Make Your Voice Heard

This speech has been on my mind the last few days because the work of school counseling is mentioned. It hits really close to home because the counselor mentioned is a dear colleague of mine. I’ve worked with her since our early start as educators in the late 1990’s.

I’m going to put my thoughts here. Not sure if it will make much sense. I felt the need to put my thoughts into the WWW to balance the comments on this viral story.

What this student says about my colleague, is something any of my students could also say about me. True or not, I could also be put on blast for “not being in my office” or “not returning phone calls”, along with a long list of other reasons why a student or parent may say I’m lacking in my skill as a school counselor. It’s a frightening, and somewhat sad, to know someone’s opinion of me could be broadcast like this - especially if it’s filled with half-truths, exaggerations, and taken out of context.

Yes, I’m not in my office all the time. In addition to meeting one-on-one with students regarding their individual needs, I am also in classrooms delivering lessons with topics focusing on academic, college/career, and social/personal skills to ensure 100% of students have access to the information being presented. I am also in meetings with other student support staff to discuss our most-at risk students to plan on how to best support them. I also am off campus at times attending meetings at the district level to ensure our counselors receive the supports they need to best support our students and families. I might be summoned by a teacher to help a student having a mental health issue in class, I could be going from teacher to teacher to get feedback on a student whose off-campus therapist is asking for, I could be walking a student to class who needs an intervention with a teacher...the list goes on. So yes, I’m not always in my office.

Each school counselor in the SUHSD has an average caseload of 360 students, which is below the California average of 708 students for each school counselor. The American School Counseling Association recommends a school counselor caseload of 250 to 1. With 360 students, it is very challenging to meet every child and every parent’s needs. It is inevitable that a student or parent will feel I wasn’t there for them they way they expected me to be.

I don’t know all the answers. I’m not going to “fix” everything and everyone. A school counselor is like a primary care physician, like triage - I meet with a student and/or family and have a variety of options, answers, resources, strategies to help. But when what I’ve suggested doesn’t work, I have to refer to the specialist, just like the primary care physician. The specialist might be our school psychologist, administrator, community clinic, curriculum specialists, etc. Sometimes these interventions work, sometimes they don’t.

For every valedictorian, there are dozens of under-performing students who have experienced trauma that makes it difficult for them to physically and/or emotionally get to school each day. Their lives outside of school make it challenging for them to focus on academics, they are merely surviving. These are the students who most need my attention and my guidance.

In a conversation I had with colleagues recently, we discussed the concept of “assume positive intent”. I hope the community I serve always assumes positive intent. In all I do as a school counselor, there is always positive intent. That’s the premise of why I became a school counselor. Even with positive intent, I may falter, I might not meet expectation, and I might make mistakes. Regardless, my work as a school counselor always begins and ends with positive intent.

In my 20+ years as an educator, the most powerful voice on a school campus is that of a parent. If a parent speaks up, attends “coffee with the principal”, schedules a meeting with the principal or area superintendents, attends the various forums offered by the school district, school leaders listen. They really do.

Grumbling, complaining, gossiping in social circles and on social media does nothing.

Here are the websites and contact info for all schools in the SUHSD:

Here is the contact info for the area superintendents in the SUHSD:

Here is the contact info for the San Diego County Board of Education:

Here is a directory of your local representatives:

Make your voice heard.