The role of the modern professional school counselor is increasing in complexity. In addition to the traditional responsibilities of academic intervention, behavioral counseling, and college and career advising, today’s school counselors develop students’ life skills, promoting their overall physical, intellectual, emotional and social well-being.
This can be a daunting task for a single person, but a school counselor need not go it alone. An integral part of effective school counseling is involving the entire community in the development of the student. Not only is this a crucial part of most counseling positions, it can exponentially increase the positive impact counselors have on students. Supporting this aspect of school counseling, modern graduate programs like Lamar University’s online Master of Education in School Counseling place emphasis on developing relationships and building a network of support throughout the school community.
Building Personal Relationships With Students
Effective school counselors start by building strong relationships with their students. A relationship based on respect and trust can go a long way in improving a student’s development. If a student understands that you, as their counselor, are truly invested in their well-being and development, they will often be more apt to respond positively to your guidance. This can lead to a deeper internalization of coping strategies and life skills, both academically and socially.
Any genuine relationship is a two-way street — learning and feedback goes both ways. A student who feels you value what they have to offer might be more inclined to value what you have to offer. Listening to and incorporating their feedback into your counseling style and content will make the student feel heard and respected.
Even basic things like culture and language count. Striving to better understand a student’s cultural background, celebrating it, and incorporating insights from that culture into your relationship can make that student feel valued. Or if a student is an English language learner, learning a moderate amount of their native language can greatly facilitate your understanding of a student’s situation, allowing them to articulate their experience in a way that feels natural.
Involving Parents in the Student’s Holistic Development
The majority of a student’s time is spent out of school; therefore, much of a student’s development results from influences, experiences and relationships with family and the community at large. For most students, or at least the lucky ones, family relationships remain a constant in their upbringing. Consequently, school counselors should strive to further cultural and contextual understanding of students by getting to know their families and involving them in the development of that student, coaching them on positive counseling methods and getting on the same page with expectations for growth emotionally and academically. This is yet another aspect of building a community of support for students.
Further Community Outreach
To spread this network of support even further, counselors should reach out to community members and organizations to involve them in the personal development of students. Participating in community service projects can have a positive impact on students’ academic performance as well as their personal development.
Moreover, providing students with skill- or trade-oriented service and internship opportunities can be a valuable form of experiential education. This addresses the college and career development aspect of a school counselor’s responsibilities. Real-life experience can give students viable ideas about avenues to pursue for study or work as well as a resume to help them in that pursuit. In addition to building job-specific skills, these experiences can develop the work ethic and sense of civic responsibility that colleges look for in prospective students.
Although the responsibilities of the modern professional school counselor are wide in scope, they also promote involving the entire community in each student’s development. Community outreach helps school counselors with their heavy workload while improving overall student experience and growth. Building this broader system of support delegates a good deal of a counselor’s responsibilities to the many entities in each student’s life.
Moreover, many of these individuals and groups in a student’s community are perhaps better suited to address many facets of student development than the lone school counselor. Parents can foster a work ethic at home along with positive life skills and values. Community organizations can offer real-life job experience, work ethic and skill development, and the sense of civic duty that comes from service. This communitywide involvement in holistic student development can greatly aid a school counselor’s cause as well as free up their time to be more effective in how they apply it. Clearly, positive community outreach is an indispensable part of modern professional school counseling.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in School Counseling program.