Evolution of a School Counselor

counselorBy Sabrina Bartels – My decision to become a school counselor was a rather interesting one.

I was in my junior year of college and completely burnt out when it came to broadcasting (my primary major in college.) As much as I had loved the excitement and fast pace that a newsroom brought, I was slowly realizing that broadcasting was not the career I wanted to have for the rest of my life. I remember telling my parents that it was just too unpredictable of a career; I wanted a career with set hours and more structure. The thrill of chasing a story was outweighed by the fact that I would be working strange hours, covering more depressing stories than not, and never knowing when a story was going to break and when I would be needed.

After talking it over with one of my advisers, we determined that my best option would be to pursue a higher degree with my psychology major. After investigating several programs, I landed on the idea of being a school counselor. Set hours, a set routine, working with the same kids everyday, and helping shape young minds? I couldn’t think of a better career.

Looking back, I have to laugh. There is nothing set about my job. Though I know that I will be at work by 7 am, I never know when I’m going to leave. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to leave at 4 pm. Sometimes, I’m in the building until 5 or 6 at night. While I do work with a lot of the same students, I never know what will happen each day with them. There are weeks when I don’t see a particular student, and then I will suddenly see him or her every single day for the next month. And as for a set routine, there are days when my office is very quiet and I can catch up on miscellaneous tasks, and other days when I am lucky to sit at my desk for five minutes!

However, these are not the only things that change. I have learned the past two years that my job as a counselor evolves as my students get older. For example, when my students were in 6th grade, I did a lot of hand-holding. I provided quick solutions to problems. I held mediations. I helped students fill out a lot of incident reports.

This past year, as 7th graders, they seemed to have grown up so much, both physically and emotionally. Not only are they now taller than me (a feat that, by the way, has been a source of pride for many of my students!) but their needs as students have changed. I was more of a sounding board this year for my students. Instead of providing quick solutions, a lot of my students walked into my office and started with, “I think I know what to do, but I want to make sure …” They have held their own mediations, no longer needing me to referee an argument.

Of course, this makes me wonder how my role as their school counselor will change now that they are all big, tough 8th graders. Part of me wonders if my students will no longer need me as much as they do now. I’m sure that there will be students who I have good relationships with that will still stop by to talk. I know that some of my students have serious ongoing family issues that they will need to vent about. But as they grow up to be independent young adults, they may no longer need my advice.

They are working on forging their own paths, no longer needing me to shelter them. And while I predict that I will become more of a “mom” to my students, demanding excellence in academics and pushing them to be the best they can, I am not sure what my students will need from me this upcoming year.

I am so proud of my students for all they have accomplished, and I am excited to see what the future has to hold for them. While I do not know exactly what my role will be in their lives for their final year in middle school, I’m sure that it will be an adventure!

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