In my early years of teaching, I didn’t realize the impact a school counselor could make on my program. I knew that they met with students who were having issues at home or even at school. 

From my experience with the counselors, I knew that they would come and do presentations to my classes. I also remember taking interest surveys and meeting with them and my parents.

Somehow, I forgot the part that when we met, we talked about my future. I forgot that they had made some suggestions of classes that would interest me.

I remember being in one of those meetings in high school finding out I was deficient in 0.5 CTE credits. The counselor started listing my options of semester classes. She mentioned to me that the easiest class was a keyboarding class. 

I didn’t want easy–I wanted something that I would be interested in.

I made her continue until she started telling me about the drafting classes. “What? They offered classes like that at my high school?” 

I had always said on those interest surveys that I wanted to go into interior design and/or architecture. I figured I would need to take a drafting class at some point, and was thrilled to find out that I could start right away.

From that semester on, I enrolled in every drafting and interior design class that my high school offered. It started me on the path to my current career.

School guidance counselors are making the same impact on students in every high school. Today, we’re going to talk about the responsibilities of counselors, what they may or may not know about your classes, and how to build relationships with them.

School counselor responsibilities

Do you know what your school counselors do? 

I did a quick Google search and got the following list:

On the job, school counselors:

  • Listen to students’ concerns about academic, emotional, or social problems
  • Help students process their problems and plan goals and action
  • Mediate conflict between students and teachers
  • Improve parent/teacher relationships
  • Assist with college applications, jobs, and scholarships
  • Facilitate drug and alcohol prevention programs
  • Organize peer counseling programs
  • Refer students to psychologists and other mental health resources
  • Work on academic boards to improve learning conditions

In that list, there was no mention of creating a master schedule. That’s because it is not their job. While they may work with the administration in creating a master schedule to meet the needs of students, they don’t (or shouldn’t) be creating it.

While they are not the keepers of the schedule, they do hear a lot about your classes. They may not hear about specific projects, but they do hear about your relationships with students. 

Students have no problem telling counselors–or other teachers–whether or not they enjoy a class. They also let them know if they feel a teacher doesn’t like them.

If you want more information on building student relationships, check out Episode 5.

What do the school counselors know or not know about your classes?

Even though school counselors don’t build the master schedule, they still play a large role in your schedule. 

Like my story earlier, counselors can make suggestions to students about courses to take. Most of the time this works out well–except if they don’t know what your class is about.

Sure, they have the course description, but does that mean they know what students are learning?

Last week, while I was checking Instagram, a post from @fcsisfabulous and the #cteteacher showed up in my feed. 

She posted a headshot of herself with the caption, “Yesterday we collaborated with our photography teacher and he taught us about lighting and using the cameras. Everyone took some headshots of each other.

“I will admit I know nothing about photography but I had a lot of fun learning about the passion of another CTE teacher.”

She continued to say that they use this time to learn from each other and help promote each other’s programs. I immediately wished that my department had done something like this. 

A few years back when Jared, my welding teaching husband, was working at our local tech college, they did something similar. They invited the board of directors to a welding night where everyone was able to make a simple project.

They used the plasma cutter to cut out a silhouette of a character or shape. Then welded a rod on the back so that it could stick in the ground. Quick and simple yard art.

What would this look like at your school? Better yet, what about inviting your counselors to attend? 

This would be a great way to build relationships with your colleagues. This would also show your teaching abilities what students learn from you.

Your school counselors need to know your ideal schedule goals

Very few school counselors have been teachers. They work with students but don’t know what it is like to teach many preps. They may even think that you like teaching all those preps because it gives you variety.

In episodes 8 & 9, we discussed setting goals for your ideal schedule. In planning those goals you need to talk with the administration and counselors. 

They need to know your plan on how you want to build your program. When they get those undecided students, they can know which direction to point.

I had a counselor once who was so focused on students that she didn’t see the teachers. If a student wanted to go into engineering, she would counsel them to take every course I was endorsed to teach.

While her intentions were good, she pushed hard to have me teach multiple preps. It wasn’t until I pushed back that I was able to grow my program. 

Your school counselors are critical stakeholders in your school. Remember they are here to support students and guide them in their career goals. Your school counselors may only know the course description of your classes and need more from you. And, they need to know your schedule goals so they can advise students while keeping you sane.

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