School Superheroes: What Counselors Do
When many parents think about school counselors, they remember mostly the "guidance counselors" who sat at their desks in middle school and dealt primarily with "problem students." Many things have changed in today’s schools, not the least of which is that the term "guidance counselor" is passé. School counselors are present in primary and middle schools throughout the country, and their jobs have become much more proactive.
Breaking the Bullying Cycle
One thing which has not changed all that much, unfortunately: bullying. There always have been — and sadly, probably always will be — kids who try to build themselves up by putting others down. In its most severe form, bullying can include physical violence or intimidation, but more often it is subtler and more insidious and emotional in nature. These issues are often the province of the school counselor, sometimes in concert with the principal. The counselor's job is not just to discourage (or in certain cases, discipline) the bully, but also to help the bullied child overcome his feelings of helplessness and despair.
Counselors in the Classroom
Jill Cook is the assistant director of the American School Counselors' Association (ASCA), a group comprised of 24,000 school counselors with chapters in all 50 states. She says that the biggest changes at the primary school level have to do with the amount of time counselors now spend in the classroom. "Counselors may go into classes regularly, even teaching lessons on such topics as bullying, peer interactions, friendships, good touch vs. bad touch, being organized with schoolwork," she says. "Peer and friendship issues, though they're not as elevated as in middle school, need to be addressed constantly."
Other, more serious topics under the watchful eyes of school counselors are divorce, death in the family, illness, or other family crises, as well as all levels of learning disabilities, from ADD/ADHD to Asperger's and autism. Counselors serve both as a conduit of information between school and home, and as a sympathetic and knowledgeable ear for the child and members of his family.