The closing of this past school year marks FIVE years that I have been an elementary school counselor – and all five in the same school, too! In the spirit of the self-reflection that I encourage with my students, I’m using this milestone as a reason to process my top five thoughts and feelings about the job. While I normally process best out loud, I didn’t want to subject my husband to this (our talking time together is limited since the birth of #2) so here I am writing it all out.
1. I still love school counseling.
I’m feeling incredibly grateful that, instead of becoming burned out as time has gone on, I’ve become even more passionate. Some things I think have lead to that:
- When I started, there was no real counseling program at my school and faculty didn’t understand the role of the counselor or value school counseling services. It took time, but through 1)advocating for the SEL development of my students and 2) teachers seeing what happens when students and classes receive services, minds and hearts began to open and change. This means I’m given the freedom to develop a comprehensive school counseling program and I (usually) feel very supported by others.
- Blogging. Yup. Blogging myself as well as reading other counseling blogs continues to light my fire. New ideas, new perspectives, pushing myself to be creative and to grow, etc. The same goes for selling on TpT. I thrive on ‘bigger and better’ and these venues provide me with that push.
2. Having an amazing co-counselor is a huge advantage.
For the last three years, I’ve gotten to work alongside someone spectacular. We are very different human beings but we work great together and seem to complement one anothers’ strengths and weaknesses. I don’t feel the same loneliness and isolation that colleagues of mine who fly solo feel.
3. My strengths and weaknesses have an ebb and flow to them, just like everything else in life.
When I started, I had just finished 7 months as a school-based child therapist. Individual counseling was my strength, and lessons were…somewhere between ‘hot mess’ and ‘not good’. Over time however, these have switched. I love curriculum development and teaching SEL but I’m feeling less effective with individuals lately. It is partly because I spend less time doing it (we have a full-time school-based therapist on site that handles our ongoing cases, and a part-time school social worker for some others). If you don’t use it, you lose it! Small groups are also a growing spot for me, with logistical issues playing a major role there.
4. Relationships are everything
This isn’t ground breaking, but at the end of the day, relationships really are everything in this profession. And I don’t just mean my relationships with my students – that’s just a tiny piece. My ability to do my job effectively is contingent on my relationships with parents, faculty, and my administrator. I just learned today that I’ll have a new principal and a new AP next year and I’m disappointed for many reasons, particularly because I’ll have to start over building that relationship. I’m also reflective of how tricky it is to navigate relationships with other faculty members, particularly when it comes to our role in helping develop positive behavior.
5. Focus on the Small Wins
After pouring all of my time and energy into a program or lesson or intervention, I expect big beautiful results. Ha! It’s like going on a hike and drinking a smoothie and thinking ‘I will lose 5 pounds tonight’. That’s just not how things work, especially not when it comes to mental health, behavior, mindsets, trauma, family engagement, etc. It is disheartening to not see the results you’d hope for so I think it’s important to focus on the small wins – those incremental changes you see. James was sent to the office 3 times this week? That’s 2 less than last week! Only 8 parents came to your coffee talk? You now have established a stronger connection between them and the school!