This past school year, I entered my second decade of school counseling.
It’s tough work, though very satisfying.
As a high school counselor, I work with young adults – as well as parents, teachers and administrators – to address their academic, career and social-emotional concerns, anything that affects their personal growth and development.
(Quick aside: I’m not a “guidance counselor.” Guidance counselors of decades past focused on vocational tracking and often were “lone rangers.” I’m part of a student services team, guided by the principles of the American School Counselor Association’s National Model.)
After the end of my first school year in June 2012, I worried that something was really wrong – I felt listless, shut down. It wasn’t until about the Fourth of July that I began to feel re-energized.
I realized my system was taking the time it needed to replete emotional reserves drained by 10½ months of interacting with thousands of people.
My caseload hovers between 400 and 500.
Add a faculty of about 200, and one, two or more parents for each student…
… and there you have it.
Now I understand the importance of taking the time to replenish, finding activities and relationships that nurture and enhance living.
To enjoy moments of rest – however short or long they may be.
One of the first lessons my counselor education program imparted was the importance of active listening in accompanying people on their journeys. I’m at the point in the summer where, having begun to recharge from 2021-22, I’m gearing up for 2022-23, which will begin in a few short weeks.
It’s good to have this time unplugged from the storylines of my students so that, when the time comes to plug in again, I can do so with my full attention.
A fair number of us at tnocs.com are, or have been educators. I’m sure you can share your own thoughts on the state of things. I’d like to share four takeaways about the young people I’m honored to serve:
• They’re smart.
Yes, they know more about tech than I’ll ever learn. They also have a facility for all sorts of subjects, from the STEM areas to history to languages to visual and performing arts. They regularly amaze me.
• They’re complex.
Of course, adolescents still deal with peer pressure, first romantic relationships, parent drama and so on. But these young people also cope with homelessness, working multiple jobs to help families survive, coming out (in a variety of ways), and understanding their own mental health. Which leads to…
• They’re overloaded.
Often scheduled to the minute with extracurricular activities, part-time (or full-time) jobs, projects and/or tutoring to help them chase their “dream school,” continuously plugged in to their phone, these young people are almost always on. They need the time and space, as we all do, to shut down and recharge.
This is, by far, most important. As exasperating and challenging as adolescents can be, they regularly exhibit a capacity to learn, grow, cherish and change that I wish were emulated by folks who are decades older.
If you’re a parent, you already intuitively know these things. If, like me, you are not a parent, I hope these observations encourage you.
These young people will take their gifts, challenges and experiences into a world that is in great need of its own rejuvenation.
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