National School Counseling Week?

:  Please note what I have written (and what you are about to read or at least what I hope you are about to read) is MY opinion.  It is based on MY experience and yours may be different.  (I HOPE yours is different).  This is NOT a knock on school counselors as a whole, it is only based on what I (and my family) have experienced.  Again, I truly hope that your experience (and your family's experience) is very different.

Today I received an email from the high school that announced (in part) the following:  "National School Counseling Week is celebrated from February 7th through 12th. This celebration highlights the unique contributions school counselors have in our schools and how students' school experiences are improved as a result of what school counselors do each and every day. "

Let me be blunt; my son's school experience has definitely NOT been improved as the result of a (high) school counselor.  His current school counselor barely knows my son at all.  (I'll admit this is only partially the counselor's fault; circumstance have a great deal to do with it too.)  During this school year my son has met his counselor twice.  Once was when he was pulled out of a class by the counselor to tell him that he had not properly registered for his AP exam.  (And then, according to my son gave him no real counsel on what he needed to do, other than go back and read/review an email that had come out).  The second time was for the required annual one on one meeting (which is actually a meeting with our family and the counselor) to discuss future plans (taking SATs, planning colleges and scheduling next year's classes).  That is it.  This counselor is "responsible" for approximately 1/4 of the students in the school.  Keep in mind that my son's class is under 150 students and the other three classes are about the same.  So we are talking somewhere in the realm of 175 students per counselor.  A decent amount of students, but not unreasonable.  (At least as far as I see it; someone else can jump in here if they'd like.)

Let me backtrack...when my son was in middle school there were two counselors and approximately the same amount of students.  The guidance counselors met with the students one or two times a year and I feel that his guidance counselor helped him somewhat.  (I could see an effort here.)  The spring before he moved into high school we met one evening with the guidance counselor to discuss classes and expectations.  He seemed like a nice enough person.  I was feeling relatively good about him as a counselor.

By the time my son got to the high school that fall, his counselor was no longer there.  He was assigned to a new counselor (a new hire).  I guess she was okay.  We met her in person once early in 2020 (pre-pandemic) and then once virtual in 2021. She was nice enough, but she really didn't know my son.  

This summer we were informed that she was leaving and we would have another (new) counselor.  This is the person who will be guiding him through the college process.  Or perhaps I should say guiding him to Naviance which is (and this comes from their website):  "the leading college, career, and life readiness (CCLR) platform, equipping over 10 million students in 40% of U.S. high schools with the skills they need to reach their future goals."  (My translation:  This website is going to determine your entire future.  What we say goes.)  When we had our (30-40 minute) meeting, the majority of the time was spent focusing on using Naviance to find a future college while a much smaller part was spent discussing his senior classes.  (One of which the counselor was unsure that he could take; to his credit after the fact he did follow up and say that it would be possible and my son is slotted to take this course.)

In the three years that my son has been in high school, these are the only interactions he/we have had with his counselors.  I don't think I have ever seen any counselor at any of the events that my son has participated in.  Perhaps they have attended athletic events, but my son is not an athlete.  Music (specifically choir) and theater are his outlets.  I HAVE seen some teachers at these events. (And I was thrilled when two of his teachers happened to set nearby and told me they were part of his "fan club.")  I have not seen any counselor.  In all fairness, I don't know if I could recognize any of them if I saw them there (or anywhere else.)

Furthermore, this is not a recent trend.  Back in the day (yes, we are talking last century), I went to the same high school.  I DO remember the counselors (known as guidance counselors) from my era.  There were four then too and while I remember their faces and names (especially the one that I ended up babysitting for), I cannot recall any actual counselling.  There were some college suggestions, but most of the work was done on my own (and this was pre-internet) and certainly the college that went to (Cedar Crest College) was never brought up.  The BEST guidance I got was at a 4-day (paid) summer session at my mother's alma mater (Bucknell University) where I lived in dorm with a roommate (from Indiana),  experienced campus life, was taught how to research schools that fit my needs and went through a mock college interview.  That experience truly helped me prepare for my future and provided me with much needed guidance.

So Happy National School Counseling week?  I know that there ARE counselors out there who do make a difference and who should be celebrated.  I hope that the experiences that my family has had thus far is NOT reflective of yours.  And if you have a positive story to share; please share.

National School Counseling Week is celebrated from February 7th through 12th. This celebration highlights the unique contributions school counselors have in our schools and how students' school experiences are improved as a result of what school counselors do each and every day.


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