Over the last month, I have been lucky enough to get to spend time observing and working with our school counselor. It has been a very eye-opening experience for me to see all that she does and what her “job description” in our school truly is. She has been a school counselor for 17 years and has had a lot of duties on her plate in those years that do not fall under those that make up a Comprehensive School Counseling Program. However, during my time spent with her, I was able to witness and work with ELL students while they were doing ACCESS testing, 6th grade students during classroom guidance lessons, and I became more familiar with what our school counselor’s role pertaining to RTI services are.
Unfortunately, the school I work at and the counselor I have been working with does not have a Comprehensive School Counseling System in place. However, I believe she still meets the different domains (academic, career, social/personal) in one way or another. When she began counseling at our school, 17 years ago, her principal gave her a stack of tasks he wanted her to do and said “here you go.” Everything that she has created and is doing today has been solely on her own.
To meet the academic needs of the students, she assists our principal and vice-principal in scheduling. (This is a task, before our current administration, she did on her own.) After schedules are created, she is responsible for entering schedules for each teacher into Infinite Campus. Academically, she also plays a huge role in our RTI program. As teachers, we meet monthly with her to discuss STAR testing data and to place our students in the correct RTI tiers. We base our intervention classes on a three tier system; Tier I being the highest and Tier III being the lowest. She has also provided us with resources to help each of these levels of learners to grow. She is then responsible for entering this data into Infinite Campus for each child so that it goes with them to the next grade.
While the counselor I have observed works at an intermediate center (grades 4-6) she still meets the career counseling domain. Each of the 6th graders in our school take the assessment and based on these results she creates an ILP for them. Our school does not offer any classes based on these results, however, it gives them an idea of what they may be interested in and an idea of what kind of classes they may want to take when they get to the highschool level.
Personal and social counseling services are also provided by my school’s counselor on top of everything else, both directly and indirectly. Mrs. Vinson said when she first began her job she used a referral form, similar to what we now use when a student request to go to the nurse. The teacher would address the issue in the classroom, fill out the form, and then send the student to the counselor. She realized though that classroom teachers did not have time to always complete the triage in the classroom and this system was ineffective.
There is currently no type of referral system in place. At this time, if a student request to go to the counselor, we will call her and she will respond accordingly. (Immediately where it is appropriate.) Our counselor told me the idea she has for next year is the “one-minute chat.” She wants to spend one minute talking to each student in the school at the beginning of the year. Not only will this hopefully give her an idea of possible issues- it will also make students more familiar with what her role is. (Especially those fourth grade students who have never met her before.) She provides group counseling services in the form of classroom guidance. She stated the indirect counseling services seem to become increasingly higher each year. She receives more referrals now from both teachers and parents asking her to counsel a child than she has in the past.
Regarding systematic change, this is our counselor’s first year teaching classroom guidance. At the end of last year, she asked that all teachers respond to a Google Form with issues they have dealt with in the classroom that students would benefit from guidance lessons on. This is the data she has used to base her guidance lessons on this year. The class I observed, as well as taught, was on bullying, which has been her focus for 6th graders this month. She will begin her unit on self-esteem with fourth grade students in a couple of weeks.
In regards to the delivery component, I did learn about both indirect and direct services. Our counselor’s love for the students in our school are beyond evident and she is willing to go above and beyond for each of them. Like all school counselor’s I am sure, there are some situations that are outside her realm of assistance. She is in very close contact with outside agencies, such as. Continual follow-up on these cases is very important to her.
While there is no set CSCP at my school, as mentioned, our counselor goes above and beyond to meet the needs of all students and do her best to reach them holistically. One thing I did notice that I would do differently as a counselor is the lack of an annual calendar. While talking with and working with Mrs. Vinson I was incredibly overwhelmed with each new task she brought up that she is responsible for in our school. However, when I asked her how she kept up with it all, her response floored me. “They tell me when it has to be done and I do it.” One of the biggest takeaways from the COOL 530 course was the importance of time-management and planning. Another thing I noticed that was missing was the reflection piece. Since there is no CSCP, there is no reflection component she is required to use. While she is very conscious of what works and what doesn’t, and while she does have the students best interest in mind at all times, I do believe she could benefit from an actual reflection system.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my hours of observation with my school counselor. The saying “before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes” stands firm in this instance. I honestly had no idea of all the duties she is required to fulfill in a days time, all while keeping the children priority. I’m leaving this experience with many positive takeaways, and some negative. It was definitely interesting to see how the program works but was even more apparent to me that a CSCP is necessary to really be a beneficial school counselor.