We are the keepers


After joining in a discussion thread about feeling misunderstood by classroom teachers and other staff, some of whom can be quite unsupportive and downright rude, I became inspired to write about it. Writing is my thing, so I hope this helps others like it will me.

Since that discussion thread was born, and dozens of counselors wrote in agreeing and venting, I got to thinking about why our profession seems to be so misunderstood. Yes it’s relatively new compared to the teaching profession, but the problem goes much deeper than that. And then it hit me…..

A while ago, I saw the book-made-into-a-movie called “The Giver.” Interesting concept, but the character that intrigued me most was the Giver himself, played by Jeff Bridges. If you haven’t seen the movie, Bridges plays the one person who holds all the memories and information for his entire community.

keepersNow I know why I identified with his character so much! As School Counselors, we are essentially the “keepers” of all information for our school community. Just like Bridges’ character, we hold onto important details and histories that we cannot share with anyone! While we can share some things with our supervisors, classroom teachers, and parents, there is so much we cannot ever share.

School Counselors are basically the “dumping ground” for the information that other people know but don’t know what to do with.

Have concerns about a child’s home life? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Have suspicions of child abuse or neglect? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Worried about a child’s mental health, depression, anxiety, anger, defiance? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Perplexed that a child won’t stop touching himself/herself right in the middle of class? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Need a break from a child’s difficult behavior in class? Where do you send him/her? The School Counselor.

Don’t know how to help a child who doesn’t have a winter coat or boots? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Frustrated that a child is still not completing classwork or homework even after interventions? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Noticing that a child is often alone and has no one to play with? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Two students in your class causing a ruckus because they just can’t seem to get along? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Fed up with the group of girls wasting class time being upset because “she gave me a mean face” for the 73rd time today? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Concerned that one of your student’s parents is drinking too much or using drugs? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Confused about which parent your student is allowed to visit with this month due to DHHS/CPS involvement? Who do you ask? The School Counselor.

Trying to figure out what makes the students entering your classroom this year tick? Who do you ask? The School Counselor.

At a loss of how to help a student who calls herself “stupid” every time she makes a small mistake? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Feeling helpless when a student screams he’s going to kill himself in the middle of your math class? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Holding concerns that another staff member isn’t doing right by a needy student? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Issues with social skills, study skills, organizational skills, personal space, friendship, attendance, self-esteem, bullying, conflict, behavior, testing, food insecurity, homelessness, crises of any kind, or students using words like sex, fag, or gay? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

So, teachers and staff, we are the keepers of all of this difficult and sensitive information. And teachers, we cannot tell you about it. There are a million things we do in a day that you will never hear about. We do not advertise our successes because they are the confidential and private successes of our students. We cannot share all that we may know about a certain family’s dynamics because we were asked not to and we need to be a safe person for the child/family to tell future information to.

So, teachers and staff, there may be things you think you deserve to know or have the right to know, but that doesn’t change what we can tell you. Confidentiality is the building block of our relationships with students and parents. They need someone who will not only listen, but keep what is told to themselves.

So, teachers and staff, please know that we want to be where we are scheduled to be every second, but sometimes, our jobs prevent that from happening. We are sorry that we have to cancel classroom guidance with your students, AGAIN, but we cannot plan when crises occur. Please understand, teachers, that after we’ve had to cancel on you or decline to come and talk with your upset student, that we cannot offer an explanation any further than “sorry, something came up.”

So, teachers and staff, we may not do reading and math assessments, spend hours filling out report cards, or be in a classroom of 20+ students all day everyday, but we hold knowledge and skills to serve 100% of our students that you do not. We are the positive cheerleaders while being the holders of the negativity, and we do it all with a smile on our face. If we are doing our jobs well, you may never even know it.

We are the keepers.

We are School Counselors.


20 thoughts on “We are the keepers

  1. Wow…Your words are incredibly on target. I am trying to think of how I could share this with teachers. With credit, would you give permission to share it?

    • I loved your post. I started this year working at an elementary school and quite honestly feel unappreciated and overworked! My struggle has been that I have no support from administration and there are several clicks of teachers at all grade levels. It has been a struggle getting any cooperation. I felt pretty defeated and discouraged this week. However, after reading your blog, it brought a smile to my face and made me realize that I am not alone. Great article!


  3. I love this! So true!! I especially love the encompassing “if we are doing our jobs well, you may never even know it.” What a great mantra moving forward. And on top of it, we are the liaison who has to make sure each group (teachers, students, parents, admin) feels as though we are one “their side”. Though we know there is no true “side”, in such an emotionally saturated field it’s essential to aiding in the overall success of the student and ultimate system. Really, really well put- I will share with my peers!

    • You’re so right! We do represent so many different sides in our position to effectively do our job. Everybody has to feel supported or progress doesn’t happen. Such a unique role we have! 🙂

  4. This is lovely and you caught all that we do and plus. This is true in so many ways. One thing I would suggest before anyone gives this to their staff is to think about few coments; the paragraph with “So, teachers and staff …. we can not tell you. This comment only fuels to the negative relationships that may exist. I think stricking that cvomment out is good. It is obvious that you mentioned confidentiality. The same as to the next paragraph, “there may be…. can tell you”, same reason. One more adjustment that I would make before I give this out to my co-workers is to look at the last paragraph. “but we hold knowledge….that you do not”. As counselors, we need to be careful in how we say things that may be seen as “we maybe more knowledgable.” We are in this as a team and we are to be thankful for their input and leave it as that. It is understood in the last sentence. It is correct that we do not brag or show our stats as a way to boost our ego. The counseling is a process that may take years. We maybe part of the small domino that sets the stage up for success and may never see our success.
    Thank you for setting this blog up and I will use your write up but with my own editing.
    Thank you.

    • Hello, thanks for your comment and your input. I wrote this for myself and for other counselors, and so, it is written as such. I didn’t write it to necessarily share with teachers or to offend anyone. However, if counselors feel it would be helpful to share, I appreciate them doing that. I’m uncomfortable with you sharing my work with your own edits. Please contact me before doing so.

      • Thanks, of course, perhaps, I misunderstood that this write up was for counselors only. It seemed to me that maybe it was for school staff to see.
        No problem, I was not planning to use the write up as my own or give it to the staff.
        It was for my mental thinking to make it more positive.
        Thanks for the statement and for a chance to clarify.

      • Sorry for the confusion! My blog posts are always open to share. I just meant I didn’t write it to necessarily give to teachers. I agree that some of the language could offend them when it’s meant to educate. Thanks again for your input, I do appreciate it! 🙂

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