Wanted: Creative Guidance Counselors: New Options for Students Require More Flexibility and Inventiveness from Their Counselors

Article excerpt

THROUGHOUT MY CAREER AS A counselor, many parents and students have shared positive counseling experiences with me. They have often used words like "helpful," "caring," "committed" and "encouraging." But to date, I have never heard the word "creative" used to describe me or any other school counselor. As the job of the counselor has become more complex and the number of opportunities available to students has continued to expand, however, counselors have often been required to demonstrate a great deal of creativity in their work with students and their families.

The Counselor's Original Role

School counseling has its roots in the compulsory education movement of the early 20th century. The sole responsibility of the counselor was to guide students toward becoming productive members of an industrial society. The first counselors were teachers who were removed from the classroom and appointed to the job of providing vocational guidance. These counselors would administer interest inventories similar to those used by the military and then direct individuals into specific careers based on the results. Although the nature and role of the counselor shifted a bit during the 20th century, the counselor remained the school-based professional responsible for student scheduling and postsecondary school placement.

When I started my practice as a high school counselor, I operated within a relatively limited scope of reference. My toolbox included the state graduation requirements, the high school's course catalog and master schedule, and software that would help me find a college or career that would meet a student's "profile." If a student was smart (whatever that means), I would direct him or her to advanced courses in the high school. If a student struggled, I would look to the classes that were for the kids who struggled. And when it came to postsecondary planning, there were three options: university, community college or employment. For most of my students, I knew what track they were on when they transitioned into high school as ninth-graders.

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A Richer Complex Role

Throughout the past fourteen years, I have learned that the practice of school counseling is far more rich, complex and ambiguous than I had originally thought. …