Often times, I hear adults make statements such as “Oh, yea, I remember my guidance counselor” or “I never saw my guidance counselor; I didn’t need to.” And maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I get irritated by this. Perhaps in the past the term ‘guidance counselor’ was appropriate. Students and even the general public held the belief that a guidance counselor was simply present to provide guidance and advice. A high school guidance counselor simply sat in their office and met with students who needed help deciding on classes to take. Or perhaps, a student in distress would see the guidance counselor to ask for advice about what to do. On the whole, the guidance counselor was available, if you sought out such a resource. In the early to mid-1900’s, a list of duties was identified for counselors. The 1950’s to 1970’s school counseling began to form a foundation for development of a program. Counselors were seen as a part of a system: the school system. By the 1980’s to 1990’s, developing, organizing, and managing a school counseling program began to cultivate.
Now in the 21st century, the role has endured much evolution over the years. With this expansion, has come a change in names. The following are just a sample of the job titles that individuals may hold:
•Professional School Counselor
•Student Support Specialist
Whatever the title is, it holds certain expectations as to what the job entails. In my opinion, the preferred title is professional school counselor (PSC), as we are professionals. In accordance with the American School Counselor Association and their National Model, PSC’s perform a wide array of tasks that span across three domains: academic, career, and personal/social. The first ASCA National Model was developed in 2003 and now is in its third edition. The latest edition reflects substantial educational reform that has occurred in the last decade. I like how the model has been expanded. As a professional school counselor for a handful of years, I was motivated by its themes of leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change. Focusing on these aspects is a great demonstration of the professional nature of our career.
Even with such progress, there still exists much ambiguity about what a counselor does. The best thing that anyone can do is ask, however this does not happen often enough. When it does happen, it is providing the opportunity to clarify and advocate for what PSC’s truly do. I encourage the PSC’s that are reading this to figure out how you can advocate. Maybe you can team up with a few others PSC’s in your district and create a PowerPoint presentation that demonstrates the effectiveness of your comprehensive school counseling program, data-driven of course. Perhaps you attend the first staff meeting of the school year and spend some time explaining the role of a school counselor and provide staff members with an overview of your plan for the year (or semester). You could do a “Did You Know” column in your school’s monthly newsletter or website. Consider campaigning during the first full week of February which is National School Counseling Week. Take a Flip Video cam and chronicle your work-- interview students and staff members about their experience in working with a PSC or record your Peer Assistance Leadership students working on an anti-bullying project. Most importantly, put yourself out there with your passion and commitment!
Sandi Logan is school counselor and currently a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at University of Florida. Prior to pursuing further studies, she worked as an elementary and middle school counselor in Southern California.