There’s no such thing as “down time” for school counselors, but if there was ever a “crunch time”, this is it. Sure, the first round of scheduling is over, but the second round of scheduling is about to begin. Spring testing is on the horizon for many counselors (why are we in charge of that again?), and seniors are about to get admissions decisions from the nation’s most select colleges. Once that smoke has cleared, it’s time to get ready for AP testing, award ceremonies, final exams, commencement—and a little more scheduling. Then, just like that, it’s over.
As we get ready to take the plunge, it’s important to hear the perspective of a student who caught her counselor on a bad day. As I was told the story, the student wasn’t coming to see her counselor; they just happened to be in the hallway at the same time, with the student heading to class, and the counselor heading to another event of part of another busy day. After seeing the very heavy scowl on the counselor’s face, the student concluded this was not the day to see her counselor—she was clearly in a bad mood.
Fair or not, it’s important to consider this experience from the student’s perspective. As counselors, it’s easy for us to dismiss the concern with a reminder that counselors have too many tasks to complete, and too little time to do them; that too much of our work involves duties that have nothing to with counseling; that everyone has bad days. When we put on our counselor lens and our adult lens, it’s easy to look past an inadvertent scowl, and not let it keep us from touching base with a counselor, or asking them for help.
The problem with that thinking is that students—our clients—aren’t adults. It’s certainly true that some of our students in greatest need aren’t the most logical thinkers, and the high emotions of some teenagers makes them impossible to please at times. At the same time, these same volatile students are the ones who need us most, the ones who need to feel welcome by their counselor when the rest of the world has, at least according to them, given them the cold shoulder. It isn’t easy to maintain a posture of openness and receptivity at all times, but when we tell students we’re there for them no matter what, that’s what we sign up for—always demonstrating at atmosphere of support for students who may not be thinking with linear precision.
It’s important to be honest with our students, and we don’t do them any favors by trying to portray adulthood as a seamless journey of joy-filled discovery. But that’s a story we can tell once the student is in our office; the way we hold ourselves in the hallways and complete those “other duties as assigned” can make the difference in getting students in our offices in the first place. So give a smile to your students, especially when they think they aren’t looking. It can make a world of difference.