Why School Counselors are Vital for a Happy, Healthy School
By Adam Parker, School Psychologist
February 1 through 5th, we celebrate National School Counselors Week. Whether your learning environment is remote, in person, or hybrid, there are many important social-emotional skills and tools counselors can provide to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of students.
What is a School Counselor and What Do They Do?
School counselors do a huge amount of work regarding social and mental health, working closely with families, communities, and students. They are available for daily check-ins, helping partner families with support and resources, and provide guidance for the future including help with college and helping students set positive and healthy goals.
School counselors practice in all areas of education and are an extremely important piece at each level.
- Elementary school: A school counselor might be running social-emotional groups, teaching students about feelings and emotional regulation, and helping families get the resources they need, (food, clothing, help with utilities, and rent).
- Middle school: Counselors are helping students navigate the academic and physical changes they are going through. How do I pick the best classes? What is happening to my body?! School Counselors have all the answers to the toughest questions. Middle school is a time of immense changes and counselors are there to support and guide students through a challenging time.
- High school: During high school, students are growing from a brand new freshman to a senior, applying for college, heading to the workforce, or leaping into whatever life after school has for them. Counselors are heavily involved in the transition into independence and helping students manage all the stressors of getting older.
Here’s a YouTube video talking about CHANGE, which counselors are always helping with:
All in for Students
This year's National School Counselors Week theme is “All in for Students,” and it speaks to how involved counselors are in students' lives. Counselors spend their days helping students succeed in school and in life and they are always ALL IN for their students.
In a school year filled with negative news, protests, riots, sickness, death, and a never-ending tunnel with the light always seeming a bit out of reach, counselors provide the flashlight to help us make it out on the other side.
You may notice your students or children have been feeling isolated and sad, or nervous and frustrated. All of these feelings are normal right now and counselors can help navigate the negative and search for positives.
Changing our thinking and focusing on what is going well can be the first step. Maybe this isolation has given you time to practice something, or connect with old friends. Perhaps you realized there were some things you could cut out of your life that now save you money and stress. Even though it is hard to get out of our negative thought patterns, counselors are great at helping us see a different perspective.
If you notice your child is struggling with getting organized, staying on task, or is experiencing sadness, anger, or anxiety, reach out to your school counselor for support.
In the words of Dr. Suess, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because in the end those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” Counselors give us an outlet to speak about our feelings and provide the safe space needed to grow.
A Counseling Tale
Throughout Covid-19, feelings have been all over the place. Some students are frustrated that they can’t see their friends, some are happy they get to sleep in, and some are nervous of what could happen next.
In August, I started a Mental Health Talk Show to help students understand these feelings were perfectly normal and everyone was feeling them. One episode was around the topic of anxiety and featured local Meteorologist Kylie Bearse. She talked about her anxiety, how she’s learned to cope, and some great strategies for handling overwhelming feelings.
The response from the students at my school was wonderful. So many who had been struggling with anxiety heard Kylie’s ideas and used them, taking them as a jumping-off point for their own coping skills. A few students came up to talk about how amazed they were that someone who experiences anxiety, just like them, was able to be on TV!
Mental health professionals in the school provide students many resources. Often times, those resources are simply connections with others who have faced the same sort of challenges, and have been able to overcome them.
Make sure to celebrate your school counselors, and all the important work they do, this week!
My name is Adam Parker and I am a School Psychologist who has a passion for making learning fun. I’ve used music, sports, and nature to help students feel comfortable to share their feelings. Lately I have been creating daily social-emotional videos and songs for students during these uncertain times. I like to bring fun back to school!
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.