IT'S USEFUL AT TIMES TO HAVE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO “MAKE THE GRADE.” WITH THIS IN MIND WE HERE AT OUTLOOK-12 HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL COLUMN WHERE YOU, OUR READERS, CAN WRITE TO US WITH YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS AND GET PERSPECTIVE AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR RESIDENT AWARD-WINNING EDUCATION VETERAN AND CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST GARY COOPER. AN EDUCATOR FOR MORE THAN 45 YEARS, GARY HAS TAUGHT STUDENTS FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND IS ALSO A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.
Q: I am a former high school teach-er who began working as a middle school guidance counselor earlier this year. Although I find working with the students rewarding, I am also finding it more draining than teaching a class. As a teacher, my job was to help the students learn their lessons and develop their minds. As a guidance counselor, I’m finding students are coming to me with the things that are upsetting and hurting them the most. I’m finding myself worrying about them even after I leave for the day, and I seem to have a knot in my stomach when I think about some of the things that they are going through. My friends tease me that I should just adopt all of them the way I worry about them like a mother. It’s funny, I always thought my caring nature would be an asset to being a counselor, but I can feel I’m going to burn myself out if I continue like this. What do you recommend?
A: Under no circumstances change your compassionate nature. It is an essential ingredient in being an effective guidance counselor. I have been preaching for years about how a guidance counselor serves as a bridge from the pain of the past to the promise of tomorrow. Your job is not to solve every problem but to offer the mechanism for students to overcome their problems. In this process you provide your counselee a measure of hope. What is contained in that message of hope leaves most students with a path to travel. High school itself serves as a bridge from childhood to the first phases of adulthood. Many young adults looking back on their teenage years recollect the most those who demonstrated true caring and concern. Don’t change—just put things in a better perspective, and having read your letter, I am proud to call you a fellow counselor. I would hire someone like you for a job over a more aloof individual any day.
Q: I’m a high school freshman, and I really want to work for NASA as an engineer. I love robotics and space. I’m really fascinated by all of it, and I’ve actually built some robots myself. They are really simple ones, but I did build them from scratch. Anyway, I’m writing to you because I know going to college to be an engineer can be really expensive, and my family isn’t exactly loaded. I’ve been looking up scholarships and schools online, but I’m really getting overwhelmed. I’m thinking about going to my school’s guidance counselor, but I’m not sure. Engineering is a really special field, and I don’t know if the counselor would know enough about it to help me. Or what if they give me the wrong advice, and I wind up at the wrong school? What do you think?
A: I often encourage students to begin to think of their future. Wanting to work for NASA is a most noble and worthy calling. NASA offers numerous volunteer and intern programs for high school, college and graduate students. In addition, they have NASA scholarships for college students. Regardless of the course of studies, you may choose to pursue community colleges or state-run colleges, or you might want to look into scholarships through military services to help lighten the load in paying for school. It is my understanding that even if NASA does not offer a given applicant employment out of college, they frequently will take worthy people later in their career to join their team. And so those seeking to be part of NASA have the option to continue their education and work in an ally field. You have three years to prepare a strategy, and I strongly recommend seeking advice from your guidance counselors. Whether or not you follow every piece of advice they give you, you owe it to yourself to explore every avenue when it comes to preparing yourself for your future. And feel free to share the information I’ve given you here about NASA with them, as well as your own research. Good luck in high school and always aim high.
Q: I’m a middle school math teacher, and I’m getting fed up with our school’s guidance counselor. I’ve got some bad students who are always acting out in class. So what do I do? I follow procedure and send them to the guidance counselor. And what does he do? He talks to them for a while and then sends them right back to me. And then they act up again, and I send them to him again, and the whole thing starts all over. In the meantime, my lessons are constantly getting disrupted, and the students that actually want to learn and pass my class are missing out. At this point should I bring the principal into this?
A: Education is a collaborative process. Counselors do not provide consequences to an unruly students. The procedure that seems to be the most effective is involving an administrator that if necessary will offer some level of punishment. Then a guidance counselor can ad-vise and guide a student to better decorum. For many students, cooperation is not forthcoming unless there is a perception of some level of consequences. Hopefully, you (the teacher), the administrator and the guidance counselor can “link arms” and help these students improve. As a teacher, I suggest you develop ways to reward your class for proper work habits and behavior. A guidance counselor usually has a myriad of methods to improve the overall sense of enjoyment in learning. Hang in there and never give up.
If you would like to write to Gary for advice, please email