The Casting Dock

a little counseling corner glimpse?

I often hear the question, What exactly do you DO as an elementary school counselor?

This is usually followed pretty quickly by some form of I mean, how many problems can they really have?
the short answer is so many more than you would imagine…)

When people think of school counselors, they generally think of class scheduling and college letters of recommendation. Basically they think of high school guidance counselors, which is a land vastly different from my little niche.

Elementary school counseling is a bit of a circus. I can think of no better way to describe my job than simply tossing ball after ball after ball in the air, glancing up periodically to take inventory, extending a hand here and there to keep one from crashing, and hoping that not too many fall by the end of the day. My weekly “schedule” is comprised of staff meetings; grade level team meetings; participating in about 6 different committee meetings; doing classroom lessons (on social skills type topics); running a host of small groups (usually also pretty social skills based); individually counseling kids; coordinating our high school buddy program; making tons and tons of parent calls and setting parent meetings; coordinating 504 plans; being involved in the special education process; doing paperwork, paperwork, paperwork (!); creating, implementing, and overseeing all the behavior plans; consulting with teachers; checking data, data, data (!) of about 8 different varieties; and listening to countless frustrations, complaints, and vent sessions from a variety of people in the building. And on any given day, that schedule could fly out the window because we have a kid screaming at the top of her lungs tossing chairs around the classroom and someone’s gotta calm her down. That’d be me. You can call me the short straw on days like that.

The reality is, I work at an amazing school and I absolutely LOVE my job. It can be pure chaos, but I’ve learned that I thrive off of the variety and I actually enjoy the balance of predictability and pure crazy–it keeps me on my toes. The best parts of my day, though, the ones that stick with me on the drive home and tumble around in my head before I fall asleep at night are just the little glimpses. The little moments of connecting with a kid, of looking in his eyes and knowing that he feels heard, known, and valued. The vast majority of my job is simply building relationships. It doesn’t matter so much which curriculum I use or whether or not I say the perfect thing or choose the best strategy. The relationship matters. Does the kid know me? Does he trust me? Does he feel known by me? Does he connect with me in some way? Does he truly believe that I care about him?

I think about these little glimpses of my days often. They are what is left after the dust has settled in my mind.  I think of sitting down next to a little kindergarten girl in the main office an hour after school gets out waiting for her mom to finally come for her. She was so shy and soft-spoken as a kindergartener that in those rare instances when she did speak, it was barely intelligible. But we sat there and I marched out a little zoo animal scene with her silly bandz while she just sat staring at me, apprehensively. I got down on her level, looked her in the eyes, and simply smiled. By the time her mom arrived only a few minutes later, her big brown eyes were beaming up at me and a wide smile stretched across her face. I knew in that moment that she felt valued. It took me all of 5 minutes and it was by far the highlight of my day. And sure enough, when she saw me across the hall on the first day of first grade, she came barreling down towards me with that same wide smile and wrapped me up in my biggest 6 year old hug to date.

To be honest, I am very hesitant to write much about my job on this here blog o’mine. There are just too many lawsuits and scandals and people losing their jobs over things they post online. However, these are the little glimpses, the moments in time, that I want to hold with me forever. They are the moments that make me believe that in the midst of my daily chaos, this job matters. That when kids feel known and valued and cared for, they can honestly do incredible things. I watch this little girl interact with her friends this year and speak up for herself in class and walk proudly with a bold smile on her face and I think back to that little kindergarten girl, that shell of her current self, and I can’t help but smile.

So I’m thinking of starting a little segment on here to capture these little moments…I don’t have a name for it yet or a cool little graphic…just a seed of thought.



1 Craig W { 11.10.11 at 12:51 pm }

It’s a great idea and I look forward to the sharing of your little glimpses. Do this long enough and you might have a book or a play on your hands.

2 Lindsey { 11.10.11 at 8:22 pm }

I love this. It makes me want to become an elementary school counselor! :) You are making such a difference in those kids lives. I’ll look forward to seeing more glimpses on here!!

3 Bryan { 11.12.11 at 6:45 pm }

Thanks for the insight into your job. I liked reading about it. Your job does sound like a good challenge. I don’t know if it’s my kind of challenge, but I think you’re well suited for it and glad you are enjoying it so.

I especially don’t envy you for the paperwork, but I guess that’s just part of the bargain. Also, I would not be one of the people asking ‘what problems could they have?’… I know a lot of elementary students, and they are terrifically disturbed. I don’t doubt you’ve got a workload!

4 noche { 11.12.11 at 8:04 pm }

Happy to see you back posting again!
Your job sounds perfect for you….challenging at every turn. The uncertainty of it can be exhilarating and maddening at the same time I’m sure….perfect combo for one who likes to stay on their toes! If you ever get tired of it, you can become a fireman…or is it firewoman???

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