A Day in the Life of a School Counselor
Contributing article by Danielle Juengel, School Counselor at Laird School
You may wonder, why do Elementary schools need a school counselor?
“Today’s young people are living in an exciting time, with an increasingly diverse society, new technologies and expanding opportunities. To help ensure they are prepared to become the next generation of parents, workers, leaders and citizens, every student needs support, guidance, and opportunities during childhood – a time of rapid growth and change. Children face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that have an impact on academic achievement” (Toward a Blueprint for Youth: Making Positive Youth Development a National Priority,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
The school counseling process is a special type of helping process implemented by a professionally trained and certified person. This “helping” process involves providing results-based counseling and services in order to assist students as they explore academic, career, and personal/social issues impeding healthy development or academic progress. The goal of the counseling process is to provide comprehensive services that are developmentally and culturally appropriate, while promoting students’ personal and social growth and to foster their academic progress. The techniques that are used vary depending on age and personality of the student. It is best to work around the student’s need. School counselors advocate for students by removing the barriers to academic achievement and empowering students to reach their full potential. School counselors collaborate with parents, school personnel, and the community to create a partnership that fosters student success and enables students to become contributing members of the greater community.
The healthy development of children and adolescents is crucial to the future well-being of any society. As students develop, they face new and diverse challenges, both emotionally and developmentally, which can have an influence on academic achievement.
Developing students are characterized by a need to explore a variety of interests, connecting their learning in the classroom to its practical application in life and work; high levels of activity coupled with frequent fatigue due to rapid growth; a search for their own unique identity as they begin turning more frequently to peers rather than parents for ideas and affirmation; extreme sensitivity to the comments from others; and heavy reliance on friends to provide comfort, understanding and approval.
School Counselors Help Close the Achievement Gap
Counselors are available to work one-on-one with students in the general education classroom throughout the teacher’s instruction in order help the student succeed. This helps meet the student’s specific needs without them missing core instruction. Here are some reasons on how school counselors help close the achievement gap:
Take a comprehensive approach to teaching children’s social and emotional skills, which can raise their grades and test scores, increase enthusiasm for learning, reduce behavior problems, as well as enhance cognitive functioning.
Research has shown us that students who receive social skills instruction do better academically and socially. Although, the reverse is not true. Academic instruction does not increase social/emotional skills.
There is a strong relationship between emotions and learning. Students who can recognize and manage strong emotions are better learners and students.
Students who attend schools with a comprehensive guidance program (Second Step) do significantly better on standardized tests such as AzMERIT and NWEA, than students who attend schools without a comprehensive guidance program.
The longer the students are in schools with comprehensive guidance programs, the more they outperform their peers on standardized tests.
Prosocial behaviors exhibited by students in the classroom were found to be better predictors of academic achievement than were their standardized test scores.
“Professional school counselors who work as social change agents can help eliminate the achievement gap, increase academic expectations, and become more proactive in creating safer and more inclusive learning environments for students” (Ratts, DeKruyf, & Chen-Hayes, 2007).
When a child has at least one person in their life who will stand up for them and help them succeed, they have a higher chance of flourishing. It is unfortunate, but in some instances the school personnel may be the only positive adult figure in that child’s life, which is another reason school counselors make it a point to support and encourage students.