The Power of School Counselors

Mindy Willard, the ASCA 2013 School Counselor of the Year was quoted on Twitter as saying “We school counselors don’t realize how powerful we are.”  My immediate reaction was, yes, we don’t realize it nor how best to leverage the opportunities. Sometimes we actually hurt ourselves.  Much of our influences are things said and done over time.

Why don’t we realize how powerful we are? I think it is because the value of school counseling isn’t always seen by others.  And sometimes the full value isn’t realized even by counselors themselves to the extent that it would be if data was used instead of anecdotal examples.

These assessments of school counseling are evidenced in several ways as follows.  1) School counselors are one of the first positions cut or downsized in a recession. 2) Administrators and even counselors are not clear on what their role is.  Administrators can be tempted to assign clerical or administrative duties to counselors which doesn’t utilize the unique strengths and training that school counselors have.  3) Many counselors work in isolation and focus on their tasks and not the big picture. 4) Counseling departments often don’t allow data to drive their goals and align with school and district goals nor do they use data to examine the results of their efforts.

How do school counselors actually hurt themselves?  School counselors must utilize their people skills, conflict resolution training, and team building knowledge not only when dealing with students and parents but also with the faculty and staff at their school as well as their fellow counselors.  School counselors can be brilliant with kids and parents but fall down on the job with each other.  It is very hard to overcome a bad reputation with your administration and your district.  It is imperative that the school counselors on a team work well together, solve their disputes themselves, and are a united front.  You don’t want your administration seeing your team as a problem and representing you that way to others.

How do we leverage the opportunities and how are our influences things said and done over time?  It is very important that school counselors work with the principal’s and assistant principals’ goals.  Administrators’ goals will very often center around attendance, academics, and behavior and these are all areas that school counselors can affect by working in or toward the ASCA National Model within the three National Standard domain areas of academic, career, and personal/social.  That should always be our focus.

We change people’s minds by the observances we make and the results of the prevention and intervention measures we implement.  If we are right in what we are doing, we will have the data to prove it.  Attendance, academics, and behavior are all measurable and all interrelated.  If you help the kids to overcome and achieve, you will be working side by side with your administration and using what makes you different than any other position at a school.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mindy Willard.  School counselors have the power to positively and profoundly improve the lives of the students at their schools and to impact all they come in contact with.  We don’t realize how powerful we are.

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