One of the most common questions that I get when I tell people what I do is…..what do you do? It’s not a surprising question. Most of us had a “Guidance Counselor” when we were in middle and high school, but the elementary counselor is still somewhat a new concept. So people are often curious as to what my job is like. The classroom guidance part of my job is the thing that seems to get the most interest, and the thing that I felt the least prepared to do after graduation.
We discussed “guidance class” during my masters program and we did a few assignments where we created classroom lessons. During my internship I taught a few classes, but it did not seem to be a big part of my job. That all changed at my first school counseling job. I worked at two small primary schools, each school having eight classes. I found out at the interview that I was expected to teach a guidance class every week to each class. What? My first thought was how am I going to fill up a whole years worth of instruction? I have only taught a few lessons, now I am going to teach sixteen a week for a whole school year! After sitting down and doing some planning on topics I would like to cover, I found that I had filled up the year pretty easily. I learned a lot those two years and got really comfortable teaching guidance lessons.
I changed counties after that and was now going to be responsible for a lot more students at one school. I quickly learned that it was not going to be possible to do as many guidance lessons as I had before. I had to scale back to once monthly lessons. After at first being scared of so many lessons I was now wishing I could see the kids more as a class, but with 700 students, you have to realize that there is only so much you can do.
So, what do we talk about during guidance class? The first thing that I always cover during guidance class is our schools monthly character trait. I usually share a book, game, or activity that opens a discussion of that character trait and why it’s important to show that trait. Other topics that I cover in class are: self esteem, social skills, friendship, tattling, dealing with change/coping, bullying, conflict resolution, personal safety, internet safety, tobacco, drug, and alcohol prevention, and diversity and equity. This guidance time with the students at my school is so important.
Guidance class is important because of several things. First of all, this is the major prevention part of a school counselors’ job. This is the time to help kids learn about the world they live and how they can safely navigate through it. It is my job to give them good information and skills that they can use to avoid future issues. Another important part of guidance class is that it allows a school counselor, with 700 kids, to get to know most of the students at my school, and them get to know me. This relationship building is great for those kids who may have a problem, but because they don't know the school counselor, they don’t go for help.
My point in this blog is to help counselor educators and school counselors at all levels see the importance of guidance class. Too often the life of a school counselor is hectic and busy, so the first thing that we all let drop are things like guidance class, but this is mistake. We must always remember the importance of prevention, even when we feel like all we get done are putting out fires.
David McCord is a school counselor for Montgomery County Public Schools. His theoretical interest are in solution focused theory and play therapy