School counseling professors deserve major props. If you’re a school counseling professor reading this right now, stop and give yourself a high-five. Yes, I said a high five. Hold up your left hand and give yourself a high five with your right one. Fantastic!
Our professors work tirelessly to prepare us for the world of counseling. They teach us the ASCA National Model, counseling theories, and human development. They provide safe spaces for us to practice our skills and get feedback. They encourage us to reflect on our lives, experiences, and culture so we can connect with our students more effectively. They model how to channel our nurturing and empathetic spirits in ways that will empower our students to create change. They motivate us to become advocates for our profession and for our students.
But let’s face it…they can’t teach us everything.
Today a student tore down most of the posters on my wall. Some are still in tact. Others are ripped into pieces. It was my first day meeting this student. It was his first day at our school, and right after arrival I was called down to assist because he was crying and refusing to go class. He was a first grader. I tried talking to him, but he didn’t want to. Instead he began kicking and swinging at me and other staff members. A few staff members who are certified in “Handle with Care” restrained him and brought him to my office. That’s when he tore down all my posters. He wouldn’t tell me his name. He wouldn’t speak to me. He attempted to run out of my office two more times and had to be restrained two more times.
As I watched him, I felt helpless. I kept wondering what was causing his anger? What was hurting him so much that the needed to release his feelings in this way? I’m sure being carted down to a stranger’s office by a bunch of other strangers didn’t help. Still, all I wanted was a chance to get to know this little boy and help him deal with whatever was causing him so much stress, even if I was causing him stress too. In that situation, under those circumstances, I had no idea what to do. I thought to myself later on, “They never taught me this in grad school.”
I remember learning that the counselor’s room should be a safe space for students. Within schools, counselors are symbols of acceptance, tolerance, peace, and understanding. Counselors are who kids can come to get the help they need. Sometimes, though, the kids don’t see it that way. There can be different reasons for this: cultural views towards counseling/help-seeking; negative experiences with other counselors in the past; perceptions about what counseling is in that particular school; or strict instructions to keep family business within the family. Sometimes, they just don’t trust you. Sometimes, they just don’t trust me. Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.
This little boy didn’t trust me. I was a stranger. Everything associated with me so far had been negative. He certainly wasn’t going to learn to trust me within that short period of time, especially under the circumstances. He showed me how he felt by trying to destroy my room. I can understand that.
I can also understand that our professors can’t teach us how to deal with every unexpected experience. That’s the beauty of our professional journey. We can take all the things we have learned and try and apply them in specific situations. And when we fail (because we most certainly will) we can reflect on how to respond better the next time around.
Still, it would have been helpful to have a lesson or seminar called, “What to Do When a Student DOESN’T Want to See a Counselor, Tries to Run Away and Then Rips Down All Your Posters.” If you’re a professor out there with a lesson on this topic, please feel free to share. I’ll give you my email.