#NSCW18: Why I Love Being A School Counselor

My name is Cathy Longstreet and I am a school counselor at Hastings High School, a rural high school in southwest Michigan. I have worked in this district for 22 years. I started out as a second grade teacher, and became an elementary school counselor within a few years of my employment. 

I made the change to school counseling because I felt I could be more involved in students' lives by helping them plan for their future, which is why I got into education in the first place.  As my district went through lean financial years, our school counselor numbers decreased from eight to two overall.  I was moved up from elementary to middle school, then again to high school. While often challenging, these experiences have given me a deeper understanding of students as they grow and mature throughout their school career. 

While I love my career, those of us in our profession know it is not without its fair share of trials and frustrations. The work is challenging, and often does not adhere to a linear path or follow a prescribed method. Much of it is completed “behind the scenes” and it can take many years to see the success of our efforts, if at all.  We are in this profession because we care about our students and want to assist them as they work towards a satisfying, productive life.  Every day counselors are helping students map out their academic, personal, and career goals - essentially encouraging them to “Reach for the Stars”.  They do this in a number of ways: by teaching classroom guidance lessons, conducting individual counseling sessions, hosting parent nights, planning career fairs, or completing 100s of schedule changes, for example, sometimes all within the same few days!  Everything we do, we do it with our students in mind.  For me, the payoff is more than worth it, as I get to witness my students reaching the goals they have worked towards their entire school career. 

People in the community may wonder how they can best support their school counselor.  I think first, school counselors must make an effort to educate their community members, sharing examples of what they do on a daily basis, perhaps by presenting their programs to their local PTA or school board. Be proud of what you do! Share your students’ successes!  If our communities have a general understanding of what we do, then they may better understand our challenges when we are working with a student to counselor ratio of 500:1.

As school counselors work with students, they also have the opportunity to strengthen their local community. In my community, our local businesses partner with our high school, offering job shadowing, company interviews, and tours, along with specialized training that often leads to employment and free education after graduation.  This has had a positive effect on our graduation rate as well as led to more sustainable careers for our graduates. When schools and communities share a strong connection, great things happen.

I became a school counselor because every day I get to interact with my students in meaningful ways.  Especially during National School Counselors week, I celebrate the hard work of all school counselors as they help their students Reach ForThe Stars!

Guest Author: Cathy Longstreet, counselor, Hastings High School

Posted: Feb. 4, 2018 

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