The role of the school counselor is often a mystery to those outside the profession. Considering the profession has been around 100 plus years, the role of school counselors should be common knowledge. So why the confusion? The reason seems to stem from the dynamic and evolving nature of school counseling. School counseling started as a vocational focused service and has now expanded to include academic, social, and personal goals. This process is data driven, focusing on what each school needs in order to get students ready to learn. When you ask elementary school counselors what this role includes, you may be surprised by the variety of activities within their job description, since it only became distinct in the 1960’s. School counselors in elementary school run classroom guidance lessons, small groups, and individual counseling sessions. They collaborate with students, staff, administration, and parents to provide an optimal learning environment for each child. They write 504 plans and follow through with their implementation. In addition, they link student needs within the school to applicable services in the local community. What makes the role of a school counselor more confusing to outside individuals, is that the role of the school counselor looks different depending on the needs of the school population and community. It’s no wonder people outside the profession have a hard time pinpointing the exact nature of the work.
One of the biggest issues school counselors face is that not a lot of people understand that school counselors matter-a lot! Once a counselor gets into a school, they have the ability to make some of the widest impacts on student development, whether that be in the social, emotional, or academic realm. A school counselor is a leader for not only the students, but for the teachers and faculty at the school. They become the troubleshooters, the “go-to” people, and the advisors. They become the center in a web of intricate community connections and support services. All of this is done for one purpose: to benefit the student. At the end of the day, school counselors are there to make sure that the learning environment isn’t impacted by outside stressors so that the students’ highest academic potential is achievable.
One of the school counselor’s most basic tasks is to create a safe environment for students to come and disclose their thoughts, feelings, problems and emotions. The majority of the student’s time and thoughts are used worrying and overthinking about these issues instead of focusing on their own academic potential. However, if the student utilizes the counselor in the school, they can discuss and analyze the issue at hand allowing the student and counselor to discuss and resolve the issue so that the student is able to go back to class, feeling relieved and able to focus on their classroom material.
Most students in elementary school go through the same types of issues. These issues tend to affect a larger proportion of the student population, so when a school counselor has a student come to them with a common concern, they may want to discuss it with a whole class through a guidance lesson. Providing these guidance lessons to a class is a great way for school counselors to reach many students going through similar issues. At the end of the day, whether a lesson is taught through individual counseling sessions, group sessions, or through a classroom guidance lesson, the idea is that they will be affecting and influencing the child through not only elementary school, but for the rest of their lives. School counselors are here to stay, so are their impacts.