If you DO already have a good working relationship with your principal, you already know how valuable this is. If you don’t, maybe it’s something you wish you had. Maybe you’re thinking… “SURE, that sounds wonderful, but you don’t know my administration.” If you have the opportunity to find a principal who supports school counselors, you’ve truly found a treasured gem!
Here are 5 characteristics I’ve noticed of a principal who supports and understands school counselors:
When we really started pursuing RAMP, our principal started to understand the ASCA National Model and how our time should be best spent. He took testing off of our plate so that we could and would fill our days with appropriate duties for school counselors. I know our principal has seen this list, and I feel so respected as a professional who is known and heard in this way.
2- The principal holds school counselors to the high standard they should hold in the school.
This is closely woven into appropriate vs. inappropriate school counseling duties from number 1, but I think there is something more to it. As an unsupported counselor, you may feel strongly to advocate for GETTING RID of things that don’t belong to you. BUT- have you thought of really pushing the things you SHOULD be doing? A good principal holds their school counselor accountable to being data-driven and proactive. They should want to see your data from your programs, classroom lessons, and small groups.
I know there are school counselors who are “old school,” who would rather sit behind a closed door and their computer screen. Principals who step up and hold their school counselors accountable to their yearly data-driven SMART goals and uphold their annual agreement will push their school’s school counseling program to new heights.
3- The principal makes an effort to call you a “SCHOOL COUNSELOR.”
Maybe this is just a thing that I love… but I do. A proper title garners respect. A principal who recognizes that you’re not an old school guidance counselor, but you’re a 21st century, new-age school counselor is one who cares about what your job entails. We are called school counselors in announcements at school, on phone blasts home, and at faculty meetings. We got a new sign outside of our office that says “School Counseling Department” instead of “Guidance Department.”
Direction and influence come from the highest school leaders down. When a principal uses the right terminology and sets the example, it can permeate the DNA of the school. Teachers will start to recognize the change and understand the importance. There were small, incremental changes over the past 5 years that got us to where we are… and that came from the direction of a principal who cared to use the correct language.
4- The principal who supports school counselors is student-centered.
Between the principal and the student is a school counselor. It is refreshing to work for a principal who cares about students… one who knows their names, who is visible in the hallways. Knows the star athletes and the students who are on the verge of not graduating. Knows the student who just had a baby and knows the first-generation student who got a full-ride scholarship to their dream college.
What I’m trying to say… is that I love a principal who knows their students well and wants to celebrate with the school counselor. Instead of always focusing on numbers and graduation rates, it’s encouraging to work alongside the principal who truly wants the best for students… just like you do as a school counselor!
5- The principal asks, “How can I support you?”
Sometimes it’s financial support for professional development opportunities, sometimes it’s just walking by and saying hello in the mornings. The fact that a boss/higher up humbly asks how to best support you is a game-changer. This principal is approachable and available for better or for worse. This person helps you think through tough situations and keeps things confidential when you need them to.
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