Learning to Fly

By Sabrina Bong — A few weeks ago, my supervisor informed me that the Student Services team was attending an ACT training session.

At first, I believed that I was receiving this news so that I could prepare to go to the training session as well. Instead, I discovered that I was going to be the only counselor at the site for that particular day. Though the Student Support Services secretaries and the assistant principals were on site, I was the only “counselor” on duty.

What?!

My wariness about attending a training session quickly morphed into worry. How was I going to handle my first completely solo sessions? It was one thing to meet with students and then discuss the situation with my supervisor. It was a whole different thing to help students and just rely on my training and gut instincts. With these worries swarming my brain, I walked into the school last week and prepared for my first full day of being a counselor.

At first, students sent me strange glances when they walked past the office, confused as to why I was sitting at my supervisor’s desk. A few did double-takes. But slowly, as the day wore on, students began stopping in the office and asking if they could speak with me. I helped look up college admissions requirements and walked students through the process of checking credits to graduate from high school. A few students came in that I was more familiar with; we talked about their athletic teams, their relationships, their college decisions.

Having this unique opportunity only cemented my decision to become a counselor. If there had been any doubt in my mind earlier about whether I should pursue this career, it quickly disappeared after that day. I was able to fully experience what it was like to be a real high school counselor: to send passes, problem-solve, and collaborate with students and staff. It was an adrenaline rush like none other.

I was also able to experience the emotions tied to helping students. When one student burst into the office in a rage over a conflict with a teacher, I experienced exactly what my teachers had prophesied: a mixture of anger and sadness and anxiety. Anger that the conflict had occurred; sadness because a student was kicked out of class; anxiety because I did not want to side with either party, nor did I completely know how to handle a student-teacher conflict. Most importantly, I saw how much counselors advocate for the students and how much students rely on their counselor’s unconditional support.

The icing on the cake was checking my email later that night and finding this note that I had missed earlier:

All Student Services staff will be out today at an ACT Training at Cardinal Stritch. Our talented school counseling intern from Marquette will be here all day to support students.

It was incredibly humbling. Knowing that the department had such faith in me to put that in an email (and send it!) was the best praise I could ever receive.

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