By Brandon Abbs
What many people seem to fail to realize is that the school environment would suffer without the guiding influence of counselors. I’m not without guilt in that I sometimes have lapses in my faith in the necessity of school counselors. I come to you today, however, to attempt to broaden understanding of just what guidance counselors offer to schools and why we would all be far worse off without them.
I received too many quotes for this article to wrap my head around from four different people: three guidance counselors here at BHS, Alton Rollerson, Erin Hack, and Corey Bernard; and my very own grandfather, Donald Abbs, a former school counselor at Larkin High School in Elgin. As such, there will have to be an underlying question-and-answer format.
Schools are not going to spend the funding they receive on a meaningless cause. An issue one of my friends has with school counselors is that he doesn’t think they are an adequate usage of school resources that could be going, say, more directly to the education of students. I think we can all agree that he has a valid opinion. However, I’ve been led to realize that guidance counselors aren’t the wasteful applications they seemingly appear to much of the student body; these unseen protagonists in the story of the school infrastructure have many uses that can be difficult to ascertain for students.
We often hear slightly demanding pleas to head down to a counselor’s office and have a chat at any time. Yet, many students have become numb to the sentiments we hear so often. We doubt the effectiveness of simply sitting down and talking to a person with whom we may have little experience. It seems too good to be true that this could solve any issues. Further, peers spread an ideology that those who visit a counselor are either too helpless or lazy to deal with their problems on their own or must have issues greater than those most of us possess. Many may assert that their issues aren’t of the brand for the handling of a guidance counselor; also, it’s commonly embarrassing to confer and attempt to have an intelligent discussion with an adult with which you’re not abjectly familiar, or admit to the fact that perhaps you aren’t completely independent. Any of these circumstances may result in many or most students never consulting with a counselor, a phenomenon that can also lead to the majority of undergraduates doubting the necessity of school counselors in the first place. If no one is visiting them, the reasoning assumes, it’s obvious that they’re not needed. This logic is flawed in its circularity. One can’t ask themselves why an apple in the house is remaining uneaten when they are the only one in the house. The same reasoning applies here.
Question: What made you decide to become a guidance counselor?
Bernard answered, ¨I wanted to work in the school setting and help students personally, academically, and with their college and career planning.¨
Hack answered, ¨ I chose to become a school counselor because I believe in kids. Students today are…going to be the leaders of our future. I want to help be a catalyst that sparks a light in our students so that they can ‘illuminate the world.’”
Lastly, Abbs said, ¨I became a high school teacher first; students sometimes asked me for advice on educational, health and personal concerns. I thought that I could better help them if I was trained as a school counselor.¨
There is a specific word contained in each one of these statements: help. They all say their desire was to help students. Here lies the essence of the guidance counselor. They are strategically placed into schools to aid students in whatever way possible to see them succeed. If you are a student, no one fits the criteria of what they are looking for better than you. The guidance counselors want to help you; you should want to be helped. Why up and ruin a perfectly good symbiotic relationship? Take advantage of the opportunities being presented to you.
Question: What are the hardest experiences you’ve had as a school counselor?
Rollerson stated, ¨The most difficult is when… a student, after… supporting them and putting supports with the teachers in and communicating with their parents, and doing all there is to help them – I guess in the past it has hurt when you see that it still wasn’t enough to get them motivated. And I think the most difficult thing is how to motivate the unmotivated.¨
Abbs said, ¨I found the most difficult experiences were to learn to be sensitive and how to give advice and help on personal problems. The hardest experiences to help them with were pregnancy and contemplation of and even rare attempts at suicide; school counselors can help students with these problems, so they should not hesitate to discuss them with their counselors.¨
School guidance counselors want what’s best for you, and they will go to great lengths to get you to the place you desire to be. It is ridiculous that such a vast level of students do not spring for this hugely helpful, largely untapped and costless opportunity. Their one job is to help you, and as Mr. Rollerson entailed, they become dissatisfied when they are denied the chance to do so – they will tap into all the resources to which they have access to try.
Last question: What would you say to those who would say that a guidance counselor is not an important thing for a school to have?
Bernard responded, ¨The role of the school counselor is vital to the success of all students. School counselors have a positive impact on the students they work with, and several students need support from their counselors as they make their way through high school.¨
Rollerson opined, ¨Well , my first reaction would be… I would love for you to be in my shoes for one week… [laughs]… but seriously… it’s a job that’s very difficult to gauge because, on any given day, for a guidance counselor it’s unknown, like, we have things that we do on a daily basis but since we’re dealing with a lot of interpersonal issues or confidentiality issues…there’s just so many factors that people don’t see; but it’s not like we can advertise it as well, because they’re quite confidential and personal…the one question I would always say is, don’t ask me, ask the students… I think that they are the ones who could better answer that question…¨
And Hack answered, ¨Studies show that having…school counselors on staff at a high school is twice as impactful on student achievement as reducing class size (Carrell & Hoekstra, 2011). I am really proud of all of the amazing programming that we guidance counselors have been able to offer our students this year.¨
There is the evidence, questioning students. There is the evidence that school counselors are far from placebos.
Three questions for you, the student reader, now, specifically regarding Mr. Bernard’s answer. Do you need help? If so, are you receiving it? If you aren’t, why not?