Well, I made it through my first year of being a school counselor. 7 years in education total, wow!
It wasn’t easy in the least bit. Not my best year, and definitely not my worst. I think sometimes at the end of the year after all the stressors, everyone’s opinions about my effectiveness, and my uncertainty about whether or not I made a difference, all I can do is focus on the negative aspects of my year. I felt unappreciated, I felt the teachers didn’t understand the base I was giving the children to become effective in later years, I wanted to see results, and I had to constantly remember that in counseling you give the tools and may never see the “fruit” of your work. A frustrating year, yes! A year to learn from, YES!
This year also made me evaluate much more than just my own counseling practices. It made me more aware of the school culture. Do people want to root you on or do people want to see you fail? It’s an interesting concept to see played out right before your eyes. I was amazed to see people who didn’t want me to succeed and it only pushed me that much harder to prove them wrong. It is what made this year extremely difficult. A counselor doesn’t get pats on the backs (another reminder for myself), and to the school it’s the counselor’s fault if things don’t “work out” after they’ve referred a child to you. Like I said earlier, I can give the tools, but I certainly cannot force a small child to use those tools. It takes practice, time, and maturity. I put the blocks in the right place, until the child is ready, and on their own terms, to walk up the steps.
Towards the end of the year, I had to push out my positivity and realize that I am there for the students. The children are ready to practice our new skills together and need to know they matter. I needed to buck up and get ready for THEM. I had to shut out the little faith, I felt, the teacher’s had in me. I’m here for the students, their kind, loving hearts that are ready to grow and soak up every opportunity in front of them.
But instead of feeling sorry for myself and all my hard work, I decided I had to change. I HAD to make these people believe that I am worthy and do, in fact, know what I am doing. If I felt that I had disappointed them, then I needed to fix that. I can’t disappoint two years in a row! In order to address where I could improve, I sent out a teacher survey.
I found it important to see where I lacked, where did their trust in me fall off, where had I fallen. The survey was anonymous so I literally have no idea who responded to what. I knew, from past experiences, that anonymity allows people to be more honest. Unfortunately, I received a survey in which the responses crushed me. I’m not sure why this one survey was able to cancel out all of the other wonderful responses, but I sure was sad and disappointed and angry and, of course, my perfectionism was stirred up!
The funny thing about this whole thing is I sent the survey to improve and I’m one of those crazy people who quite honestly LOVES constructive feedback because it gives this perfectionist something to obsess on and, well, perfect. But, the responses to this one particular survey felt personal. It felt like I had failed. Who had I let down enough to respond in this way? What student did I fail?
I sat for a very long time taking deep breathes, sniffing back tears, and trying to be as reflective about the experience as I could. I took the time to remind myself of a few things before I gave up and moved on . . .
This is what I was meant to do. I have never before in my life felt so passionately about something. In fact, I have never felt like I had built so many meaningful relationships with students, and was more effective than this very year. I recall the hugs, the thank yous, the times I would sit at recess watching my students think before hitting, work a problem out by themselves, or go out of their way to do something nice for another. I absolutely loved being a school counselor. In the whole, my first year, in my eyes, I was successful. My counseling professor would have been proud. I pushed through when the times got hard and that’s what always makes the end so much sweeter. No one said it was going to be easy and I’m not sure why I expected it to be. I had the opportunity to start something brand new, the FIRST counseling program, the FIRST counselor of my school. I paved the way! I cannot allow one survey, one person change my own perception of the year. God placed me in this job, to work with these children for a reason.
And back to me assuming it would be easy . . . What was I thinking?! Nothing is ever easy the first time around. After reflecting back on this small post, all I can say is “It’s time to end the pity party!” Who am I to think I could make everyone happy? Who was I to think that I could save the world and everyone in it? I can only do so much. I worked as hard as I possibly could, I know that I did the very best job I could, and that is what matters.
I will take this survey response the way it was intended, GROWTH! Shame on me for letting it upset me as much as it did. I will take it, improve, work on being effective in each and every classroom, assuring I will impress my co-workers one day. Counseling wasn’t designed for back patting, so Miss L, give it up. Move on knowing you are DAMN good at what you do. So many positives just simply can’t be erased.
My mom used to always tell me that her principal one day told her to grow alligator skin. I am currently growing mine. A tender, caring heart and alligator skin.
I can only hope that my encouraging revelation to myself can encourage another first year school counselor out there who may be feeling the same way . . . right about now.