Challenges, Triumphs, and Advice: School Counseling During a Pandemic

As we continue to make our way through National School Counseling Week, we wanted to bring to light some of our very own school counselor SACAC member voices! From student support and success to college and career counseling and everything in between, our high school counselors this past year not only continued to serve their students, but they did so while navigating a virtual and remote world. We wanted to get an inside look at what some of our school counselor members have faced during the pandemic. We share below their challenges, their triumphs, as well as advice to other counselors.

Challenges & Triumphs

Engaging with students who have chosen virtual learning is a big challenge and requires some creative planning. Additionally, the financial burden that COVID has placed on families is intense; many of the virtual students are working long hours at a part-time job after school or taking care of younger siblings while trying to do their school work because parents have been forced to pick up extra shifts or work multiple jobs. They often don’t see postsecondary education as even an option, so my challenge is to help them find a way.

  • Sarah Bast | West High School

It’s probably easy for all of us to list the challenges! It’s been really tough conducting mental health support through digital learning. Zoom meetings just don’t offer the same type of support, though we are all finding ways to improve. It has also been very difficult to help students with their study skills, organization, and motivation when we have never had to “guide them” through a pandemic before! Students are really struggling with digital learning – especially for students who thrive in an environment where projects, discussion, and debate drive the learning. For small victories, I love that our alumni have been joining us on virtual “hangouts” with students. They are connecting more with our current students because the virtual world opens up all sorts of opportunities. We offered sessions that gave our graduating seniors the chance to talk about “real life” with GSMST Alumni. We also have more GSMST Alumni now getting involved in our Partnership Program, because they can offer presentations, live chats, and even mentoring for projects through the virtual setting.

  • Meg Scheid | The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, & Technology

I love to use technology and social media tools to communicate with students and parents. However, this school year provided an even bigger opportunity to lean into that love, expanding my knowledge of technology and social media in ways I never imagined. I have learned how to record workshops and seminars and have started the HVA College and Career Youtube channel, so students and parents have an opportunity to gather information when they need it the most.

  • Anna Graham | Hardin Valley Academy

Navigating my first year as a school counselor amidst a COVID world has been quite a whirlwind! I interviewed for my current position and was hired all during the mandated stay-at-home order period last year. Each day I come to work, I am learning that things are having to be adapted and changed in order to fit this school year and the challenges that COVID brings. Our county has offered both in-person learning and digital learning, so it has been interesting to learn how to support and counsel these students at a distance. One great part about being new to the profession this year is that it seems like everyone is a “first year” this year, so I don’t feel so alone in this learning process. Even though my students’ worlds have been turned upside down, I get to celebrate victories every day when my students get into college, make a sports team, or get hired for a job they really wanted! I’ve found that COVID has made us appreciate the small things more, and I hope I never stop appreciating the work I get to do and the opportunity I have to help others.

  • Mackenzie Molter | North Oconee High School

Students have opened up about their feelings more since interactions with their peers are limited.

  • Briana Duncan | Maynard Jackson High School

The COVID challenges I have faced as a school counselor this year have been many. For instance, one example is the higher numbers of failing grades. Our students have been somewhat disconnected. This is particularly concerning when you are trying to help students earn their diploma. In addition to this, the fluidity of students being virtual one day and then in-person another due to the need to quarantine has made our jobs very difficult when trying to schedule conferences, and addressing grades and behaviors.

  • Anonymous

Advice As We Move Forward

We always try to do the best we can. And right now, the “best we can” won’t be our best at all. Show yourself some grace. (And find great peers that support you when you don’t listen to your own words…LOL)

  • Meg Scheid | The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, & Technology

We will get through this – the students need our unwavering support so we need to stay positive for them.

  • Briana Duncan | Maynard Jackson High School

As a first-year counselor, I just want to say thank you to everyone in this field that has continued to help out new hires despite all the new challenges that have been thrown your way. When I started my graduate program, I never imagined I would begin my career in education during a global pandemic, but it has forced me to grow and learn and adapt, and I believe it has prepared us all to be better educators. Even more exciting are the hopeful educators that will continue to come behind us, so don’t forget that there is always someone looking up to you! Whether that be an intern, an undergraduate student confused about what they want to do when they finish school, a grade school student, or even a parent, let’s continue setting a good example and never hesitating to share with others why this profession is so special.

  • Mackenzie Molter | North Oconee High School

Stay open to new experiences, and be sure to take time to reflect on how you’ve grown over this school year. At the beginning of the spring semester, I took a moment to look back and reflect on the beginning of the fall semester; I was surprised to learn how much I have adapted to the challenges we face. No matter how long we have been in the profession, change and growth is possible!

  • Anna Graham | Hardin Valley Academy

Listen to your students, learn what they need and want….it will look different for every student. Teach them to believe that postsecondary education is possible whether that is an apprenticeship, technical school or 2/4 year college.

  • Sarah Bast | West High School

Thank you to the school counselors who were able to participate in our survey for National School Counseling Week, and for all school counselors continuing to serve their students tirelessly as we continue to move through the pandemic.

We encourage you to tune into ASCA’s webinar tomorrow on School Counselors Respond to COVID-19 at 2pm EST via Facebook Live or ASCA on Air.

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