I’m fired up. I have been for a while. Prepare yourself for a rant.
I am so SICK of School Counselors being used for things they shouldn’t be. I am so TIRED of our profession not being taken seriously or not being understood.
It seems that despite many of our unrelenting efforts to educate and advocate, our time continues to be used and abused, while our training is not because we often don’t have time left over to do what we’ve completed YEARS of school to do.
What a shame! What a waste!
Okay, so I know this summer has brought our profession a lot of great press, the highlight being the First Lady’s powerful speech at ASCA14. Then came the amazing response from counselors at all levels promising to #ReachHigher. All of this is great. Is it enough?
Well, after experiencing demands to complete inappropriate tasks myself, and reading dozens of posts from other counselors experiencing similar frustration, I would have to say no. Just in the last week, I’ve read many, many posts in the Elementary FB Exchange Group by counselors who are handling things I can’t even believe.
Here are just a few examples of what counselors are responsible for: data entry for new enrollments, testing coordinators, scheduling classes, special ed. IEP meeting facilitators, 504 coordinators, discipline of students, being the administrator’s “eyes” in the school or mouthpiece for new policies, staff mediators, gifted and talented coordinator/testing/teacher, RTI teacher, countless duties that take us from our counseling responsibilities (including being substitutes), not to mention being in charge of the whole school’s PBIS (or other initiatives) all alone. AND, so many counselors do all of this with outrageous counselor-student ratios and in multiple schools.
What the what?!?! Can you see why I’m frustrated?
I think what gets to me even more is the lack of advocacy that happens in schools because many of the inappropriate tasks listed above are most often handed to us by our administrators. You know, our bosses, the people in power, the people who do our evaluations and ultimately decide our employment status. I wonder why we’re sometimes scared to speak up???
It’s not easy, but speaking up is necessary. Some of us are lucky to have great working relationships with our principals, some of us are not. Either way, we simply cannot let this stop us from advocating. Our students deserve more.
I should say that many of us accept some of this nonsense (“I don’t mind doing such and such”) because we are just so happy to be School Counselors and we love what we do, even if some of it is truly inappropriate, whether or not we are willing to admit this.
The other part of this puzzle are the counselors who do not advocate at all and simply accept what they are handed, regardless of their professional values. I’ve even heard some of them say they are willing to accept certain inappropriate tasks/responsibilities so as not to hinder their relationship with their administrator. Of course a working relationship with our building principal is crucial to our work, but is it worth damaging our profession permanently? Principals come and go, but our profession is here to stay.
As soon as any one of us accepts inappropriate tasks, we are making it that much harder for other School Counselors to advocate and speak up. “This is the way it’s always been” or “the counselors before me have always done this” are not good enough reasons to continue doing it! If YOU do not start making small changes to get the role of School Counselor on the right track, when will it ever be?
I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone. But I’m offended that so many of us sit in silence while our roles are being taken from us and replaced with duties meant for principals, secretaries, SPED directors, SPED teachers, social workers, school psychologists, classroom teachers, and other school staff. We have to stop accepting this reality.
What can we do?
- Share ASCA’s list of appropriate vs inappropriate activities with your administrators.
- Create your own SMART goals that fit into what your role is supposed to be. Share your goals with your building principal so (s)he knows what you’re working towards and knows what you will need in order to achieve the goals.
- Meet with your principal and discuss ASCA’s Counselor/Administrator Annual Agreement. Here’s a sample form.
- Speak up. Ask questions. Explain your discomfort with inappropriate tasks. Show what you’ll have to give up in order to complete such tasks. Show what you could do if you were allowed to use your time more effectively.
- Document how you use your time and how much is used for counseling vs non-counseling duties. Share this.
- Find the staff who support what you do as a School Counselor and buddy up with them. They will be an invaluable support network as you try to advocate for your appropriate role.
Hopefully, you have administrators (even if it’s not your building principal) who will at least listen to your concerns. If not, don’t give up. Do the best you can with what you have, and wait until a more effective principal comes on board (because the ones who won’t let a School Counselor be a School Counselor and aren’t willing to even listen to what’s best for students, are usually making other detrimental mistakes and will soon be on their way out).
Chin up! Keep your eyes open and heart ready for change. It’s coming. I’m advocating. Are you?