This week, February 6-10, is National School Counseling Week — it recognizes the vital work counselors do in our schools. As a school counselor, I feel it’s important to spread awareness about the impact a school counselor can have on a child and the various roles we carry doing what we love, which is helping children thrive in all aspects of their lives. Counselors can be found in high schools, middle schools, and, if the district supports it, elementary schools.
Over time, the role of the school counselor has certainly changed.
In my 20+ years of being a counselor at the high school level, I know firsthand that it’s more than just helping students apply to college (although the fall is super busy for me, writing an average of 50 recommendation letters each year!). We support students’ post-secondary plans, whether that be college, a gap year, trade school, the military, or other.
But we do so much more than that.
At the high school level, we visit classrooms frequently to present topics to students, such as career exploration, time management, and course selection. But on a day-to-day basis, it’s the little things that matter most and are the most meaningful parts of my day.
At my school, students steadily stop by our offices for non-academic reasons as well. Some deal with significant personal and family issues that impact their school day. Some students face food and housing insecurities, the grief of losing a parent, and obstacles like anxiety or depression. And, unfortunately, crisis management is part of the job. One moment I might have to run down to the nurse’s office if a student is having a panic attack; later in the day I might catch up with a student who is crying in a hallway or bathroom.
My office — as well as other school counselors’ offices — is a safe space for students to feel heard and supported.
No two days are alike for me, and that’s what makes me truly love my career. There are several organizations that support the work school counselors do, such as the Mass School Counselors Association (MASCA) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). These professional organizations not only offer professional development for counselors, they support keeping our caseloads down. At my school, I am lucky to have a caseload of about 175 students. Many schools, however, are not as fortunate, as some counselors have caseloads of more than 400 students! This makes it harder to do our jobs and give students the individual attention they all deserve.
Counselors dedicate their careers to helping students succeed and making a positive impact.
Recognize the importance of school counselors in your children’s lives! Encourage your child to get to know his or her counselor. Even if your child has never made a personal trip to the counselor’s office, know that we are working hard to support ALL of our students.
Never hesitate to reach out to a school counselor with any questions about your child’s academic, personal, or social-emotional well-being. That’s what we are here for, and that’s what we enjoy most — helping our students on a daily basis. The best part of my days at school has always been personal interaction with my students.