By Sabrina Bartels – While chatting with my dad on the phone last week, he excitedly told me that he had seen a story about school counselors on the local news. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect; there is often a very negative connotation to a school being on the news. However, this story was a pleasant surprise. It was a special report that begged the question: Is there a school counselor shortage in Wisconsin?
According to the report, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) suggests a 250:1 student to counselor ratio in the schools. However, this ratio does not hold true in many schools. In the report, it was stated that the average student to counselor ratio in Wisconsin is 450:1.
It’s not that we as counselors don’t like having more students. I always think that the more students, the merrier. I also see it as the more students I have, the more lives I can help change. At the same time, as needs in the school are evolving, an increase in students means that I have less time for each student on my caseload.
When my parents were in school, they didn’t have a counselor until high school. Even then, my mom and dad say that they really didn’t see their counselor, unless they needed their high school transcript. My husband, who is only four years older than me, told me that he only saw his counselor twice during his high school career. This is in sharp contrast to what I do on a daily basis: There are students I may see one-on-one every day of the week!
I have students with varying needs as well that need attending to. I meet weekly with some students who have anxiety. For some, they are struggling with issues at home, and I meet with them maybe twice a week. I have students who are behavioral concerns that I meet with on a daily basis; students I meet with on an as-needed basis with drama; and students who I see every other week for academic concerns and organizational skills. And this doesn’t even touch on the responsive services I provide (for example, a student is crying and gets sent down to me,) and the times I am teaching!
I feel as though students nowadays have higher personal and social needs than we did back when my parents (or even I) were in school. With more parents working full-time or juggling multiple jobs, students don’t get as much “face time” with their families, or find it harder to find time to talk with parents. And with the boom of technology, students are finding more ways to interact (both appropriately and inappropriately) via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, Instagram, and Vine. This means that a lot of students may seek out their counselor for advice. In a middle school, that can be quite a number of students!
I do appreciate the fact that the news began to question the student-to-counselor ratio, since it means that more and more schools are seeking counselors. It means that counselors are making a difference in their schools. It means that people are seeing us counselors as important.
We are worthy. We are an integral part of a student’s development. Our focus on social and emotional health, as well as our emphasis on academic and career readiness, is critical to students. We are helping students navigate the choppy, dynamic, and sometimes terrifying waters associated with growing up.
It is so incredibly gratifying to hear that people reach out to their counselor. It reminds me that what I do on a daily basis has worth and that it really matters. There are nights when I come home and feel as though I did not make a difference; seeing that Wisconsin is calling for more counselors lets me know that I am doing something, even if I’m just listening.
Check out the report here!