School counseling is one of the few professions where the year starts fast and gets faster. This is particularly true in high schools, where the school counselor is welcomed back on their very first day with an office full of parents and students, all eager to discuss their academic intentions for the year. In other words, schedule changes.
Of course, some school counselors don’t even have to wait that long. Dana Dornburgh of Holland Patent Central School District was at home, squeezing the last drops out of her summer, when her daughter approached her, phone in hand. The parents of one of her daughter’s classmates didn’t have access to the school’s online portal, so they texted Dana’s daughter to see if Dana could take a screenshot of their daughter’s schedule and send it to them. You know—today.
Dana’s response, in length, quality, and success, is more that reason enough to elect her Queen of School Counseling. “I'm not at work. I'm on a ladder painting my porch. See you !”
Dana came to mind this week, as counselors are not only trying to advise students on personal issues, but also keenly focused on helping students apply to colleges that have early application deadlines Applying to college is, at best, a well-organized fire drill of different people sending different things at different times, and hoping it all gets there on time. In the interest of helping some students learn more about responsibility, there are some things only the student can do in this process, like write the essays, and send in their test scores. That may not seem like much, but the number of students who come in asking if it’s too late to do either of these things, can be incredible, or depressing…
…or it could inspire you to reach down deep and find your inner Dana Dornburgh. It seems easier to say no during schedule changing season to requests that are a stretch. After a while, you can tell that Billy’s new interest in World Geography has nothing to do with Khartoum, and much more to do with Emily, who happens to love World Geography. If only Cupid could change schedules—but until then, it’s just me.
Believe it or not, missing college deadlines is really the same thing. Students and parents insist this is different, more serious. Billy and Emily have plenty of time to see each other outside class, and it’s likely their high school romance will fade. But denying a student the chance for admission at a college, just because they didn’t heed the dozen warnings you gave them about deadlines?
Not every student gets the attention they deserve from an overworked counselor, but it’s important to create policies about deadlines that give students the tools they’ll need to be successful at college. Will a college professor extend a term paper deadline, just because Billy never looked at the syllabus? Will Emily assume she can get more time for a project just by asking, since that’s all she’s had to do in high school? Americans are known for being inventive, but what does it say about the way students value rules if they’ve been raised to believe they’re always exceptions?
Counseling is a fine line between being supportive and being nurturing, or creating responses that lead to student growth. That may call for occasional exceptions to deadlines and processes, but if they’ve been created to provide growth, what are we saying to kids when we don’t let them grow?
Which is why I brought a mental paintbrush to my office today. Thanks, Dana Dornburgh.