Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Ten Key Questions for National School Counseling Week

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

Many schools have their plans well underway for National School Counseling Week, which starts February 1.  There are plenty of pre-packaged lesson plans and activities online, so it’s not too late to plan your own party—and it’s definitely an opportunity to raise awareness of what counselors do, and just how they manage to do it.

With that goal in mind, I offer these ten questions for you to insert into your plans for next week.  By having these on hand, or by typing them up and placing them in every teacher’s mailbox, you’re advancing the main goal of the week—to dispel the myths that surround our work and keep us bound to the past.  We spend a lot of time trying to help clients walk away from wrong perceptions; let’s help ourselves next week, and let the facts speak for themselves.


1.       What does a school counselor do?  (ASCA offers a great definition, but use your own words here.)

2.       Why did you decide to become a school counselor? (Here’s where you can tell your story, and dispel the notion that counselors are just teachers who are tired of being in the classroom.  If you think that stereotype is dead, think again!)

3.       Teachers have to teach big classes, but how many students are on your school counselor’s caseload?  (Don’t be shy here—count your students and tell them.  If you’re lucky enough to have more than one counselor, give them the average.  They’ll be stunned.)

4.       How much time does that give your counselor with each student every school day?  (The math here is easy—take your caseload, and divide it by the number of hours (or minutes) in the school day, and you’ll be able to say something like “62 seconds per student per day, as long as the counselor doesn’t eat lunch, or never goes to the bathroom.”)

5.       How else can teachers help counselors?  Be our eyes and ears.  If you see a student’s having a bad day, don’t hesitate to ask them—and if it looks like this is part of something bigger, let me know.

6.       Anything else?   Share the information we send you about the programs we offer, and the events we host.  Remind students of the services we offer.  Think of ways the counseling curriculum blends with what you’re teaching.

7.       Why do school counselors want class time to talk to students?  The relationship between your curriculum and a student’s social, academic, and intellectual growth is tremendous.  Together, we can help students see this connection in powerful ways, leading to higher student engagement once I leave the classroom.

8.       Really?  How?  Research shows that students with healthy self-esteem are better learners who are more involved in the learning process (see  Healthy self-esteem is a big part of what school counselors do!

9.       And you help students through crisis?  Absolutely. (Use this space to list the groups and services you offer.)

10.   What’s the one thing every teacher can do that would help you do your job? (Don’t hold back here, but keep the goal realistic.  If it’s more time in the classroom, re-state that; if it’s letting students out of class to see you, make your case.  This is your party; ask for the present you want.)

It’s often been said that the problem with school counseling is that no one knows what we do.  I disagree; I think the problem is everyone thinks they know what we do, and are wrong.  This is our chance to set things straight.

Enjoy the week!

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