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Articles: Guidance

Throughout my career as a counselor, many parents and students have shared positive counseling experiences with me. They have often used words like "helpful," "caring," "committed" and "encouraging." But to date, I have never heard the word "creative" used to describe me or any other school counselor. As the job of the counselor has become more complex and the number of opportunities available to students has continued to expand, however, counselors have often been required to demonstrate a great deal of creativity in their work with students and their families.

Recently a student named Michael returned from his freshman year at college to visit the principal at his former high school. He is majoring in engineering and is president of the student council at his college. During the summer, he plans to enroll as a mentor for children at a local Boys and Girls Club. By all accounts, Michael is a shining example of academic success and of positive student leadership. To his former principal, Michael's success is particularly meaningful.

I received a promotional e-mail from a New York City writer recently. In the solicitation, he boasts of having written screenplays for major television networks and film studios as well as articles for well-known publications. You might ask, "What would a screenwriter and journalist be selling to a high school guidance director?" It turns out that he provides a service to college-bound seniors. For around $500, he will provide guidance to a student on how to "craft" the best college essay.


Misery Loves Company

Thank you, DA, for the recent salary survey article ("A Salary Recession for School Administrators," September 2010) based on the ERS's 37th national survey of salaries and wages in public schools. e article confirms the feedback we are receiving at AASA: The pain caused by the recession is being shared by all.

The drop in average salary increases for superintendents from the 2008-2009 school year to the 2009-2010 school year is noticeable and signals a trend that will undoubtedly continue into the 2010- 2011 school year.

Last spring, Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization, released a report on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, entitled "Can I Get a Little Advice Here?" presented the results of a survey administered to 600 adults from 22 to 30 who had at least begun some form of higher education. The survey asked the respondents to reflect on the quality of their interactions with their high school counselors.

When Adam Fletcher was hired as the student engagement specialist for Washington state's education department 10 years ago, it didn't take him long to realize how difficult his newly created job would prove. "No one was talking about the roles of students other than as learners," says Fletcher, referring to a state teachers' conference early in his career. "They laughed out loud at the proposal of students being partners in school improvement. It really was preposterous to them."

In Fort Lauderdale in March, students and teachers were in shock following the news that a three-vehicle accident involving a semi-trailer truck had killed a Broward County Public Schools fourth-grade teacher, as well as injuring her four grandchildren and another teacher. Numerous parents, staff and students passed the scene of the accident, and rumors began flying.

At times such as this, administrators need to have procedures in place to stifle rumors and help the school community manage its grief. These tips can help.