for almost all students is a time of rapid growth physically, cognitively and socially.  For many it is awkward and finds them lacking in confidence.  I enjoy establishing rapport with our students and then encouraging them as they navigate these unchartered waters and achieve success.  Celebrating that success with them is a lot of fun, too. Rod Metcalf, Woodstock MS
  • As a middle school counselor, the biggest challenges I face in my job is policing social media and picking up the pieces of the broken children that are damaged in its wake. I have been doing this job for 26 years and I promise you that I have never seen such a pervasive, negative influence that can get to our children like social media. Dede Manzella, Woodstock MS
  • Turning the “school counselor switch” off when I get home. We pour our heart and soul into our students. It’s a privilege being present and experiencing the highs and lows with our students. But it’s also really hard to not take those hard moments home, especially when you have a student suffering or experiencing some of life’s low points. Hillary Nichols, Woodstock HS
  • All stakeholders in our school communities need to trust us to do what is best for our students. We are needed to help students who grieve, families who need food and students who need help learning to study. School Counselors cover a broad spectrum.  We connect everyone. Brenda Hall, Knox

What do you enjoy most about your job as a school counselor?

  • I love seeing our students face obstacles, overcome them and mature. If they can leave our school more equipped to be successful at life than we have succeeded. Wendy Fort, Sequoyah HS
  • The best part of my job is the authentic relationships I form with every student at my school.  As the sole counselor for all of the school, I know and work with all the students.  I feel like every child is part of my family. Kim Driscoll, Mountain Road ES
  • The thing I enjoy most about my job as school counselor is being able to show respect to a child by taking the time to listen! Tina Word, Macedonia ES
  • What I like most about being a school counselor is that there is no “typical” day. Every day is different and brings new challenges. My favorite part of counseling is teaching students the skills and strategies to get through life’s ups and downs, teaching them to see the glass as “half full” and teaching them healthy coping skills. I also love assisting students with the college application process. Once I help them break the application process down into parts, they realize that the task is not as stressful as they thought it would be. Lindsay Gueren, Woodstock HS
  • Working with students and parents directly. I love that we get to offer support during the difficult times and also celebrate with them at the other times. Alicia Davis, Mill Creek MS
  • I love meeting with students and parents and helping them figure out the best post-secondary options that meet the student’s individual needs and desires. Kristie Sikes, Creekview HS
  • Every person who works in education changes lives-teachers, administrators, custodians-anyone can make a difference in a child’s life.  I love when I’ve worked with a teacher to help a student and not only does it make a difference in that student’s world but I see that teacher’s spark come back because they were able to truly help a child.  It’s really amazing! Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS
  • I love building positive relationships with students. My favorite though, is that I love seeing my seniors pop in my office to update me on their post-secondary plans. It’s such a joy seeing their dreams come to fruition during their senior year. Hillary Nichols, Woodstock HS
  • I enjoy building a positive rapport with my students and their families.  I want to be seen as a helper and someone who can bring calm to the storm.  Middle School is a very difficult time for students because so many different things are happening at once.  My favorite part of my job is that I have the chance to impact students’ lives in a meaningful way. Angela Wilson, Creekland MS
  • Knowing that I make a difference in a child’s life is all the gratification I need. The most rewarding part of my job is how much the kids love me and giving them the skills and knowledge they need to move on in life. Mable Ferry, Hasty ES
  • Definitely the kids.  I know this generation is said to be unable to handle real life, but every day I see so much resiliency and strength in my students.  Tracy Tuck, Cherokee HS