Social Emotional Consideration from a School Counselor’s Perspective
The high school counselor position is one of the most interesting groups of I work with. Their influence on a student’s experiences happens throughout schooling and beyond. To that end, counselors must be able to nurture relationships with students despite not having a set class schedule. Moreover, the number of students they interact with is vastly larger than any teacher-student ratio shared by their colleagues. Because of these realities, a counselor’s ability to tap into Social Emotional Learning practices is an essential skill set for them to have.
These realities, however, invite another dynamic into the mix. Counselors are often the objects of a nexus of thinking that views them simultaneously as valuable, respected, inaccessible, and indifferent to the other. Students I work with will often bemoan the lack of counselors in their buildings and their
tight appointment schedules. But at the same time, they will celebrate the guidance they received from their counselors and admit that it was they who could take the initiative more regarding outreach.
With these multiple narratives in existence, supporting school counselors may seem too complex or esoteric. But, your services may be more valuable than you think. In order to reconceptualize counselors’ roles, I have used an analogous approach to their work while highlighting the Social Emotional Learning competencies that correspond to each.
- Counselors as Coaches: Developing adolescents’ Relationship Skills is central to any team’s success. Counselors empower students in similar ways but with different “teammates” like their teachers, parents, and classmates.
- Counselors as Teachers: One of the best outcomes of an education is the development of Self-Awareness. Counselors are part of students’ pathways through life, which is better understood when students know themselves better.
- Counselors as Administrators: A counselor’s caseload of students is a microcosm of the entire school. And like a school administrator, providing a context where executive functioning and Self-Management skills are nurtured a valuable experiences.
- Counselors as Parents: Responsible Decision Making is part of every student’s high school career. From course selection to post-graduation plans, counselors are another voice for students to consider in their decision process.
- Counselors as Social Workers: Life happens in school and outside of the school day. Understanding how to navigate norms, mores, and institutions, are key aspects of Social Awareness counselors impart on students.
As you think about the roles and practices of high school counselors, you will find that using Social Emotional Learning as an inroad is a valuable way to start conversations with schools about how to support their work. To that end, I consistently find a way to reference the CASEL SEL framework. You will notice that their five core competencies are directly related to the five roles summarized above. I contend that connecting SEL with counselors and then to the whole school community demonstrates insights not commonly held and, therefore, is an asset you should leverage.
Written by: Craig Perrier
Educational Thought Leader and Practitioner
Craig is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He also is an online adjunct professor of education for Framingham State University and the teacher certification program, Educate VA. Previously, he taught at American Schools in Brazil for six years and for six years in public schools in Massachusetts.
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