Editor’s note: We met middle school counselor Ian Brodie at a recent RESPECT roundtable discussion at the U.S. Department of Education. He writes to offer tips for teachers on how to form partnerships with counselors.
Collaboration is the word of the 21st century in education. As educators, we are always looking for new ways to work with other professionals in our schools to improve the achievement of our students.
School counselors are an essential resource and great partners for teachers. Gone are the days of “guidance counselors” who existed in the background of the school, sifting through paperwork and deciding for students whether or not they were fit for college. Today’s professional counselors proactively search for innovative ways to meet the needs of all students and to maximize their academic achievement. There are many ways teachers can utilize counselors to solve problems that may interfere with students’ success at school. Here are 10 tips for teachers to help them maximize their partnerships with counselors.
1. Call on counselors to help you understand the whole student. When teachers notice red flags, such as behavioral issues or grades, school counselors are prepared to help teachers gain a more complete understanding of the issues behind the actions.
2. Consult with counselors for professional advice. When teachers find themselves stuck with strategies that aren’t working with a particular student, a counselor who is trained to problem-solve can help them gain fresh ideas to age old problems.
3. Tackle problems before they become insurmountable. When teachers sense trouble brewing in class, language or behavior that causes them anxiety, they should talk with a school counselor who can help trouble-shoot and prevent a situation from escalating.
4. Offer students an empathetic listener. When students are having problems that seem personal or sensitive or that have the potential to get them into trouble, send them to a school counselor who can provide a sounding board and help them find solutions.
5. Guide students’ decision-making. When students act out repeatedly in class, teachers should inform a counselor who can work with them on decision making. School counselors can also help the child reframe the situation and illustrate how different behaviors might be in their best interest.
6. Collaborate with a counselor to integrate counseling and class lessons. Work together to teach lessons in class about academics, careers, and personal/social issues. These lessons are preventive by design and developmental in nature to help students with their decision-making in school. For example, a lesson about bullying and harassment in a civics class could be paired with a project on laws about harassment.
7. Work with counselors and teachers to design professional development that meets your needs. In-service days provide great opportunities for counselors and teachers to explain their work and develop solutions to school-wide problems.
8. Allow a counselor to make peace. When students can’t get along in class despite the teacher’s attempts to separate them or diffuse tension, allow a counselor to mediate and work out a plan for how the two parties can peaceably coexist.
9. Explore career options. Educators may want to engage a school counselor in helping students understand how their academic work connects to specific careers.
10. Ask a counselor to clarify the severity of a problem. As students develop physically, rapid changes in their mood or behavior can leave teachers wondering whether certain behavior is a normal or a cause for deeper concern. School counselors have been trained to ask the questions that get at the heart of what’s really going on.
Ian Brodie is a Middle School Counselor at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va.