Home > Uncategorized > School Counselors Role Under-appreciated In ALL Public Schools

School Counselors Role Under-appreciated In ALL Public Schools

April 11, 2016

NYTimes reporter Jessica Lahey recent column, “Three Things School Counselors Want You to Know About Their Jobs”, describes the shift in thinking about their roles in schools, a shift that, unfortunately, is not reflected in the overall mission of education. To offer insights on what counselors want to share with the general public, Ms. Lahey drew from in depth interviews she conducted with partitioners, one of whom wanted to make sure that we called them by the right name:

Phyllis Fagell, a licensed clinical professional counselor and school counselor in Bethesda, Md., told me: Don’t call them “guidance counselors.” The proper title is “school counselor,” she explained in an email. “School counselors chafe at the outdated term ‘guidance counselor,’ a relic from the past that no longer reflects our role,” she wrote. The profession was vocationally oriented and counselors had inconsistent educational backgrounds and levels of certification until the American School Counselor Association published “The ASCA National Model: A Foundation for School Counseling Programs” in 2003 in an effort to standardize the field. (emphasis added)

I wish schools Ms. Fagell’s belief that school counselors role was no longer vocationally oriented was correct. But, alas, as long as the mission of K-12 schooling is to prepare students for work or college counselors will be expected first and foremost to prepare students for entry into college or to help students secure employment after they graduation. Ms. Lahey goes on to elaborate on the expanded role of counseling drawing from quotes of other counselors before returning to the email referenced above, where Ms. Fagell concludes:

Ms. Fagell emphasized the role school counselors play in teaching “soft skills,” like negotiation, compromise and planning. “School counselors care deeply about educating children to be whole, happy people with the social-emotional skills needed to navigate life. It’s not enough to be good at math or history. Students need to be problem solvers and innovators. They need to be able to work in teams, to manage change, to take risks and to lead.”

Children learn these skills best when teachers, counselors and parents work cooperatively. Ms. Fagell concluded her email to me with this very sentiment. “When parents openly share their child’s stories and struggles, counselors can be effective advocates, helping build teachers’ empathy and desire to engage in problem solving with the student and her family.”

Reading this a day after writing about Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker article on AltSchool, it struck me that in an ideal school their might not be any need for counselors, because in an ideal world teachers would teach soft skills like “…negotiation, compromise and planning” and teachers would be expected to work with parents to gain a deeper understanding of each student’s “…stories and struggles”. But as long as we envision schools as places where teachers are only expected to deposit knowledge into the minds of students we will need counselors to serve as intermediaries between students and teachers, students and administrators, and students and parents.

%d bloggers like this: