Mother Teresa was quoted saying, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot, together we can do great things.” This quote illustrates the importance of collaboration and teamwork; both of which, are must haves in a school setting. I feel very blessed to work in a division and school where this mindset is expected and shown on a daily basis. We are very lucky to have many specialized staff that we can depend on to help us with the diverse needs of our student population. Our school counselor, psychologist, and social worker play an integral part in the achievement of our students and are a great resources as well as a wealth of knowledge.
Our counselor is referred to as a “school counselor” not a “guidance counselor.” She explained that guidance refers more to advice giving. While this is a piece of what she does, her role is much larger than just giving advice. She feels that her main role is to be an advocate for students’ needs in all areas; physical, emotional, and psychological. She also sees herself as a bridge or connection between families and community resources. The counselor also views herself as someone who plays a large role in the culture of our building. She must earn the trust and respect of students and staff. She also feels the obligation to be responsive to the needs of everyone in her building and ensure that she is approachable. In our building, the school counselor does play a predominant role in handling discipline issues. However, her personal belief is that she shouldn’t be involved until after the fact. She should not be the one reprimanding and assigning consequences, however, many times in our building; this role is assigned to her. Instead she feels that she should come in after the initial discipline meeting to talk with the students about what they did and why they did it. She would then like to work with them on coming up with solutions on what they could do differently and goal setting to help change the behavior. She may do this through a variety of ways such as role-play or participation in a small group until the behavior is resolved.
The counselor interviewed believes that the bulk of her job deals with student achievement because of the services she offers. She designs small group sessions to help address specific needs of students that will give them the skills to help them be successful in the classroom. The counselor gets input from both teachers and parents as to which focus areas she will have with her small groups. This data gives her information about what students need extra help and practice with. Social skills, study skills, attention/focus skills, and anger management are a few of the groups she typically offers. Students involved in these groups participate in a pre and post assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the group sessions. If a student needs more than what the small group can offer, then she will meet with that student one on one instead. Together they will set a goal to work on based on the particular behavior or skill that needs to be addressed. Students involved in individual counseling complete rating scales as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of their sessions. Our county mandates that 60% of our counselor’s time be devoted to direct student services (i.e. small groups and individual counseling). As you can see, our counselor relies very heavily on data to help drive her programs.
The counselor also works with whole classrooms by teaching guidance lessons. These lessons are constructed from what the school, as a whole, needs based on a needs assessment completed by parents, teachers, and students. Our counselor also serves as a member of our school leadership team so that she is in the loop and very aware of the needs of our school.
Another role of our counselor involves coordinating services with outside agencies. Our counselor noted that often times, she is the one who is contacted by these outside agencies such as churches, hospitals, mental health agencies, and community members. They typically contact her to inquire about any specific needs that they can help us with or they ask if there is anything they can do to be of service to our population. Other times, she is contacted by parents who ask for her help in finding resources for a specific need that their family has. In these cases, our counselor either uses the contacts she has acquired to try and help locate the requested services or she calls around until she finds what they are looking for.
School Psychologists also play an important role in our buildings. Their main role deals with assessment and data analysis. They are primarily used for administering assessments used for special education eligibility. They analyze those assessments and then communicate their findings as a member of the child study team during eligibility meetings. They are also used as a consultative service to teachers and administration for problem solving. Some school psychologists are able to provide counseling services if their caseloads allow the time. The psychologist that I interviewed noted that the giving of assessments and writing the reports takes the bulk of her time. They can also be a resource for providing lessons that can help students enhance their executive functioning skills. Our psychologist wishes that she spent less time with data and more hands-on time with students. She would also love to work more with the general education population and not just special education. She would also love for more people to be aware that she is a great resource, not just someone who gives tests and reads reports. She would like to be called on to help students and teachers solve problems.
Through research and discussion with my administration, I learned that the school social worker provides services that strengthen home, school, and community partnerships and help alleviate barriers to learning. They advance the understanding of the emotional and social development of children and the influences of family, community, and cultural differences on student successes. Their main role is implementing effective intervention strategies. They serve as the link between students’ families and the school, working with parents, guardians, teachers, and other school officials to ensure that students reach their academic and personal potential. I discovered that social workers have a variety of responsibilities and job requirements. They conduct socio-cultural and adaptive assessments of students, enforce student attendance, serve as a member of the child study team, participate in functional behavioral assessments, ensure that “no show” children are enrolled in other school systems with proper documentation, conduct home visits for a variety of purposes, conduct individual, group, or crisis counseling, make referrals to the Family Assessment Planning Team, collaborate with outside agencies and serve as a liaison between the home, school and community agencies by researching and coordinating community resources in addressing the needs of students and families, and counsel students on education alternatives, such as GED. It was noted that social workers would like to help provide individual and group counseling in a more frequent manner, which could alleviate the caseloads of school counselors and assist them with students who have ongoing mental health issues.
I really enjoyed conducting these interviews and gaining a more in-depth understanding of these wonderful resources that we have available to help support our students. These roles are crucial to the overall well being of our school.