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What does a School Counselor Do? A Guide to the Heart of the School

Do you know how much of a powerhouse your school counselor is? What insight and info they can leverage to make you, your students and your school that much better? I didn’t (full disclosure) but I’m here to let you in what they know and how to enhance your relationship to benefit EVERYONE! Look at this as your roadmap to how you can collaborate, dive deep, and affect your school overall. Leverage this powerful relationship for the good of all students!

Whether it is the beginning of the year, middle of the year, crisis time, or transition/end of year for students – your school counselor is a valuable resource!

School Counselor’s Role

I want to start by saying this comes from a teacher’s perspective. I admit (sadly) I had no idea the role of the school counselor until years into my education career. School counselors work with ALL students and serve ALL students the academic, career and social emotional needs of students.

This may look different in every school. I can tell you what’s not part of their program (but they normally end up doing): test coordination (I thought that was standard), 504s, long term therapy (I also thought this was their job), master scheduler person.

With the school counselor wearing so many hats – it’s no wonder I did’t know their role and when would they have time to advocate or let teachers know? Exactly – why not go to them???

How to Collaborate with your School Counselor

The school counselor may be running small groups, lunch bunch, helping whole classes learn skills, dealing with crisis, navigating career development and exploration with students and so much more! They are busy to say the least.

They might have their own planning survey or feedback form but communicating about what you see as needs for your students (individually or as a group) is a great start! In my years teaching 4th grade, conflict resolution was always one that I expressed needing resources and help for with my students. Making sure to stay in the room for class counseling lessons (even if not required!) was important so students hear the same language.

Being flexible is imperative. As school counselors can get pulled away by any number of other duties. Time for classroom lessons or small groups may be limited or interrupted. Have back up plans and always keep in mind that the social emotional needs of students are PRIORITY. If it comes at the price of content, once in a while, it is ultimately helping support their learning later.

What works for School Counselors – works for all!

As school counselors work with EVERY student the insight and knowledge they have is so powerful and transferable it warrants attention!

Recently I picked up some self regulation strategies that I was blown away by – how easy it was to be mindful of my emotions and triggers and what I would do to affect the outcome in the future. Also it helped in how I read others if I knew ahead what experiences/emotions they had prior to our meeting. Now this is nothing new and my school counselor used and taught students but not something I embraced. Not until my own children were older did I truly understand “Oh, this makes total sense. Wow, this would have been so much easier.” It’s not going to be like that for all cases for sure because my revelations make it seem as if I was naive, but trust me the preparation and knowledge your school counselor has make them so VALUABLE! Do not underestimate what a powerhouse they are!

Counselors play a HUGE role in social emotional learning and help as well! The skills benefit all students but not if they don’t pay attention! Make sure as a teacher you are listening and focused in (not another plan time!) and implement the skills! I love using these positive Post-Its – great for a classroom or whole school!

Just like career exploration and development can’t happen in isolation. All have to be on board as to what that looks like to help guide and advise students as to what path they want and what the preparation for that looks like!

Their knowledge benefits the entire school at large and can help impact your teaching. While not behavior specialists, taking a look through a trauma informed lens may help or you may find resources/ideas you would have never thought to try.

School Counselor are the front line

While not every school counselor is a licensed professional counselor they are the first line of mental health in schools. They can refer if needed.

With this effort growing nationwide on trauma informed care and mental health your school counselor is a great partner! Together is a strong team!

School Counselors truly are at the heart of the school. Your relationship and the value they provide matter. Take time to recognize or support their work and share it far and wide. Though a varied role and normally extreme caseloads school counselors deliver and support all students through comprehensive programs that prepare students for the future – academic, career and social emotional pieces that truly build the FOUNDATION which upon an education is built.

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