This week school counselors across the nation are celebrating National School Counseling Week (Feb 4-Feb11), a week sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to highlight the impact school counselors are making on education across the nation. To kick off the week, ASCA has asked school counselors to share the lessons that they have learned. In honor of this week, here are 5 lessons I have learned as a school counselor.
Lesson # 1. I have earned my ticket to heaven.
It was what my principal told me the first time I had a melt down. And after 7 years as a school counselor, I believe him. I have earned my ticket to heaven. The work we do is fast paced, demanding, and can really take a tool on you. Education has long been a target for society to dump all their problems on and the target only continues to get bigger. Yet I give and I give and I give. I stay loyal and consistent to my passion for education and I am earning my ticket to heaven.
Lesson # 2 Everything is gray. Nothing is black and white.
I used to believe that everything was polarized. That things fell into categories. You were man or woman. You were black or white. You were either American or not. It was abuse or it wasn’t. It was a vegetable or a fruit. Hell, I thought you were either good or bad. But in this line of work, I learned that everything exists on a spectrum. A common saying is that everything is grey. Nothing is as it appears at first sight.
Lesson # 3 Teens are not the most difficult population to work with.
It was after my first year as a school counselor and I was asked what was the most challenging aspect of my role as a school counselor. Without hesitation I said, the adults. And I stick to my answer to this day. As a school counselor I learned that the students themselves are not the problem, it is how the adults perceive the youth, interact with them, and treat them that causes the problems.
Lesson # 4 Equity does matter.
My experience as a school counselor has caused me a number of paradigm shifts, the most important one being how I view social justice. Working in a low-income community I have seen firsthand the negative impact of cyclical poverty on the wellbeing of children, specifically their ability to learn and function in a classroom. I have seen firsthand the impact that stereotypes, micro-aggressions, discrimination, and racism have on students of color achievement. I have observed the wide impact disabilities of all types have on our children’s hope of a bright future as our systems categorize and label them. I have learned that equity does matter.
Lesson # 5 There aren’t bad people just lost souls.
Finally, I have learned that no one is bad. My students Dad who is sitting in a jail cell is not bad. My former student who joined the local gang is not bad. My student who deals drugs to other 8th graders throughout the school is not bad. They just have lost souls. They need healing. They need faith. They need hope. They need purpose. They need to get out of a broken system. They aren’t bad people just lost souls.
Over the years I have learned so much more than these 5 lessons. In fact, if I am honest in my reflection I have grown up in this profession. And like all human beings I am constantly growing and developing. For me, the distance is far to great to understand. Happy national school counseling week.