Wednesday, January 31, 2018

National School Counseling Week: It’s OK to Celebrate Yourself

By:  Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

It’s gratifying to see that National School Counseling Week is finally gaining traction among some key groups. Thanks in large part to the support school counselors received from Michelle Obama during her time as First Lady, National School Counseling Week and the related School Counselor of the Year ceremony have an elevated place in the national consciousness, helping everyone remember the vital role school counselors play in the lives of students, families, and communities.

It’s one thing for NSCW to enjoy the national spotlight, but what about its role at the local level? While some PTAs and other parent groups have Teacher Appreciation Month on their radar, NSCW can still be an elusive event, especially since it’s celebrated so close to Valentine’s Day, which is every parent leader’s favorite holiday. I’ve talked to too many school counselors who are actually conflicted about raising awareness of NSCW. “It’s like reminding my spouse about our anniversary” one counselor said. “If I have to ask them to celebrate me, is it really genuine?”

Yes. The answer is yes.

Look—school counselors spend an incredible amount of time teaching students to self-advocate. You don’t understand the homework? Here’s how you ask the teacher. It really bothers you when your brother makes fun of you? You can talk to him in a way that will make a difference. Making sure kids grow in claiming the part of the world that’s theirs is likely the single biggest thing we do. Why aren’t we showing them by example?

One counselor told me they don’t mention NSCW because they’re afraid their principal will go overboard. “I don’t want an assembly, or a sheet cake. To be honest, a sincere thank you would really be great.”

I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble, but as a former school administrator, I can tell you that’s what you will likely get. Principals are incredibly busy people, and that’s why they need people like secretaries—and counselors—to make sure they’re current on what they should be doing, and who they should be talking to. Principals also know that if they hire a DJ and throw a NSCW breakfast, that sets a precedent for Administrative Professionals Day, National Paraprofessional Week, and—well, you get the idea. Principals value what everyone in the building does; they just don’t have time to cook for all of them. Mention NSCW to them, and you can reasonable expect a short, personal visit, a card, and maybe a donut. That's a good day. 

So step up, in two ways. A reminder to your principal about next week is timely right now, since it gives them the weekend to make plans. In addition, join your colleagues across the country to celebrate your work. Grab a student, take a selfie, and tell the Twitter world why you love being a counselor. Throw #NSCW18 in your description, then take a look at the pictures of other school counselors. You’ll feel more supported, less isolated, and honored.

Mission accomplished. 

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