School counselors do more than most people think. Often confused with guidance counselors, school counselors don’t focus on college admissions but on the emotional well being of students at school. They are often our unsung heroes. School counselors, social workers and psychologists often team together to meet students’ needs regarding mental health. Most of the time this group would be referred to as Student Services.
If a student is homeless, a victim of abuse, being bullied, lacking food or clothing, the school counselor is the one who manages the situation or refers that student to the right social services. If a student is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s the school counselor who meets with and looks after that student, talks with the family and gets a student involved with the right resources.
School counselors (and teachers) are often concerned over long breaks about not having eyes on certain kids, but this coronavirus is entirely different. Right now, there are so many unknowns about employment and money that things can shift quickly, even for families who are very functional under the best of circumstances. For ones that never were, the situation can worsen for these students.
Just because counselors are not in school doesn’t mean they are not working. In fact, they are scrambling to stay in touch with students, especially ones at risk. They are concerned that students are not likely to “drop by” on zoom or reach out if they are out of sight. Given that most school districts do not meet the recommended 250-to-1 ratio, this staff is stretched very thin right now. And the ones I know are working very hard and trying to get in front of students virtually to make sure students are safe and on track.
Building school community, recognizing the populations that need the most support, trying to help students in the transition to virtual learning, and looking for ways to maintain a therapeutic connection during an unprecedented event is a huge undertaking. I’ve barely touched on all they do here but they are the people to whom I refer hundreds of kids every month when they reach out to be online. I assure students that they are working and that’s who can help them.
If you know a school counselor, let them know you appreciate their efforts. They could use your appreciation and support right now.