School authorities (that include the Principal, Vice-Principal, the teaching and the non-teaching staff, and the management), parents, students, and the general public often wonder just what it is that school counselors do on a daily basis. For decades, counselors have been working in the school setting all over the world. Yet, confusions abound on what constitutes school counseling services and what are the specific roles of a school counselor. This is perhaps due to the fact that school counseling is a recent phenomenon in schools in India. Today school counselors are vital members of the education team. They help all students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development, and career development to ensure our students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow.
This information is provided to the school authorities to learn more about school counseling and the roles of a school counselor.
What is school counselling?
School counseling is a professional service offered in the school for students, and their families.
Need for School Counselling
We live in a world that is changing constantly. These changes create complex challenges for students as they anticipate their future. A rapidly changing work world and labor force; violence in homes, schools, and communities; divorce; teenage suicide; substance abuse; and sexual experimentation are just a few examples of the complex challenges students face today. They are not abstract aberrations. They are real and have and will continue to have substantial impact on the personal/social, career, and academic development of students.
As these and other changes are taking place in society, many schools provide programs and services help students deal effectively with these complex challenges.
Many schools have made important strides in class-size reduction, higher academic standards, greater accountability and improved teacher preparation. The important missing link in these initiatives to improve student learning is the need for more school counselors and other student support services, such as school psychologists, school social workers, special educators, and school nurses. In many schools, students’ access to counselors varies by grade level, and many have no counseling programs at all. When counseling programs exist, counselors are often asked to add administrative duties such as testing, supervising and class scheduling, or teach subjects such as general knowledge and social studies!
School counseling are in three domains: academic, career and personal/social. These services and programs help students resolve emotional, social or behavioral problems and help them develop a clearer focus or sense of direction.
Effective counseling programs are important to the school climate and a crucial element in improving student achievement.
Who is a school counsellor?
The professional school counselor is qualified and trained in school counseling with unique qualifications and skills to address all students’ academic, personal/social and career development needs.
Usually, they possess one or more of these qualifications, earned through full-time or part-time study: a postgraduate degree or diploma in psychology, social work (medical and psychiatric), child development, or guidance and counseling.
School counselors have strong desires to help students with educational, emotional, and vocational needs. They are patient, resourceful, and inspire respect, trust, and confidence. School counselors possess leadership skills, excellent listening skills, and are able to work both independently and as part of a team. These professionals follow a code of ethics in their jobs.
Roles of a School Counsellor
The educational community often sees school counselors as problem solvers. A more accurate description is to describe them as professionally trained people with a mental health perspective who help students, parents, and teachers solve problems. They understand and respond to the challenges presented by today’s diverse student population. Professional school counselors serve a vital role in maximizing student achievement.
School Counselors work with students, teachers, parents, and administrators to help ensure that students’ educational, vocational, and emotional needs are being met. School counselors provide crisis intervention services and individual and group counseling to help all students develop their educational, social, career, and personal strengths and become responsible and productive citizens. They support a safe learning environment and work to safeguard the human rights of all members of the school community.
They can often be seen working individually and with other educators to meet the developmental needs of all students, including those with special needs or disabilities. They also work closely with other school authorities, health professionals, siblings, and parents. School counselors are also an important part of the educational leadership team within the school.
Thus the primary function of the professional school counselor is to work individually and collaboratively with others to implement a comprehensive developmental school counseling program. This program should focus on the academic, career, and personal/social developmental needs of all students, including those with special needs.
School counselors implement the counseling program by providing the following**:
- Academic support, including organizational, study, and test-taking skills
- Goal setting and decision-making
- Career awareness, exploration and planning
- Education on understanding self and others
- Peer relationships, coping strategies, and effective social skills
- Communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution
- Substance abuse education
- Sex education
- Individual and small-group counseling
- Individual/family/school crisis intervention
- Conflict resolution
- Professional development
- Consultation, collaboration and teaming
- Program management and operation
School Counselors collaborate with**:
- Parent education
- Academic planning
- Behaviour management
- College/career awareness programs
- One-on-one parent conferencing
- Interpretation of assessment results
- Classroom guidance activities
- Behavioral management plans
- At-risk student identification and implementation of interventions to enhance success
- School climate
- Behavioral management plans
- School-wide needs assessments
- Student data and results
- Student assistance team building
- Peer education
- Life skills education
- Peer support
- Academic support
- Leadership development
- Crisis interventions
- Support groups
- Career education
**These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive.
However, many school counselors report on various roles and tasks within the school that do not come under the purview of a school counselor. These include intrusion of administrative tasks that are not related to counseling, assignments to teach such subjects as social science, general knowledge, and moral study, assistant class teacher’s duty, substitution work, and school function duties.
As many school counselors have reported inconsistencies in their roles within the school community a list of appropriate and inappropriate counselor activities have been prepared.
Appropriate Activities of a School Counsellor
- individual student academic program planning
- interpreting cognitive, aptitude and achievement tests
- counseling students who are tardy or absent
- counseling students who have disciplinary problems
- counseling students as to appropriate school dress
- collaborating with teachers to present guidance, life skills, and sex education curriculum lessons
- providing teachers with suggestions for better classroom management
- assisting the school principal with identifying and resolving student issues, needs and problems
- working with students to provide small- and large group counseling services
- advocating for students, particularly those with special needs
Inappropriate Activities of a School Counsellor
- registration and scheduling of all new students
- administering cognitive, aptitude, and achievement tests
- responsibility for signing excuses for students who are tardy or absent
- performing disciplinary actions
- sending students home who are late or are not appropriately dressed
- duties of an assistant class teacher
- teaching classes when teachers are absent (substitution work)
- examination – related duties
- undertake duties relating to school trips, sports and cultural meets, etc.
- maintaining student records
- supervising classrooms, dining halls, study halls, etc.
- clerical record keeping
- assisting with duties in the principal’s office
- preparation of remedial or special educational programs for those with special needs
A vision for guidance and counseling in the 21st Century is fully implemented comprehensive guidance and counseling programs in every schools, serving all students and their parents, staffed by active, involved school counselors. When guidance and counseling is conceptualized, organized, and implemented as a program, it places school counselors conceptually and structurally in the center of education and makes it possible for them to be active and involved. As a result, guidance and counseling becomes an integral and transformative program, not a marginal and supplemental activity. It provides school counselors with the structure, time, and resources to fully use their expertise.