They used to be called “guidance counselors” and they were often portrayed as overly nice people who invited trouble-making students to have awkward conversations that they dreaded. My high-school guidance counselor was also our hockey coach, and he only worked as a counselor because our school didn’t allow people to just be coaches. The two state championships that team went to, and the one that they won in my four years in high school always told me that he was better at that job than he was at actually counselling the students he was assigned. Time has not dissuaded that belief either.
This was a shame, and still is, as counseling is important in schools—it can help provide important information and perspective to students that might not be able to get it otherwise. Students can come to them voluntarily to seek advice. If a student has a mandatory meeting with a counselor, the goal is to improve the student’s situation for their own benefit, rather than correct it for the benefit of the school.
The Counselor’s Role
One of the major components of that role is accountability. School counselors are responsible for analyzing data on their own effectiveness and adjusting their techniques to maximize their value to students. As a result, the role of the counselor is ever-changing and depends on a variety of factors at work within the school.
One of the most important recent changes to the school counselor’s role is dealing with new forms of bullying, especially cyberbullying. Students of younger and younger ages are using technology for communication and socializing, and by doing so, are putting themselves at risk for a type of bullying that is difficult to deal with for both student and counselor. A school counselor must always work to be aware of new social issues that are constantly arising between students.
A counselor should also always there to offer advice to students at crucial turning points in their lives. Whether these counselors work in elementary, middle, or high schools, they ought to be there for students who are going through a difficult time or just need advice and support. A few words from a helpful counselor can profoundly impact a student’s life by improving their outlook on school, family, and the future, and this, along with the responsibilities outlined above, form the key tenets of what the role of a modern school counselor is.
Effects of Quality Counseling
The biggest beneficial effect of a well-trained and effective school counselor is in the way they help prepare students for academic, career, and social challenges through relating their school success with the potential success of their future lives. They should help motivate students to learn and explore the world around them to help figure out what they want to do with their lives, to encourage their students to have these types of conversations with their parents and peers, as well as being a sympathetic ear for the same students to come to when necessary—and this is nothing to say of their ability to facilitate more intimate or group counselling sessions as well.
School counselors also provide support to teachers by serving an important part of the complete team that addresses the educational goals and needs of their students. They can help plan classroom and group activities that meet the students’ needs. Counselors gather and share resources with teachers to help the staff develop their skills in classroom management and teaching effectiveness. They also observe students in the classroom or playground and provide teachers assistance with their roles as guides.
School counselors are an integral part of school administration. They ensure that the school counseling program and academic mission are in line and promote student success. Counselors also develop a system to manage the program and help the administration use counselors effectively to augment student development and learning. Additionally, they provide useful data from the program for funding and grant application purposes.
A good school counselor can and will help the school run smoothly and effectively, but with the light and distanced touch that can often lead others to wonder what effect they have even had on their education, if any. And, like in many professions, while the accolade of one’s work may, sadly, not be there, it does not mean that there was no effect.
If school counseling seems like it could be the right future career for you, look into the School Counseling with Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential, offered both with and without a Master’s degree, at the California School of Education. To learn more, contact an Alliant Admission Counselor today at 1-866-825-5426.