Many people become reflective about past relationships as the future trudges along and they become older. They take a walk down memory lane. Questions emerge about old classmates, teachers, co-workers and bosses. How are they doing? What are they doing? Did they change for the good or for the worst? The above scenario is similar to what the author discusses in the article. However, Tamara E. Davis (2006), a counselor educator and a previous practicing elementary school counselor, is given the opportunity to return to her old elementary school as the substitute school counselor after 5 years to answer two questions:
(1) What changes have occurred in elementary school counseling over the 6-year period? And, (2) Would my return to school counseling result in insights or observations that might have implications for school counselors and school counselor educators working with school counselors-in-training?
The study consisted of 574 students attending an elementary school located in a suburban neighborhood in Northern Virginia. The students consisted of 44% Caucasians, 16% African Americans, 35% Hispanics, 4% Asian/Pacific Islander and 1% American Indians (Davis, 2006). A personal journal was used to document relevant findings and observations during classroom guidance lessons, small group and individual sessions over a six-week study period. She also interacted with parents, administration and the community as the school counselor.
The study enlightened her to several changes school counselors faced due to time. Collaboration and new technology were positive changes, and a decrease in personal interaction and an increase in communication problems with students were the more serious issues. Teamwork and collaboration between counselors and administration were still prevalent to ensuring their working relationship were cohesive and produced a functioning academic and counseling program (Davis, 2006). The need for a working relationship amongst the staff proves detrimental to the students. Ensuring that the foundation was strong and secure assisted in the effectiveness of the counseling offered and administered. The increase in computer technology including email capabilities increased communications between the counselor and teachers. The email system shortened response time to questions, improved scheduling, planning and coordinating activities.
However, the down-side of using email was maintaining confidentiality (Davis, 2006). One had to be careful not to divulge information that was considered personal. Time also brought on an increase in the severity of student problems. For instance, a student testifying to a beating she observed, or another student witnessing domestic violence (Davis, 2006). These extreme incidents may not have surfaced in the past due to parents shielding students from marital problems. Since, the lack of personal interaction with students have change, counselors are less effective with assisting students with critcal issues. This lack of personal interaction with the students was mainly due to testing becoming a high priority in schools. As a result, the time alloted for student counseling was limited. The increase of communication barriers between the students and counselor presented itself because the counselor was not bilingual, and the population included a large amount of Hispanic students.
The article brought out several factors that are relevant and beneficial to the profession of counseling, especially for the counselor educators and the counselor-in-trainings. Counselors can no longer rely only on what they learned during their graduate counseling programs. They have to incorporate changes that occur after graduation. One of the most invaluable assets available is hands-on-training. In addition, they must stay abreast of current changes including multicultural counseling, new technology and techniques. One way of staying aware of the changes is to build a rapport with fellow counselors, teachers, parents and the community (Davis, 2006). They are aware of student problems, how to handle them and what resources are available.
Counselor educators should continue to assist and encourage the counselors-in-training to learn new skills, participate in workshops and visit current practicing counselors. Counselor educators should also stress the increased emphasis placed on testing in schools and the impact it will have on the practicing counselor duties. Informing the counselors-in-training about these changes would hopefully make their transition into a practicing counselor easier.
Counselors-in-training should strive to gain as much assistance from the counselor educator while in school. Taking a proactive approach by asking questions and receiving explanations to issues and problems should be clarified by educators prior to the counselor-in-training moving on to other subjects. Learning should never be a one-way street. Counselors-in-training and counselor educators have the duty to teach students they supervise or teach the new changes within the counseling profession. The more each group grow and adapt with time, the better equipped they will be to aid in the counseling needs of their clients.
The study presented from a more objective stance would have given the article more weight. The author’s personal assessments of the most important happenings and activities were just her opinions - subjective and based on her values and culture. The challenges with decreased communication between the counselor and students, and the increase in the more serious student problems may not have been a great change if the counselor was originally from an urban school located in a predominately African American and Hispanic neighborhood.
Davis, T. E. (2006). Looking forward by going back: A school counselor educator's return to school counseling. Professional School Counseling, 10.2, 217(7).