I became inspired to write this post after reading an article from Upworthy entitled, “12 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Teachers.” As an elementary school counselor, I’ve heard some whacky things from people who don’t really understand what my job is. Some are infuriating, some are laughable, and some are just plain weird. Anyway, here’s my list. I apologize ahead of time for the “snarkiness” in some of my responses. It’s not meant to offend anyone; it’s meant to educate and vent a little, in a humorous way. I hope some of you can relate! 🙂
1. “You’re that mushy feelings lady, right?”
Wrong. There may be some school counselors who are mushy, but I’m not one of them. Yes, I teach about feelings, a lot. This doesn’t make me mushy. This makes me a teacher of social-emotional skills that are crucial for your child’s/student’s development into a healthy, functioning adult.
2. “You’re the guidance counselor.”
No, no, and no. While this title is still widely used, often interchangeably with the title school counselor, it is vastly different. Guidance counselor is outdated and doesn’t encompass all that a professional school counselor is trained and educated to do. My title is SCHOOL COUNSELOR – the counselor of the school. And yes, my title matters.
3. “You don’t teach.”
Yes, I do. As part of my role as school counselor, I provide a comprehensive counseling program. This includes classroom lessons on topics that cover the academic, personal/social, and career needs of ALL students. I create lesson plans, align them with standards, and I follow a curriculum. Yes, I teach.
4. “If you don’t have kids of your own, how can you really understand children?”
I have not birthed my own offspring. I have attended 4 years of college, 2 years of post-graduate schooling, completed a 690+ hour internship/practicum, and participated in full class, small group, and individual supervision, all to do the job that I do. I also attend workshops and read literature to keep abreast of current issues affecting children. I understand children, I work with hundreds of them everyday, and I love it.
5. “A counselor in the elementary school? How much career prep do 5-11 year olds really need?”
Yes, I’m a counselor in an elementary school. Most elementary schools have one. While career exploration, personal interests, and goal-setting are a piece of what I work on with students, I do not meet with each student like a high school counselor would to determine where they want to go to college or what job they’d be good at. School counselors are much, much more than career prep robots.
6. “So, you’re an expert on behavior and emotional problems in children?”
No, I’m not an expert. I’m educated in child development, including behaviors and emotions that fall within the ‘norm’ for children of various ages. But I also know that kids are weird. They develop and learn when they’re ready. Please stop comparing your kid to another and just enjoy yours while they’re still a kid.
7. “I can’t afford to bring my child to some expensive therapist. My kid can see you at school for free.”
I’d be glad to meet with your child to discuss their concerns and create a plan for success at school. I cannot and will not be their individual therapist – this is beyond the scope of my role. If I’m locked away in my office, doing individual therapy with students all day long, I cannot provide what is needed for 100% of students at my school, and that’s not fair. That is not what I was hired to do. If your child needs mental health counseling, let’s find a way to make it happen.
8. “My student/child is having a problem with (fill in the blank). Can you make it go away?”
No. I was not given a magic wand upon graduating with my degree. There is no quick fix for people problems – it’s not like tightening up a loose wire and BAM! You’re good to go. It takes time, energy, and work, perhaps on your part too. I can’t do it without you.
9. “My student/child only does well with you and listens to you because they like you.”
They may like me. In fact, I hope they do. But they may also do well and listen to me because I put in the time to listen to them, meet them where they’re at, and allow them to be what they are – a kid. Every child needs to feel heard. If it’s not by you, it may be me.
10. “How does playing games with kids help them? It’s just playing. They can do that with friends or at home.”
I hope they get to play at school and at home. Playing is the work of childhood. It’s how children learn, explore, try new things, overcome fears, fantasize, etc. I am educated in play therapy techniques that I use with kids when they visit me in my room. I also use games as a way to teach and practice key social skills such as listening, sharing, taking turns, compromising, being patient, being a good sport, and more. Kids love to play, so I capitalize on that and use it to help them.
11. “So, like, what do you actually do all day?”
Each day is different, which is one thing I love about being a school counselor. My day can go from checking in with a youngster to get his day started off well, to mediating a conflict between two on-again, off-again friends, to listening to a parent report that their child is being bullied, to supervising 100+ kids run around and dig on the playground, to teaching a lesson to first graders about personal space bubbles, to playing Jenga with a group of active boys, to consoling a crying student who feels his friend will never forgive him for calling him a jerk, to checking in with teachers about certain struggling kiddos, to attending a SST/IEP/some other kind of meeting to plan for a student’s needs, to recording notes so I can remember what the heck I did all day. Some days are crazy, some are low-key. All school counselors wear many ‘hats’ through out their day.
12. “Your job must be so stressful and sad. I couldn’t do it.”
It can be stressful. It can be sad. I sometimes have to make incredibly difficult decisions. It can also be very rewarding and humbling. To see the success and growth of students is amazing. I’m so thankful that I get to do this work and be a part of something that matters.
Is there anything you would add to the list?