By Marissa Rex
When I heard about this opportunity, I was excited. Of course, I had no idea what I was going to write about, but yes, I was excited nonetheless. Why, you might ask…well, school counselors are lonely creatures. We interact and collaborate with EVERYONE, yet are still completely alone. When difficult situations crop up throughout the day, the problems are passed to us to “solve.” When individuals need a place to vent, they flock to our offices as if a magnetic force is pulling them there. The strange thing is that I both smile and cringe when thinking about this reality. Perhaps the reason behind the battle of emotions is that, as school counselors, we live in extremes – I love to jump in and help, but when dozens of conflicts occur at the same time, every so often I want to go home and crawl back into bed.
I don’t feel as effective when there is chaos around me. I feel like a failure because I can’t reach everyone at once. I feel like a failure because the issues are happening in the first place – I mean, I’m supposed to be proactive and help prevent conflicts between my students, right? I sometimes see every behavior concern as a reflection of my bad techniques.
So, why was I excited about confessing my feelings to other school counselors? Simple. We need this. Nearly every school counselor I’ve met or spoken to through my website has dealt with debilitating self-doubt. What makes things even worse is that our decisions are high-stakes; we could REALLY hurt someone if we handled a situation poorly. We are accountable for important paperwork, scheduling big meetings, facilitating difficult discussions, addressing major student and staff concerns, communicating concerns with parents, organizing school programs, and more, even though it feels impossible that we could put more on our plates. It’s overwhelming.
What can we do? We can accept that mistakes happen, regardless of how organized we are. When you juggle 15 flaming knives while hula hooping on top of a teeter totter, something is going to fall…and if it’s not the knives, it may just be you.
We can also find ways to express our creativity, intelligence, and passion outside of the school counseling realm. Shocking, I know. We need a place to retreat when our work world is covered by a storm cloud. For me, theatre is a way to take a break from the stress of my day and literally become someone else; it’s the most wonderful, liberating feeling to escape from a particularly draining experience through art.
Just remember that whenever you make a mistake, you are not the first one to do so and you certainly won’t be the last. Even the best school counselors suffer from occasional poor judgment or a disappointing session/lesson. I know this is a pot/kettle situation, but don’t be so hard on yourself. Try to focus on the cute notes from students, the hugs, and the good news. Try to remember the kids who have shown great progress. Try. It will lessen the load your heart and mind have to carry.
When you’re hitting a breaking point, energize yourself with new ideas and new creative outlets. If nothing else, there are a million blogs for school counselors (yes, please fact check that) where you can find a home.
Now that I think about it, we’re not really alone at all. We have each other.
Marissa is a licensed Pre-K-3 teacher, K-12 school counselor, and founder of Elementary School Counseling.org. In addition to her website, you can connect with Marissa through Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter.