Pros and Cons of Grade Level Counseling
Both grade level with looping (also known as graduating class counseling) and alpha share that the counselor moves with their students and truly gets to know the students (and their parents). The important thing is the relationship (basically respect and trust going both ways) and that it lasts all four years.
The pros of grade level:
- There is the ability to talk to all of your students by going into common classes. There are entire classes that you can walk into where all of the students are yours.
- There is the ability to put things in motion quickly (4-Year Plan/College application info, parent meetings) because you don’t have to get 4 other people to agree to do it and how to do it.
- The email list serve from each counselor is directed to one grade level which makes it easier and to the point.
- There will be consistency regarding counseling across that grade level.
- The counselor can focus on the needs of just one grade level and be an expert on them.
- The counselor ends up being very “present” at the grade level due to immersion at one age/developmental level/stage in high school. This means that the underclassmen will not get shorted with a counselor being focused on seniors and senior concerns.
- The bond is strong between the counselor and his/her class when loyalty is to one class (class spirit involves the counselor then as well as students.) There is almost a feeling of kinship between the counselor and the students in the class. This facilitates school and class pride.
- The counselor can make observations with authority about what is going on with the class. For example, if the counselor sees a trend in the freshman class of stress among kids regarding 4 year college/career planning and he/she doesn’t have to ask other counselors if they are seeing the same thing. The counselor can adjust or address whatever concerns they are seeing and the counseling will be customized for that class at that time.
- There is a little or no conflict among counselors and they do consult with each other.
- The counselor can team up with grade level teachers. Those teachers will seek the counselor out.
- Often a problem or conflict will involve kids in same grade level so the counselor will know all the players and have background already on what is going on.
The cons of grade level:
- Counseling team doesn’t meet the true definition of a team. Synergy doesn’t happen when one person works alone and it can feel more like being a middle school counselor where your team is people other than counselors.
- When there is only one counselor per grade level, an entire class will reflect the philosophy of one person.
- The counselor can become fatigued from doing the same tasks like grad checks and registration numerous times. With large caseloads the counselor may have to push themselves to finish.
- It is an inequitable workload for the senior counselor when there is a reduced number of counselors and numbers of students are up. The stress on the senior counselor is both the amount of the work and the importance of the work for graduation and college admission. Also, registering 8th graders is taking on a fifth class briefly. This may largely fall to the senior counselor alone.
- The converse side of teaming with teachers is that you lose contact with faculty each year. You move with students but often do not move with teachers. Your relationships with them can be intense and brief. You forge skills with some that you don’t pick up again for four years.
- Generally, you will not have all of the kids in one family except the ones born three years apart.
- This is a difficult system to bring in a promising new counselor if the opening is in the senior class and it is somewhat more difficult to mentor a new counselor whatever the grade level. It also takes four years to train a new counselor fully.
- The counselor will not have first-hand experiential knowledge of college admission except when counseling the senior class. Counselor will not be able to maintain relationships with college admissions counselors.
- When a counselor leaves or retires it feels like a bigger blow to the school because an entire class is looking around saying our counselor left instead of having it spread out across the grades.
- The converse of being an expert at the stage your class is at is that the counselor does not have the continuum of 9th – 12th grade always being in what is before and after.
- When you learn how you can do something better, you have to wait four years until it comes around again.