Many of you know, I am a school counselor by day and an author by night.
After reading Harper Faulkner’s “Why I Write”, and with [government-induced] budget concerns wondering if my profession is necessary, I began to think, “Why am I a school counselor?” This is a question I don’t often ask myself, because I love my job. I am filled with such joy throughout my day that sometimes I literally skip down the halls of my school. (Just one or two hops, not the full hallway length. That would be strange). But some people feel that school/guidance counselors are a waste of money. Some people believe that the funds spent on our salaries and benefits could be better spent somewhere else. To this I say:
I am a school counselor for military families because our nation has been fighting two wars for more than 10 years now, and you can’t tell me that doesn’t have an impact on the mental health of our soldiers and their families. I’m a school counselor because some children don’t see their soldier parent(s) for a year at a time, or have moved schools more than 5 times in less than 5 years, and you can’t tell me their academic performance and school behavior isn’t impacted by that. I’m a school counselor because today’s family looks completely different than it did 50 years ago. I step in and work where the teacher doesn’t always know how, just as I wouldn’t know how to properly teach 2nd grade math. I’m a school counselor for children who may not have any positivity fed into them except for their 6.5 hours inside our school walls. I’m a school counselor for children who are learning to have a voice. For children who light up when you say, “Good morning, [insert name here].” For children who are learning where character traits live (in our hearts, FYI) so that they can grow up to be healthy, contributing members of society. I set boundaries for children who desperately need them. I am not a friend, I am an advocate. I communicate with and help parents who are – for the most part – trying the very best they can to raise their children. I teach children life and social skills so that when they encounter a situation they are unclear about, they have an adult whom they know and trust who has taught them how to handle said situation. Yes, a lot of parents teach this stuff at home. Some don’t, but a lot do. But does it hurt to have it reinforced? Especially in a society where entitlement and fend-for-yourself is the norm? Is it a waste of money to have a curriculum that teaches conflict resolution, character education, and personal safety? So that stuff like this and this don’t happen as often? Is it a mistake to pay attention to the emotional well-being of our students, and to provide them with a person in their school with whom they can work through some very serious issues?
There is a litany of factors negatively impacting the way our children are growing up that, if explained, would sound incredibly cynical and judgmental. But I am a school counselor working to negate those negative nuances of the modern American culture. Working to negate the hours of video games, mental health challenges, cyclical poverty behaviors, cyclical destructive behaviors that if counteracted and undone can save families from the depths of despair. If someone doesn’t get in there and teach these families that they can be okay, they can be functional, they can learn, they can be healthy – then what will become of our families? Our nation? You want a strong military, ready to defend our country at a moment’s notice? Then let us take care of the kids. If the teachers are there to teach academics, the principals are there to administrate, the secretaries are there to make sure students are on time and staff is paid… what about the rest? What about their hearts? What about their states of mind?
2013 is not 1983. No, I didn’t have an elementary school counselor growing up in my mostly Caucasian, middle/upper-middle class suburb with hardly any single-parent homes and no deployed parents. But if you want to right some wrongs in this world, we have to be committed to raising up Generation Z to be courageous, smart, and kind. Committed to helping them know how to resolve conflict, committed to teaching them what good character means and how to demonstrate it, committed to teaching them that just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice.
That’s why I’m a school counselor. Because it takes a village to raise a child, and today’s village looks a heck of a lot different than it used to. I refuse to sit on the sidelines and not work on behalf of children and families who genuinely want to have a stable life but, sometimes, aren’t quite sure how to do that. I refuse to ignore the call on my heart to feed positivity, love, and encouragement into America’s students. I refuse to let families navigate this world all their own when I have knowledge and resources at my fingertips that is so easy to share. I refuse to act out of anything but love for the children and families I work with. Because I’m a school counselor. It’s what I do, it’s part of who I am.
You tell me:
What do you do, and why do you do it?