Many Hats: My Role(s) as a School Counselor

still-life-marc-jacobs-hats-1By Sabrina Bong — Once upon a time, when I was first being interviewed for graduate school, one of my interviewers posed this challenge: “Describe a school counselor’s role in seven words or less.”

At the time, I was panicked because I had no idea how to cut all of my ideas down to just seven words (I’m a very chatty person.) In the end, I came up with “an advocate for those who can’t speak” or something to that effect. I knew that a big part of my role would be to advocate for my students, especially those who were too scared or unable to speak up, or be noticed, by others.

Now that it’s close to the end of my last year, I realize that there is more to counseling than being an advocate. While I still enjoy the answer I came up with way back when, I wonder what I would say now that I have more experience. Below are three “alternative” answers that I could give now that I’ve spent some time in the field. Some of my new answers are a bit silly, and some air more on the serious side. But either way, here is how I would answer that question today!

  1. “Mother/sister/best friend/cheerleader/counselor/teacher.” I feel as though I play a bit of each of these roles every day I am at the school, working with my students. For some of my students, I really have to be like a mother. I have to make sure they are wearing clean, appropriate clothing and display their manners nicely. Other times, I play that sister/best friend role. I lead by example, and hope my students will follow it. I give advice. I tell them stories about what it was like when I was their age. Or, sometimes I play the cheerleader. I praise them all the time. I tell them they are doing great things with their life. I tell them that they are not stuck where they are, that they can put their minds to anything and achieve it. And then, on occasion, I play more of a counselor/teacher role, with mediating arguments and going over homework.
  1. “A person who provides relationship support.” I spend a lot of my time working with students who have major family troubles, due to a multitude of reasons. I help my students see that not every relationship is perfect, and that every relationship takes work. But I would say that I spend almost 30% of my time talking to students about romantic relationships. So far this year, students have asked me to help them break up with someone, ask someone out, and tell them that they are not ready to kiss. If I had to give one piece of advice that I have used over a million times with my students, it would be “If you aren’t mature enough to talk about it, you definitely aren’t mature enough to do it.”
  1. “Drama fighter!” If any of you remember your middle school years, you probably remember a little bit of the drama that came along with them: the whole “he said, she said” debacles and when people would give you dirty looks across the room. I swear, this year has been drama filled. While most of my students are now (slowly!) getting away from the drama, it still pops up every once in a while. I think that counselors deserve a cape for all the drama they fight!

But while all of these are my “roles,” the most important one is “someone who cares about every student.”

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