Friday, January 18, 2013

Year 3: Week 17 – The Counselors

I can’t remember who my high school or middle school counselors were. I’m not talking about the counselors that help get you into college (my mom made sure I was well acquainted with those people). I’m talking about the counselors that address the social and emotional lives of children.

I figured that these staff members were for the “other students.” The ones that were mixed up in things that made them inferior to me.

It wasn’t until my second teaching job as an assistant that I had my first meaningful interaction with a counselor.

I was a one to one aid, which basically meant that I followed around a kid all day long and helped this student get through the day. That year I worked with two different students. The first one had issues that were mostly academic but there were some stuff going on at home that hindered his growth as a student.  The second student’s issues were centered completely on his emotion problem.

So I spent a good amount of time meeting with the counselor. The first time we met was with some other teachers, other times it was with the student I was working with and then sometimes it was with just the counselor and me.

The first thing I realized is that even with a Master degree in education, I had insufficient skills to fully deal with children’s emotional needs. Even in the best teacher education programs, we simply do not have the training to deal with many of the emotional and psychological issues that students deal with. There’s a lot we can do, but there’s a lot that we shouldn’t address. If a kid has an injury that you don’t know how to deal with, you send them to the nurse and if a kid says something disturbing, you send them to the counselor.

The second thing I realized was that counselors don’t just work with the “those students.” Often they are in playgrounds and classrooms working with kids. They approach students across the school and often have the most keen awareness of social issues around the school. Even kids that seem to always have it together sometimes needs someone to talk to and it’s important that kids realize that there is another adult in the building who cares.

The third thing I came to understand was that counselors are here to take care of the teachers. It was not easy working with those two boys. I felt frustrated, annoyed and at a loss on how to interact with them in a positive way. There she was, with not only good strategies but with a sympathetic ear to help me work through my feelings.

I found the same thing with the counselors in my current school. After the tragedy in Connecticut, they seemed to be everywhere as a resource for the children and the teachers. Most of us teachers had been reading articles all weekend about how to talk to children about this tragedy but it was one of our counselors, the “feelings and friendship teacher” who sent out an e-mail telling us how to take care of ourselves during this difficult time.

We can't educate our children without great counselors in every school.  We simply can't.  Our students can't learn effectively and grow as people without these professionals and I couldn't do my job as a teacher without their support.

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