Sunday, February 24, 2013

What's in a name...and the future of school counseling in Florida

School Counselor vs. Guidance Counselor
I came across this article a few weeks ago and feel it is really worth sharing.

Since beginning the School Counseling program, it has been ingrained in my brain, from day 1, that the proper, up-to-date title for my future role in a school is to be School Counselor. I cringe a little each time I hear the term guidance counselor. I think to myself, that's not what I'm going to be called! I'm going to be a School Counselor. My name tag will read "School Counselor." I'm in a School Counseling program. Our professional organization is the American School Counselor Association. I knew from the very first day of class in my Intro to School Counseling course that it would be a tough road ahead for the guidance vs. school debate.

Dr. Isom writes a great article to further explain the school counselor vs. guidance counselor difference.

So, what have I done to try to promote usage of the correct title. I started small, first with my closest family and friends, by educating them on using the proper term. Just last week my Mom said the term "guidance counselor" and I blew up at her, saying "Have you heard a thing I have said in the last 3 years!?" Okay, I'm a little dramatic, but I want the proper term to be used. Nobody calls an English teacher something else, or an Assistant Principal by the wrong title. Don't get me wrong, guidance is still an appropriate term in some cases, such as classroom guidance, guidance curriculum, but not for guidance counselor.

You may wonder why this is such a big deal, but the school counseling profession has been misjudged and misunderstood for years upon years. I know it's a tough road ahead as far as job hunting goes. In my district, I'm lucky to see an opening for a school counselor every few weeks. Now that I have completed all requirements, except holding a Masters degree as of yet, I am ready to seriously start applying for jobs...but who knows when the next opening will be? Or if I will feel comfortable taking it. I really do not want to be the only school counselor, in an elementary or middle school with a caseload of 800+ students (which is often the case). The American School Counselor Association recommends a counselor to student ratio of 1:250. It's impossible to feel you have successfully helped all students with ratios of 1:500, which is often the case in schools in my district, if you are lucky.

The following information is posted on the ASCA website, under School Counselors and Members, Careers/Roles, State School Counseling Mandates and Legislation:
Is school counseling mandated for grades K-8? No
Is school counseling mandated for grades 9-12? No
Is a mandate being considered? No (though legislation is now in process)
Other relevant information: There is a guidance plan mandate but no mandate for school counselors. Many elementary schools do not have full-time school counselors but part-time counselors instead, or no counselor at all. Some schools move counseling responsibilities from the school counselor to other non-school counseling trained individuals.

These are sad facts for a state with over 2,000,000 students in grades K-12 and less than 6,000 school counselors state-wide. How can we expect so much from our students when their needs are not being met by school counselors who do not exist or individuals who are not qualified for the jobs tasks which are required? We expect them to be successful in school when at home they may have little to nothing, parents who do not properly care for them, and siblings they are held responsible for. Don't get me wrong, there is an abundance of wonderful teachers out there, as I have seen at my internship site: teachers who go above and beyond their duties to build strong relationships with students who trust them and whom will come to them when they need help. But teachers are not trained in counseling. They do not have 700 hours of counseling experience by the time they graduate with their degrees. They have not created psychoeducational lessons on bullying, character development, and high school graduation requirements. Not even the best of the best teachers. They are not trained to run small groups for students dealing with grief and loss or test anxiety. I absolutely love collaborating and consulting with teachers, who have the pleasure of seeing the students I work with every day. That is part of my job. That is what I have learned to do. For the past 3 years. And I want to be able to do my job the way I was taught to, not the way I am forced to.

That is why I am praying and hoping the following piece of legislation is passed his year: Senate Bill 0154. If you are interested, you can read the bill here. Basically, it will change things for counselors across Florida, so that there are better counselor to student ratios, and counselors are completing more appropriate duties, especially those they were trained to do.

Here is an article specifically about school counseling and other student support services in Lee county schools. Also, here is another article about school safety concerns in Florida.

If you feel empowered to support and advocate for these changes to the school counseling profession, here is some information about what you can do (taken from my classmates Facebook page for her blog, The Resourceful School Counselor)
1. Write a note to Senator Detert thanking her for her tireless support.
2. Write a note to Rep Adkins and thank her for helping us to help students.
3. Contact your own legislators and let each know that you want their support. This information can be found at Tell them that you support SB 154 and any companion legislation filed in the House to increase school counselors in every school, improve student access to counselors, and ensure that every student has adequate and sufficient school counseling programs.

Florida's poor graduation rate would be improved by continuous and appropriate school counseling programs that focus on career and academic development. Furthermore, school counselors provide programs and skilled understanding of student's personal and behavioral development to help be a first line of defense to promote student safety. ASCA's recommendation of a ratio of 1 school counselor to 250 students, coupled with ensuring that schools counselors engage in the jobs for which they are best trained and suited, is imperative to our achievement, economic, and safety goals in the state of Florida.


  1. Did I mention my 92 year old Grandma asks all the time how my teaching is going? :) Austin and I even gave her a shirt for Christmas that said "Someone who is an art therapist loves me" so she'd have it written somewhere. She's so darn cute though, so she's the only one who can call me a teacher over and over again! So you're a school what?? ;)

  2. LOL I love that! I guess Grandma's are allowed to call us whatever they want. In a way we are both educators, but we do SO much more :)