Maybe you are a new school counselor, or perhaps you’ve been at it for a while, either way, you’re already doing a great job. Seriously, I mean it. I’m not saying you’re perfect or that there isn’t room to improve, but you’re in this profession, making a difference in the lives of students, families, and in the school or schools you serve. In today’s world, now more than ever, the world needs you, and you’re here. Being a school counselor is not for the faint of heart, but it is a career with meaning, and that is worth something. I spent some time recently with a few people who spoke quite apathetically about their careers and seemed entirely unfulfilled despite the hefty salaries and opportunities to advance. Conversely, I enjoyed a walk with a like-minded and thoughtful school counselor educator colleague, (@bultsmas) who reminded me how fortunate we are to be in this profession. We may not be rolling in the dough, but our rewards come in so many other ways.
This is year 25 for me; 13 as a school counselor, and so far, 12 as a school counselor educator. It’s apropos for me to be in a reflective place as the school year begins, as I’m sure it might be for you. Recently I’ve thought a lot about how the profession has changed since I started in 1994. In addition to acknowledging some major historical markers like the introduction of the ASCA National Model by Dr. Trish Hatch (@hatchingresults) and the late Dr. Judy Bowers in 2003, one of the changes that stands out to me is the access to resources school counselors have now. Social media, for all of its other challenges, is largely responsible for this change. Early in my career, when there was no social media, we relied heavily on books we had from grad school, catalogs that might have books or videos we could use, resources we bought at conferences, or any other school counselor we had access to. Now, the ability to connect with other school counselors and share ideas nationally and internationally is incredible and is defining this time period of our profession.
All the benefits of these connections and accessibility will only grow exponentially, largely to the benefit of the profession, and especially for those who are more likely to feel disconnected such as rural school counselors, the solo school counselor, or those who are new and establishing their identity. However, I write this with a word of caution which explains this post’s title. Beware of the pressure to compare yourself. Some recent research is conflicted in the conclusions about the assets and liabilities of social media use by adults. And as much as I am a proponent of technology, including social media, for the reasons mentioned above, I recognize that it is also may be creating a culture of comparison in our profession. Achieving RAMP for your school counseling program or being selected as your district or state’s school counselor of the year are all worthwhile goals but, in truth, the recognition from these is relatively short-lived compared to the impact you have on your students and your school community. While I support these kinds of professional recognitions for the school counselors I know and the future school counselors I help prepare, I know that what matters most to our society and the future of our profession is the commitment you make every day when you get up to go to work.
As we all ride the high of a new school year and the excitement it brings, I hope you’ll remember that you are already doing it, something that really matters, because you chose to be a school counselor. The pressures may be on to do more or be more, but most school counselors are already lifelong learners, always working to improve ourselves and our programs, we seek growth by default. So I say, set the goals for those extrinsic rewards if you need and want to but remember that the intrinsic rewards are what got you to the profession in the first place. Just by virtue of being a school counselor, in a time when the world needs you, you are already doing a great job.