Advocating for the School Counselor Role
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) celebrates National School Counseling Week (NSCW) every first full week of February. ASCA encourages School Counselors to promote and advocate their programs and positions; however, not everyone may understand why this is so important. Just recently while discussing NSCW plans, a School Counselor stated, “I do my job humbly and do not need recognition for what I do.” While this thought is respected and factual of most School Counselors, celebrating NSCW is not meant to just give School Counselors a pat on the back.
ASCA has a National Model which is “a framework for a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program.” There are also ASCA National Standards for students, as they specify what students should demonstrate after being exposed and participating in a school counseling program. Many educators and administrators may be unaware of the ASCA National Standards, and consequently may not understand the roles and responsibilities of School Counselors. If School Counselors do not advocate for their role, others may define the job title, role, and responsibilities for them, in addition to taking liberty of assigning duties and responsibilities which are not appropriate of counselors’ education and training.
How exactly does one advocate for the school counseling position? Here are easy steps School Counselors can take to establish a program and/or turn their program around!
Be proud to be a SCHOOL COUNSELOR – not a guidance counselor.
The School Counselor’s essential role in a school should not be contingent on educators’ recollections of their own experiences with their “guidance counselors,” as the position has completely changed! No longer are the days where guidance counselors just change schedules and focus on jobs and college. School Counselors focus on academic, social-emotional and career development in a variety of modalities including programs, lessons, counseling groups, and individual counseling. A change in semantics lays the foundation and goes a long way!
Share the School Counselor Role & ASCA Standards with Staff.
Even staff members with the best intentions sometimes think (or are bold enough to ask), “What is it you do again?” If the question is not answered, assumptions are often made about what School Counselors are supposed to do. Those thoughts may be put to rest by sharing the following:
The correct title of the position: School Counselors (see previous point)
What you do: Support students’ academic, social-emotional and career development through the avenues of individual counseling, small group counseling, classroom counseling lessons, and school-wide programs
What you do not [or should not] do: Discipline, investigate bullying cases, lunch duty, cover classes, only focus on standardized testing, and administrative tasks.
Data is not as scary as it sounds! Every time students come into the office, a classroom counseling lesson is done, a small counseling group is completed – it should be recorded. Meetings, parent-teacher conferences, presentations done, and even assigned duties should be recorded too! How School Counselors spend their time can say a lot of their program, and if all students (not just the “frequent fliers”) are being supported and exposed to the program. Showing what School Counselors do on a day-to-day basis may be evidence of an established program, and it may show the need for more School Counselors in a school/district. Once that type of data is established, then data which shows evidence a program/lesson/group being effective may be a focus area.
Join a Professional Organization.
Being an active member of professional associations/organizations has many benefits. Associations offer members professional development as part of their membership. Attending workshops and conferences provide attendees with new learning experiences and current up-to-date information. Furthermore, attending professional development opportunities will surround neophyte and experienced counselors with other professionals who are eager to learn new information and stay current with their craft. School Counselors may want to start with ASCA, then venture into their state and county school counselor associations.
So how can School Counselors actually promote their program?
Start with National School Counselor Week (February 5-9, 2018). ASCA provides awesome resources on its website (www.schoolcounselor.org) such as morning announcements, proclamations, sample press release, and ideas to share on social media. Even a simple email stating “thank you” to the staff and administration for supporting the School Counselor program goes a long way! More ideas to come in a future blog post!
Go off and celebrate School Counseling programs and School Counselors, especially during National School Counseling Week! They are some pretty amazing people doing awesome work with students each and every day!
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and a Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked with children and families for two decades. Vanessa is the owner and CEO of Free to Be Mindful - a private practice located in Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Vanessa is passionate about helping moms, kids and educators with mindful living, mental health and personal growth through efforts including:
Host of the Free to Be Mindful Podcast which provides bite-sized tips and guided meditations to anyone working with kids
Founder of Amiga Moms, a supportive network for 21st century moms offering educational events founded in mindfulness
Public Speaking and Professional Development for parents, educators and young adults on topics such as mindfulness, building healthy relationships with kids, self care, mental health and more.