“My impression when I first started counseling what driven a lot by what I didn’t see when I was in high school,” says Counselor Dawn Mann. After sixteen years in the Cobb County School District, “every day is different.”
A changing role
Mann remembers the different role that counselors had when she was school, and how uncommon it was for them to be really engaged with the students. “I wanted to be the different school counselor, the one who really helped kids understand what it is they needed to do in order to get where they wanted to go.” Now, counseling programs are often comprehensive and data driven, providing programming and services that addresses to needs of all students.
Some days are more driven by academic needs and guidance, while other situations may call for crisis response-type services during times of stress. “Part of being a counselor is being flexible and adapting to the situation at hand,” says Mann.
For those entering the industry, Mann recommends considering your own strengths and values, and how those attributes can benefit the students and community. And most importantly, to never stop learning and keeping up with professional development.
When students are working on college plans or experiencing personal hardships, the biggest challenge for them may be finding time with a counselor. “I like to give an assessment every year to understand what the students feel they need from us,” says Mann, and the response is often the same: more time with the counselors.
It is often frustrating for educators getting started to experience the time restraints imposed by paperwork, phone calls and emails, making time management skills crucial for counselors as well. As a counselor, the priority is to provide direction and “help them understand their value and their purpose,” says Mann, and carving out the opportunities to talk to them as much as they need.