Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Column to Pass Along to Your Principal

By. Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

It’s time to plan ahead to honor a profession that excels in being flexible and going with the flow.  National School Counselor Week is slated for February 4-8; the goal is to raise awareness of the work of school counselors, and to thank school counselors for all they do.

The genuine selflessness school counselors display is both their best attribute and their greatest downfall.  Their job is to support students and families behind the scenes, but those successful efforts often lead administrators, teachers, and other families to wonder just what it is school counselors do—because if their job is done well, no one knows school counselors are there. 

Clearly then, it’s time to make some noise on behalf of school counselors—and if we’re breaking out the party horns, we might as well throw in some streamers and cake as well.  With a little more than two weeks to go, here’s what you can do to honor the helping professionals who are too busy to honor themselves:

Notes from students and parents  School counselors are so busy helping families, they often don’t realize just how much good they do—and there’s nothing quite as discouraging as going home tired at the end of the day, feeling like you ran around a lot and accomplished very little. 

The best cure for counselor confusion is gratitude.  Ask the PTA president, the Student Council, and other key groups to make cards, notes, or even a social media page where parents and students can express their thanks for the presentation in Health class that led to a great career; the refusal to change a schedule that gave them the academic rigor to be admitted to college, or the safe haven to gather thoughts and recover from a crisis. This isn’t about a day at the spa; the best gift a counselor can get is a home-grown, heart-felt “thank you.”

Community demonstrations of thanks  It isn’t too hard to put together a punch and cake reception at a time when students and parents can give thanks in person-- and you can get some nifty giveaways from the American School Counseling Association to celebrate school counselors (  School accountability reports are rich with data on how many students counselors see, the names of workshops they put on, the lists of colleges and scholarships students earned with a counselor’s help, and more.  Add in a couple of public expressions of thanks from a student or parent, and you have enough material to publish a “Did You Know” column in the school’s daily announcements and Web site, or send to the school board and mayor as the basis for a proclamation.  This shows counselors how much they mean to the community, and raises everyone’s awareness of what they do.

Thank them now, remember them later  The value of school counselors should be celebrated February 4-8 to be remembered all year around.  Find ways to remind teachers of the year-round ally they have in creating more harmonious classrooms, and keep that counselor data in mind during the next round of budget building, when someone suggests “Well, we could cut the counselor.  No one knows what they do, anyway.”

The punch line to the joke “How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb?” is “One—but the light bulb has to want to change.”  National School Counselor Week is an opportunity to shed new light on the depth, importance, and value of everything school counselors do to make schools and communities work more effectively and harmoniously.  Make the most of it—and them.

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