Michelle Obama’s final public address as first lady honored school counselors hoisting these pivotal, yet often overlooked, educators into the national spotlight. She lauded their work in schools as heroic. To continue the trajectory of raising public perception of school counseling, those in the profession must follow the first lady's plea for counselors to communicate – especially to parents – about the critical work that supports all students in the academic, personal/social, and career domains. School counselor communications and web technology are merging to help these dedicated professionals excel at their jobs.
School counselors as ‘communication specialists’
Great communication is at the core of great schools, and should be at the core of all school counselors.
Place a call to any school, and chances are you won’t be able to immediately speak with a teacher. Attempts to reach the principal will probably be circumvented by an administrative assistant kindly offering options for a scheduled time to talk.
Most likely the caller will be connected with a school professional who is knowledgeable about the school, knows students on a personal level, and can tactfully navigate a difficult situation – this is where a school counselor comes into play. A school counselor is a parent's immediate link to a school, and while a counselor might be tied up conducting a classroom lesson, providing academic advising, or employing solution-focused counseling to help a student solve a personal dilemma, they are usually the most available to help in a time of need.
School counselors are a readily accessible member of a school who embrace a team-centered mindset taking into account all the players like the student, family, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. In other words, school counselors don't make decisions alone, but they often bring unique insight and are integral to the school to family connection.
School counselors are skilled communicators, and have a firm grasp on human behavior, while also understanding the inner-workings of the school. When a parent or student has a problem, school counselors serve as advocates to help students and parents reach a desired outcome.
Imagine a family is in crisis and needs to alert the school of crucial information, or there are other dire circumstances that warrant the immediate attention of school personnel. A student’s safety or well-being could be in jeopardy, and informing the right person needs to happen with haste. That person could be the counselor.
Leveraging the skills of school counselors as communication and public relations experts can go a long way in enhancing your school’s communication plan. Being privy to the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of many students and parents, school counselors offer a wide scope of valuable perspective.
Tech tools every school counselor needs to know
In addition to the communication skills of school counselors, they are also tech savvy. School counselors rely on technology to get the job done like navigating online portals for college applications and using scheduling software to build a student’s course load. Transcripts have become electronic and much of the communication with parents is through email.
A host of technology tools have made their way into the field of education and school counselors can successfully integrate many of those tools into their work to improve job performance.
Erin Mason, an associate professor in the counseling program at DePaul University, is a trailblazer at the intersection between school counseling and technology. Mason runs a website, SCOPE, providing school counselors with resources and technology tools to support their work and communicate effectively.
Her website offers a comprehensive technology integration plan for counselors that aligns with standards set by the American School Counselor Association. The plan illustrates how various technology tools can be adopted into the work of school counseling referencing tools like LiveBinders to organize resources, Canva to create stellar designs, and EZAnalyze to track time. Another example that the plan shares is how school counselors can create engaging and aesthetically pleasing newsletters using a platform called Smore to promote school counseling programming.
When these tools have been explored to the fullest extent, school counselors can engage in #scchat discussions via Twitter to share ideas and gather input from other professionals. There are also Facebook groups devoted to the professional development of school counselors.
Why school counselors need a web page
A school counselor’s knack for communication and technology acumen make a school counseling web page a clear next step.
A web page specifically for school counseling plays a unique role in being able to offer information that’s applicable to all families whether it's providing important deadlines, academic information, or essential mental health resources available in the community. The web page engages parents while also providing pertinent information to key stakeholders like a community member or school board member.
All school counselors know that practices must be data-driven so starting with a needs assessment tool using a Google form is a surefire way to get a handle on what kind of information parents want on your school counseling web page.
A school counselor web page can be used much like a teacher uses his or her web page to stay in touch with students and parents. It creates visibility for the school counseling program and offers an opportunity to showcase the meaningful work of school counselors.
Rebecca Atkins, a school counseling administrator, provides some helpful tips for school counselors who want to build a website through her own website.
Atkins suggests that school counselors include parent resources with active links, student resources, a page with frequently asked questions, and a blog where you can feature materials, snippets and photos from classroom lessons and school-wide happenings. Consistency is key here to ensure timely information.
Additional ideas to include on a school counseling web page include phone numbers for crisis hotlines, book recommendations, relevant news articles, and how parents and students can access the school counselor.
The web page can also include an opt-in for notification alerts. Notifications from the school counselor can inform parents of important dates like college application deadlines, academic advising appointments, and to inform parents when students are participating in lessons about heavy topics like depression/suicide prevention and sexual harassment.
School counselors can also provide parents with conversation starters to broach difficult topics with their child and encourage engagement at home.
For some inspiration, here are some websites run by school counselors:
Improving public perception of school counseling
While school counselors can thank the nation's First Lady for some well-deserved accolades, it’s now up to those in the profession to keep the momentum going. To continue enhancing public perception of school counseling, school counselors must embrace technology and their adept communication skills to share the great work they do for students.
Where can your school counselor start? What’s already in place at your school?
A contributor to the Campus Suite Academy blog, Sharon Powers is an education counselor with many years experience working in public education. Her experience spans classroom teaching, journalism and, of course, counseling. Sharon’s passion and pride for counseling inspire her as she helps students and their families navigate the sometimes-challenging school environment.