If anybody deserves a standing ovation, it is our overworked and often underappreciated school counselors. February 4-8 is National School Counseling Week, a great time for applauding counselors’ crucial role in school communities.
The theme for 2019 is “School Counseling: Providing Lessons for Life,” and that’s exactly what counselors do. They set students up for success in school and in life through helping to uncover students’ abilities, strengths, interests, and talents, and assisting them when they are dealing with challenges and struggles.
As David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote recently: “…children learn from people they love…[A] defining question for any school or company is: What is the quality of the emotional relationships here?” School counselors are an important part of the answer to that question.
I speak from firsthand knowledge. When I taught in Utah, counselors were my partners in connecting with students. My experience was not unique. In the best schools, counselors are plugged into just about everything that happens. They are key players who make sure students have the opportunity for a well-rounded educational experience that prepares them for great futures.
School counselors are critical to social and emotional learning. They are important advocates in a movement that is “reshaping learning and changing lives across America,” a report last month from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development says.
But for this movement to be truly transformative, we’re going to need more school counselors—a lot more.
The American School Counselor Association recommends a minimum of one counselor for every 250 students. But most schools fall significantly short of that goal. Arizona (where educators joined the #RedforEd movement last year to demand the resources students and schools need) has the worst average student-to-counselor ratio in the nation, at one school counselor for every 941 students. Many schools have more security officers than counselors.
And more than 850,000 students don’t have access to a counselor at all. They are denied the support and tools that all students, regardless of where they live, deserve. It’s not surprising, then, that one of the demands in the recently ended United Teachers of Los Angeles strike was for more counselors. The new contract includes a commitment by the district to a counselor-student ratio of 1 to 500—but that is still far short of the counselor association’s recommendation.
That’s why so many educators across the nation are keeping the focus on what, and who, really matters in our schools. National School Counseling Week is all about saying thank you to members of the education team that no school could—or should have to—do without. Post your words of support for school counselors and photos on social media this week using #NSCW19.