Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Steps Toward Better Guidance

In an earlier post I mentioned the issues with guidance counselors in high schools. It seems I was not the only one to notice. A recent blog on insideschools.org discussed the lack of individual attention given to students by their guidance counselors. Guidance counselors are usually swamped with paperwork and scheduling but rarely spend extensive time getting to know their students.

In my experience, a very small percentage of students at a middle or high school level consider their guidance counselor when they are looking for support in something. Guidance counselors are often strangers, and another authority waiting to punish you for something. Also, kids are intimidated by the requirements of guidance counselors to report anyone who might be in a dangerous situation. I have sometimes suggested to my friends that they talk to a guidance counselor about something (this is usually a last resort) and they respond by laughing or rolling thier eyes. This does not occur exclusively with me or my friends.

So how do we fix this problem? I maintain that weekly advisory periods are a great step. Advisory groups should only be about 15 kids, and they will meet with their guidance counselor for one period a week for open or slightly structured conversation. A counselor in a big school might be given more than one advisory group.

A group situtation like that doesn't make a kid feel pressured to open up, and most likely they won't discuss anything personal in front of their classmates anyway. But it still gives kids a connection with their guidance counselor and a person to come to who knows their name and is looking out for them. Also, its crucial during these periods that counselors try not to judge or preach to their students, but interact on a human and friendly level. I encourage all schools to impliment these periods and all counselors to work on better, more personal relationships with their students.


urcookn said...

I'm an elementary school counselor. I go to each classroom pre-K -6th grade once a month. However, my high school counselor friend never goes into the classroom. We have approx 450 students each. She has two part time counselors and a secretary. In my buildning I am the only counselor and do not have a secretary. Although I feel overwhelmed witht the amount of duties I have there must be a lot more work at the high school level.
One of our high school teachers suggested assigning high school kids a teacher mentor. Each teacher may have up to 15 students they meet with and mentor. It sounds like something like this might work--what do you think??

Anonymous said...

I think that idea definitely has potential. students often find teachers who they connect with for one reason or another and open up to them at random moments in ways they never would with a guidance counselor. if each student had a teacher (preferably not their own)they met with once a month during lunch or something, that would be great. although the initial connection would be forced, it would give them a person they knew they could go to.