Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

When Theory Collides with Practice: One Day in the Life of a Middle School Counselor

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

When Theory Collides with Practice: One Day in the Life of a Middle School Counselor

Article excerpt

Viktor Frankl (1984) stated, "One of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible and of changing himself for the better if necessary" (p. 133). Effective counselors do this daily, rising above conditions, seizing opportunities to change the world of the youth with whom they work, and, in so doing, changing themselves. One counselor records her day as it happened, illustrating the roles and personal qualities that often are overlooked by counselor educators and researchers but are common to many school counselors. The names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

COUNSELOR'S LOG

5:45 a.m. The alarm rings, returns my mind to consciousness, and triggers a quick review of the upcoming day. It is Friday, the beginning of the end of a hectic week. Sort and distribute the progress report scan sheets, collect them, return them for processing. Shred month-old schedule change forms. Prepare for fearful students, those who fear 48 hours with abusive siblings, friends, or parents. Fridays, usually eventful ends to event-filled weeks.

6:50 a.m. Traffic--the daily frustration. Creeping up the freeway, my mind previews the day ahead. There is my appraisal at 10:30, the grief group at 1:00, Erin's family upheaval, final preparations for Monday's parent meeting, and the fire marshal's visit.

7:25 a.m. Turning into the parking lot, I see them--the random pods of teenagers, shuffling from foot to foot, trying to stay warm amid gusty, cold winds. The "too cool" ones bravely stand in shorts. Playful girls antagonize nearby boys as teachers labor in, bent over with heavy satchels.

7:32 a.m. Open the blinds, boot up the computer, push the voice-mail button, watch parents unloading students, and listen, "You have six messages. First message...." The voice mail adds the following to my day: Mrs. Monroe wants extra help for her daughter, an elementary school counselor speaks hurriedly about fifth graders overcome with worry at the thought of publicly showering after P.E. next year, Mr. Sanchez needs immediate help completing his daughter's SAT application, the boys' grandmother requests a return call, the principal reminds me of my appraisal, and a teacher needs another outstanding citizen certificate. "Hey, mornin', Counselor. I need to talk with you about the 504 meeting last night," the assistant principal greets me, and Friday officially begins.

7:35 a.m. Checking e-mail, I find eight new items since last evening. Luckily, not all of them require replies, just time--time to sort the "immediate" from the "heads up," and calendar items from professional resources; time to reflect, time to answer.

7:45 a.m. Turn on the lights, clear a spot on the desk to sign off on an official inquiry from the county court regarding a custody case. Greet the secretaries as they make their way to their phones, emails, and waiting students, parents, and faculty.

7:50 a.m. The bell rings; I step into the hall and welcome eager faces. The students greet me with--

"Hey, Miss, it's cold out there."

"I want a schedule change; too late?"

"My stepmom had her baby last night."

"Look, I remembered my homework."

Cold air ushers in students as they scurry past and share a smile, a bit of their life, and a blast of the adolescent energy that I so treasure.

7:55 a.m. The moment is interrupted and I am directed to a new student, a slight, teary-eyed boy who hesitantly enters my office. He sinks into the chair closest to the door and, in a barely audible voice, unravels a story about a family in transition. We build his schedule, secure books and a locker, and end today's time together as we tour the building and its community.

8:10 a.m. "High importance" seems a curious term for e-mail entering the counselor's computer. …

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