Feb 7, 2011

Celebrate National School Counseling Week with a ‘Thank You’ and a Hug

Most local high school guidance counselors won’t have much time to celebrate National School Counseling Week (February 7-11) this year. According to the American School Counselor Association, here are a few of the reasons why:

• Nearly one in three girls and one in four boys report being highly stressed
• Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year olds.
• Among students nationwide, 5.4 percent had not gone to school on one or more days in the last month because they felt unsafe.
• Between 15 to 25 percent of students are bullied with some to moderate frequency.
• More than half of sixth graders report peer pressure to drink beer, wine or liquor. One of every three sixth graders say they feel pressured to use marijuana.

In other words, these folks are busy. And they’re busy helping kids address personal and social problems, substance abuse, attendance issues, and academics. They’re busy trying to keep kids from dropping out, doing dope, or causing harm to themselves or others—all within the context of caseloads that far exceed the wildest estimates of what anyone thinks is prudent or sane.

The National School Counselor Association recommends that parents “maintain an open dialogue with their child’s counselor and establish contact in-person, or via phone and email at least three times per school year.” Sounds good, but how often does it happen?

I work with many local students and parents who have never met, nor think it’s particularly important to meet with their guidance counselor. In all fairness, the counselor may not have had time to reach out, and the system does seem to actively work to thwart the relationship. But still, the door is seldom entirely closed.

And yet when it comes time for applying to college, who do these same students and parents think organizes the school paperwork and writes the recommendations? Who’s in the process of gathering information for the all-important mid-year reports on which college candidacies may rise or fall? And how does anyone think these reports or recommendations can be anything but generic if there is no personal interaction at any time during the high school career?

So let’s begin breaking down barriers. Why not take a moment to make to start or renew a friendship in the guidance office? Take the occasion of National School Counseling Week to send an email, write a note, or stop by the office to thank the person behind the desk. Even better—drop by the principal’s office and tell the boss what a great job your counselor is doing.

And knowing many school counselors in every corner of the country, I’d say a hug would very likely be appreciated and warmly accepted.

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