School Counselor Identity - D. Reflection Questions1. School Counselor Identity
How do I know I am developing a school counselor identity?
- Transitioning from being a teacher to being a counselor has been a subtle but profound experience. School counselors have a much more holistic approach towards the school, where every student is your kiddo, and every aspect of school is now within your reach. The main criteria are still the same, reach every child and the whole child, do your very best to prepare your students, and to be there to support your students no matter what, but the number of students went from about 150 to 400 and those tasks became exceptionally more difficult to do. I still try to focus on the individuals as much as possible, because there is nothing more meaningful than advocating for your student and being there for them. Supporting my students emotional, academic, and social health still takes priority #1 and I will always find myself rearranging my schedule to make sure that I can squeeze in that student who wants to meet with me.
- I do find myself taking a step back and seeing what impacts I can make on the school as a whole, instead of focusing on what changes I can make on the individual level. I am beginning to see the impact that school wide programs like SEL curriculums or comprehensive counseling programs can have on the entire culture of our school. I know that in years to come I will be a driving force behind some of these programs, as our society and culture is demanding change. There are cultural issues such as student apathy, social injustice, and mental health crises that HAVE to be addressed for the sake of our students and our future. Ultimately I know that I cannot change the whole world, but I can sure do my part to make things better.
Describe the roles, functions, settings of your professional identity as a school counselor in relation to the roles of other professionals and support personnel in the school.
- School counselors get tossed into about every situation imaginable. I’ve found myself doing everything from talking to a student after they got into a fight to placing extra canned food into the pantry outside our school. I find myself leading and planning service events, planning parent nights, scheduling events such as our awards ceremony and even graduation. I fill a role that is pseudo-admin meaning that half the time I fit the bill of a teacher and half the time I am considered an administrator (depending on whichever is most convenient to whoever needs my help at the time!). Due to this single fact I find myself invited to every meeting anyone ever has in my building, or at least it feels like it!
- Since there are so many roles that school counselors have, I have also had to work with just about every individual in the building as well. I’ve developed strong working relationships with our administrators, our school nurse, the athletic department, special ed department, the maintenance team, our lunch ladies (who are especially lovely), and especially our teachers. Most importantly I find myself teaching, I’ve taught lessons in English, Psychology, Health, Homeroom, and even Study Hall! I’ve told teachers from the start to let me know if they ever need a break or something to fill up a day or two in their curriculum. I never pass up an opportunity to get in the classroom and really reach students!
What indicators verify this new identity?
- The best data points to verify my identity of school counselor would be to take a look at our Counselor Appointment Log and at my Google Calendar. You would find that I have had over 200 individual requests submitted by students. These are students who need anything from a locker opened or to talk about their terrible day. I have responded to each of these requests by talking with the student, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes for over an hour. I have also received dozens of referrals from teachers or other students, often with them dropping someone off at my office, in the middle of class or a passing period. Looking at my Google Calendar you would be able to see that everyday is filled with individual meetings, classroom lessons, professional development, planning meeting etc. There is rarely a dull moment!
- Besides these data points, my favorite indicator of my new identity is simply walking through the hallways. I know I have had an impact when I have students greeting me during passing period, or stopping to talk to me about the latest developments in their lives. This relationship is by and far the most important part of my job and it’s what keeps me going after a rough day or week. All it takes is for one student to tell you how much you mean to them, and you’ll ride that complement to the moon and back.
How has establishing a school counselor identity created professional growth?
- I have learned more this year than I have any other year of my life, with the possible exception of my first year teaching. I have grown in dozens of different ways and aspects, probably far more than I even realize. I don’t think I realized how much I really didn’t know until I started this job. A wise teacher once said “We went to school for 4 years to become a teacher, and it took us another 5 years teaching to actually figure out how to do the job.” Well I’ve been a teacher for 6 years and was just getting comfortable when I decided to take on this career. Now that I’ve had 3 years of grad school under my belt, I’m guessing it’ll take another 5 or 6 before I really figure out how to do this job. I’ve always been one to learn through immersion, so being able to experience counseling has been a great teacher. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have some amazing mentors at my school and I am always consulting with them about something or other. Just when I feel like I am getting the hang of things, something new is thrown at me and I’m back to square one, asking for help, and learning more and more.
- I am both an ASCA and ISCA member, their newsletters, conferences, and webinars have been super helpful this first year. I have also connected with counselors through the Indiana University ListServe: CounselorTalk, who has provided good advice and regular updates on events in the counselor world. It has been really helpful to connect with local events this year where I have been able to attend some mental health webinars that have helped with networking with local resources.
What future things can I do to continue to build a school counselor identity?
- It is super important to me personally to be a lifelong learner. I’ve been in schools my whole life and probably will even into retirement. For the present being a lifelong learner is maintaining my current knowledge and keeping up to date with new information, innovations, trends, and more in the counseling field. This is an on-going process that really will never stop and takes a variety of shapes, but most notably will consist of professional development trainings. Seeking out these trainings and participating will allow me to learn new skills, enhance current skills, and bring back new methods to share with my colleagues and students. I’m lucky enough to work in a school that is really supportive of seeking out professional development and I have been able to attend webinars, ISCA conferences, community events, and more in the effort to continue to build my knowledge and identity as a counselor. I hope to continue these efforts in the future so that I can continue to achieve my goals of being a lifelong learner.