A Day in the Life of a School Counselor
Posted: February 06, 2023 | Written By: | Category: Special Education Teaching
Stephanie Gerwick, School Counselor, New Story Schools Indiana campus, shares what a day in the life of a school counselor look like for her. In celebration of School Counselors Week February 6 – 10, we’re thankful for all of our school counselors and the ways they support students and families.
Q: What is your day-to-day role like as a counselor at New Story Schools?
My day typically starts with classroom meetings or collaborative time with staff. I work closely with teachers, clinicians, and other staff members to try to figure out how to best serve our students’ needs. While my day might start with an intended schedule, it hardly ever stays that way. Throughout the day, I engage students in individual or group counseling sessions that are prescribed in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). I also deliver Social Emotional Learning lessons in different classrooms throughout the week and attend multi-disciplinary and IEP meetings when assigned. Each day, I also make it a priority to check on classrooms and pair with different students. Building relationships is so important to helping the students feel safe and welcome in their environment.
While the meetings, sessions, and lessons are usually scheduled and expected, I typically also find myself in more spontaneous situations as well. These situations can include using therapeutic techniques to help de-escalate a student who is having a rough moment, responding to classrooms who need extra staff, or helping a student through a mental health crisis. I work closely with teachers and staff who may notice that a student is expressing suicidal or homicidal thoughts. When this happens, my role changes to engaging the student in processing feelings and completing a risk assessment and safety plan, if necessary. I also communicate with parents/guardians and outside resources when needed. All-in-all, no two days are the same. No matter the tasks ahead of me, my goal each day is to support our students in overcoming obstacles so that they have the greatest opportunity to access their education.
Q: What are some of the different types of work you do with students?
My direct work with students mostly includes individual and group counseling sessions, pairing, crisis sessions, and classroom SEL lessons. While I use different techniques in my sessions with students depending on their needs, I’m typically engaging students in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based techniques. This involves understanding how our thoughts affect our feelings, which then changes our actions/behavior. In order to change behavior, we must look at the thoughts first and try to change irrational or unhelpful thoughts. With younger students, I often use play therapy to help them to understand their environment and how to interact positively with others.
When working with students in group counseling, I often focus on helping the group with positive social skills, friendship building, overcoming obstacles or other needs based on the group members. For classroom Social Emotional Learning lessons, we use different curriculums targeted to different age groups. These lessons are 30-45 minutes, depending on the age group. The SuperFlex curriculum is used with most of our younger students and autism support classrooms. Superflex encourages students to develop an awareness of their own helpful or unhelpful thinking patterns and social behaviors, as well as learn strategies to assist in developing better self-regulation. The WhyTry curriculum is used with most of our middle school and high school Emotional Support classrooms. WhyTry targets the acquisition of social emotional skills, including establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, demonstrating respect and tolerance for others, and emotional regulation. No matter the service being delivered, I work to adjust lessons or sessions to meet the needs of the students I am working with.
Q: Why did you choose to work for New Story Schools?
New Story Schools is one of the most supportive environments I have ever worked in! Before I started working at New Story Schools, my husband worked for New Story, in the marketing department. I also had a friend who worked at the school in Indiana, PA. I knew how much they loved their jobs and felt supported and would always tell them how much I would love to work there. When a friend reached out about the open school counseling position at the Indiana School, I jumped at the opportunity. I was looking for a supportive environment that was student-centered but also understanding of staff stressors as well. New Story Schools does a great job of encouraging work-life balance and self-care. Both are so important in this field! I couldn’t be happier to have landed at New Story Schools. I get to use my skills as a school counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor and get to work alongside great coworkers!
Q: What is your favorite part about this job?
The kids! I love seeing small growth steps from them. Seeing their faces light up when a skill clicks or when they get praise for using the skills they are learning makes my day! I often have students see me in the hallway and stop me to let me know how their day is going or how they used a certain coping skill that day. Another thing I love about this job is that each day is different. Because of this, the days go by so quickly, as two days are never the same. I come in with a plan but am always ready to adapt that plan as needed.
There can be stressful parts about working in this field, as we work with students with some of the highest needs. However, the staff make it all possible. Everyone is truly a team! We all come together to support each other and collaborate to solve problems. I have never felt like I have had to solve a big problem solely on my own and am encouraged to collaborate with other staff to help students reach their goals. At New Story Schools, we are always working on the behavioral, academic, and counseling side of things together and have meetings regularly to make sure we are supporting the child as a whole. Knowing that I am part of a team is reassuring and makes for better outcomes and a safer environment for our students.
Q: Do you have any favorite moments or memories with a student you could share?
While I don’t have one specific moment, my favorite moments are when I overhear a student appropriately using terms that they have learned in their counseling sessions or within the classroom SEL lesson, to help them get through a stressful situation. When I hear a student using these terms or skills, I get so excited, as it shows small growth steps and is so important to their long-term growth. I also love seeing how excited students get when they have accomplished a goal or know that they are improving in an area. Celebrating this growth is one of the best parts of my job!
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