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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The need for more school counselors in the public schools

Written by Leanne Hope

The most critical issue in public education today is the need for more school counselors in the public schools in order to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students.  In my opinion, the most important contributions of school counselors are 1) Identification of mental health needs with referral services; 2) Student success education and career/college development; 3) Parenting and classroom management education; and 4) Crisis counseling.  I would like to share how I as a school counselor contribute to the four crucial contribution areas I have cited.

I, the school counselor, with a student population of 830 students, help to identify possible mental health needs by observing and describing symptoms displayed by children at school.  To accomplish this, I collaborate with parents, teachers, the Youth Relations Deputy, the school nurse, the administration team, the Multi-Tiered System of Support Response to Intervention team, the school and district psychologists, and the Positive Behavior Support team.  I refer parents to mental health resources available such as:  the Homeless Education program, the H.U.G.S. program (sponsored by National Alliance of the Mentally Ill), the district SEDNET representative, Family Alliance for Children,and additional private mental health practitioners.

The second contribution of school counselors identified above (student success and college/career development) is where the majority of my time and energy is spent. To promote student success in school and life, I co-lead positive behavior support assemblies that promote the life skills of safety, respect, and responsibility.  I teach students how to include others and report bullying.  I teach classroom lessons on student success skills.  My counseling small groups are formed for academically struggling students whose anger, anxiety, self-esteem, motivation, and/or lack of focus are negatively impacting their progress in school.  As a school counselor, I help students identify life-long, career path, school, academic and personal goals.   I work with teachers and the MTSS team to create behavioral progress monitoring plans for students whose behavior is impeding their learning.

In the third crucial school counseling contribution area of parenting and classroom management education, I teach Love and Logic classes at in-service training for teachers and evening sessions for parents.  Teachers and parents report that the simple techniques they learn in the counseling classes help their relationships with students affected by chronic behavioral and emotional challenges. The behavioral education that I offer as the school counselor to teachers and parents helps children to be responsible for their academic success and their future.

The fourth and final area of school counseling contribution, crisis intervention, can occur at any time in the school counselor's day.  As school counselor, I help teachers make calls to the Department of Children and family to report suspected sexual, physical, or emotional abuse; abandonment; or neglect.  I deal with students who want to die, disappear, or harm themselves.  I comfort students who have just lost a father, mother, aunt, uncle, sibling, grandparent, close personal family friend, or pet.  I assess their ability to return to class.  I give them coping strategies to make it through the school day.   I, the school counselor, am called to remove students from class who have caused a disruption.

I am committed to contributing in these four area that I believe are so crucial to the success of public education today.  Imagine what more could be accomplished with another school counselor at the school and without 20 extra hours of administrative duties a week.  Public Education needs me now more than ever.  That is why I think our greatest public education crisis today is the need for more school counselors who are free to do their jobs.

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