February 4-8, 2013 is recognized as National School Counseling Week.
We celebrate National School Counseling Week in two ways: First, this is a chance to show your school counselor some recognition for the effort that he or she puts into helping students get the most from themselves during school, handling academic, career, and personal/social developmental needs in order to be more college- and career-ready. Second, this is also our chance to remind everyone of all that we do, to make sure that everyone uses our services appropriately and effectively, so that everyone feels supported and is working toward the same goals.
So, what are our goals?
First of all, you can click here to see the National Standards for Students that are laid out by the American School Counselor Association. To summarize, school counselors work to support students' development of academic, career, and personal/social skills. Not every element is covered every year, as there is a comprehensive perspective, understanding that there are developmentally appropriate times to introduce, and reinforce certain skills between kindergarten and senior year.
At Pikesville High School, our goals are really tailored to our school's needs. Every May, we assess the graduates' perspective of the services that were delivered to them, and we also just introduced a more basic school-wide needs assessment this past fall. Between that data and our department's observation of the types of issues that cross our desks, we develop an annual plan. Currently, we are working to close gaps in equity and access to rigor and higher education, give students more and greater exposure to understanding about careers, provide an earlier intervention for students to have a successful transition to high school, and better empower students to independently make responsible choices about their courses, academic rigor, and post-secondary options.
How do we achieve these goals?
By removing perceived obstacles to the school counselors, students feel more welcome to make appointments with their school counselors. We have had a dramatically increased presence in the hallways and classrooms through random check-ins and conducting classroom lessons that are consistent with the ASCA National Model, and students have responded by feeling more comfortable approaching us. The introduction of the @PHSCouns twitter feed and this blog provide access to the messages that we wish to send, even to students who may not yet feel ready to physically come to the school counseling office or are not able to process the information through traditional classroom or office-oriented methods. Through the introduction of the #PHSfit "brand," students are introduced to the idea of making decisions that make sense for each individual, free from undue influence of some peers, parents, or marketing. Students have to do what is right for them, taking into consideration their abilities, their interests, and their goals. This #PHSfit culture shift is best characterized by the College of the Day project, introducing students to a new college each day of the school year.
How can you recognize NCSW?
Mr. Goldman, Mrs. Murphy, and Ms. Price (or your school counselor, if you are checking in from another school) choose to be school counselors because that is our calling. We love our jobs because of the variety of tasks that we handle on a daily basis, and the diversity (both visible and invisible) of students with whom we get to interact. If you wish to recognize National School Counseling Week, some ways that you can do so is with a quick note of thanks, or an email, or a picture (is that too juvenile for high school?) expressing how a school counselor has helped you. You may also wish to take your recognition beyond that direct interaction and let a figure of higher authority know how much your school counselor has done for you. Tell your administrator what you think. Write a note to a district administrator (Our own superintendent has even requested funding to add six school counselors to the district for next school year). Tweet your positive thoughts or post them on facebook. Write a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun or the Patch. Or if those ovations are too public, perhaps just bring up your positive school counseling experiences when you are discussing education with peers.
We are planning to honor several teachers at the February 4 faculty meeting, because we have experienced their unusual support of the school counseling program, either in conversation or in the context of their classes. We are truly grateful when students, teachers, administrators, and parents utilize our services appropriately, and we are eager to continue to do so, with your involvement and engagement. How has your school counselor affected you? Please feel free to post your comments.