Feb 1, 2010

Celebrate National School Counseling Week

In honor of National School Counseling Week (February 1-5), I want to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of professional school guidance counselors slugging away in the trenches of our nation’s high schools. I particularly want to highlight the contributions of counselors in the business of making dreams come true—those working to guide high school students through the process of applying to college.

The way the system currently operates, guidance counselors play a key role. They are tasked with bringing the admissions process to life for many who may never have considered the possibility of attending college. From there, they move the process along by advising, nudging, organizing paperwork, and authoring recommendations for each and every student in their caseloads. It’s an overwhelming responsibility—easily subject to criticism and greatly underappreciated.

In an article titled Why High School Counselors Don't Know Much About College, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, an author and freelance writer, takes aim at counselors by attacking their training and expertise. Claiming the “college IQ of many counselors is stunted,” O’Shaughnessy wants readers to believe that postgraduate classes and additional certifications outweigh the value of on-the-job training and professional experience.

“I was livid,” remarked one local public school guidance counselor reacting to the articles after having purchased O’Shaughnessy’s book last year. “You know, I didn’t respond and controlled myself because I know she is wrong.”

She is wrong—on many levels. Damning an entire profession with blanket criticism doesn’t further the goal of upgrading the quality of counseling provided to high school students. It just causes misunderstanding and makes the job harder. And trust me, it’s hard enough!

So going back to National School Counseling Week, I recommend taking a moment to help your counselor celebrate. Send an email, write a note, or stop by the office to thank the person behind the desk. Knowing many counselors in high schools in every corner of the country, I'd say a hug would very likely be appreciated.

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