What to Do When You Work with an Old School Guidance Counselor [Episode 132]


Here's What to Expect in This Episode:

As a new school counselor, we’re excited and eager to focus on students, enhance the counseling program at our school, and advocate for our role to others in the building. But being the new counselor might mean you’re working closely with veteran school counselors, formerly known as guidance counselors, who might not have the same mindset or perspective as you. So what do you do if you’re in this situation? In this episode, I’m sharing what to do when working with an old-school guidance counselor as a new school counselor.

Now, I’m not saying that every veteran school counselor has an “old-school” mentality because I was eager to step into a school counseling position where my co-workers had years and years of experience and knowledge that I could soak in. However, I’ve also known the struggle of trying to implement new strategies and techniques into a counseling program with major pushback from my peers. 

When establishing your role as a new school counselor with a veteran school counselor, it’s important to be aware of the three big ideas that could hinder your role. I help define and find solutions to those ideas, explain the characteristics of a guidance counselor, and share the magical answer of what you need to do as a new school counselor when working with an old-school guidance counselor in this episode!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • 3 big ideas to keep in mind as a school counselor when working with a veteran counselor
  • Defining the characteristics of what it means to be an old-school guidance counselor
  • How you can still learn and grow with a veteran counselor 
  • Ways to keep moving forward with your vision, role, and expectations

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Lauren Tingle 0:00
Welcome to another episode of High School Counseling Conversations. As we are getting into this summer, I want to do just say that I am going quiet on social media, I think for at least the next couple of weeks. I know I don’t really feel like I have to announce my departure or anything like that. But I think just like help lessen some of my anxiety about like stepping away from that for a little bit.

Lauren Tingle 0:24
And maybe the fact that I have a little bit of anxiety and feel like I had to tell you, that should be reason enough for me to step away from social media for a little bit. I personally just wanted to tell you that who knows, maybe it’ll go longer than a month like I’m planning depending on how it goes and how I feel about it, I have a feeling that I’m going to feel very refreshed by stepping away from it.

Lauren Tingle 0:45
So anything that I have going on social media will most likely be scheduled out. And my plan is to answer DMS when I’m on my computer, like a desktop version. Really, the goal here is to quiet some of the noise that I feel like is surrounding me to be present with my kids. And to prove to myself that I’m not addicted to social media, because I think that I am.

Lauren Tingle 1:06
I have too much screen time I pick up my phone too many times a day. And I just kind of want to take a break from it, and spend more time being present in the summer and reading books and all of that.

Lauren Tingle 1:17
I will not be going anywhere in terms of the podcast and my email list. I just I’m trying to step away and make it a little quieter. So if you want to join me in that, feel free to hopefully you’re on my email list already. I’ll link in the show notes a way for you to join my email list so you’re still getting emails, and wherever you’re listening to this podcast, I want you to hit follow so that you see it pop into your podcast player every Monday morning.

Lauren Tingle 1:40
Now, this episode this week came to us from a question when I put out the podcast survey when I was wondering what y’all want to hear about. And so somebody just posed the question, what do you do when you work with a quote, old school guidance counselor? You know, someone who might not be all up to date on all the ASKA stuff. Or maybe they just have this vision in their mind of what a school counselor does and doesn’t do. And it doesn’t align with what you envision a school counselor does. So we’ll talk about defining those roles in what we’re going to do.

Lauren Tingle 2:40
First, I’ll tell you a little bit about when I came into my role as a high school counselor. There was a lot of experience around me. When I got hired, the job market was really terrible. I was very nervous about getting a job, there were no jobs around. Me and I want to say one other person for my graduate program ended up staying in our district in our area, and everybody else went other places wherever they could find a job.

Lauren Tingle 3:21
And I say that because I was pretty convinced that I was going to stay here in the city that I had gone to grad school in, I didn’t really have plans to move anywhere. So I thought I’m gonna wait it out until I get a job. And I got a job in June that started that following August. And that even felt very late to me. And now some of you might feel the exact same way. You’re just waiting and waiting and waiting until you can get hired.

Lauren Tingle 3:43
And I know that even sometimes that doesn’t pan out as you go into the school year. So I would say hang on to hope. I have a lot of resources for interviews and for up and coming and new high school counselors. So you’ll want to check those out if you still haven’t gotten your job yet.

Lauren Tingle 3:58
But maybe you’re stepping into a new role. Or maybe you’ve been in a role for a while where a lot of people around you aren’t feeling like that new age school counselor, the one that we learned about in our grad school programs. When I was hired onto that team of veterans, I knew that this was absolutely such a good thing. I had a lot of people we had a big team to learn from. I felt like these are the people I can walk alongside to the people that I need so that I can grow in my confidence in this new role.

Lauren Tingle 4:29
I fully embraced being the new person. I knew I was gonna have all the questions that didn’t really bother me. And that bothered some of y’all to ask a lot of questions. But I remember always asking questions, and I don’t think I felt really self conscious about it. I just thought I don’t know the answer to this. And if I don’t ask that I’m not gonna be able to do my job.

Lauren Tingle 4:48
So I think that overall, I felt like it was a really good thing that I was the one new person right out of grad school, surrounded by no other new people with lots of years of experience. But there were hard things about that, too. So I’m going to use this episode to share some of those hard things that I experienced and how I tried to combat them. I’m also going to try to speak to some of the things you may be dealing with day to day with these type of coworkers.

Lauren Tingle 5:15
So like I said, on paper, I like to think that working with a team of veteran school counselors was amazing. Like, I stepped into this position with years and years of experience around me, and I was ready to grow and learn and change and change the world, right? Like I was a brand new counselor, the world was my oyster. And all I had to do was just absorb all of this knowledge and experience from those who are around me.

Lauren Tingle 5:42
But what happens when you get there and the veterans around you are not the type of school counselor that you aspire to be? What if their goals for the role that you’re stepping into are completely different from what your goals are? Or what you had in mind for this team when you joined?

Lauren Tingle 5:58
Or maybe you’re stepping into a solo position, but the person before you who held this position was that old school guidance mentality? What are the others don’t even care that they are old school guidance counselor? What do you do?

Lauren Tingle 6:13
Well, first, let’s define what I mean by old school guidance counselor and then we’ll talk about these three big ideas. We’re going to talk about what to do when advocacy is not in their vocabulary. We’re gonna talk about what to do when these guidance counselors are not student centered. And we’re going to talk about when these guidance counselors are stuck in their ways.

Lauren Tingle 6:36
You may be a new school counselor who’s about to discover that some of these personalities are in the new team arena that you’re about to step into. Or maybe this episode will just put some words to something you’ve already noticed about some of your colleagues, like this is not your first year or you’re not just stepping into a new role. But you’ve got this like weird dynamic going on in your team. And this episode is going to put some language to that.

Lauren Tingle 7:01
So let’s get into the first point. Advocacy is not in their vocabulary. This old school guidance counselor does not care about their title. They don’t care whether they are a guidance counselor, they don’t care whether they’re a school counselor, they might even look you dead in the eyes and say, why does that even matter? I don’t care about that. I do my job. And I know what I’m doing. And it doesn’t matter what people say about me.

Lauren Tingle 7:24
Okay, you swallow your pride, you swallow that desire to stand up on your soapbox, because you might be the newest person around here and you don’t know what your role is in explaining that to them. Obviously, they don’t care about telling people what they do for their job. They could care less about advocating during National School Counseling Week or advocating ever.

Lauren Tingle 7:46
I remember hearing those words like why do we have to do this all the time? And I see it in Facebook groups all the time. Why do we have to advocate for what we do? Shouldn’t people just know what we do? Yes, I mean, that’s a soapbox, I can be on all day, I have plenty of episodes about National School Counseling Week, why the title matters, advocating for the title, even when other people should know what we do. But you know, they don’t.

Lauren Tingle 8:10
And so we have to get past that we have to understand that people around us don’t know what we do. And so as this newer age, high school counselor, we are advocating all the time for what we do. Because our job is constantly evolving, it feels like but something that has stayed the same as when we made that language shift to school counselor, we’re encompassing a lot more into our role. And don’t you want people to know what your role entails and all the things that you do?

Lauren Tingle 8:38
I have found that when people don’t know what you do, or they have no idea, it’s not transparent, they just make up in their mind what you do. And so I am a big proponent of advocacy. It’s something I talk about on this podcast a lot. It’s probably something you care about a lot. If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re trying to better yourself better this role, strengthen this profession. And I commend you for being here. And for listening to this in the first place.

Lauren Tingle 9:03
You might be able to tell that this old school guidance counselor does not care about their role or that title when their email signature flat out says guidance counselor. It’s just never been something that they have challenged in themselves or anyone else has challenged around them. If they are not putting advocacy at the front and center, then they’ve probably never told anyone in the school what they actually do.

Lauren Tingle 9:26
And again, I think that this is so important, because if you’re not telling people what you do, if you’re not shouting from the mountaintops, or at least doing that once a semester, then people don’t know how to use you for what your role is. And you end up doing things that are not in your role. And I don’t know about you, but those are not the things that I want to be stuck doing. Counting test booklets in a test closet, doing lunch duty, doing bus duty, the things that are on those lists of roles and responsibilities that we’re not supposed to have from ASKA, if we never tell anyone what our role actually is, then yeah, we’re going to be stuck doing that.

Lauren Tingle 10:00
I have found that that old school guidance counselor actually doesn’t really care about their roles or responsibilities. Sometimes they are passive enough to not even care about being a leader in the school, and they’re fine with someone telling them what to do. Now, that’s not going to be me, I’m never gonna sit there and be fine with someone telling me to do things that are not in my job scope, because the reason I got into this in the first place is to help students.

Lauren Tingle 10:25
So I find that the first thing to go when you are an old school guidance counselor, is the contact with students. And that would seriously hinder my job satisfaction, it would increase my burnout rate, because I would just be doing administrative stuff, because I was never standing up for myself and what this role is supposed to be.

Lauren Tingle 10:44
But I find that that old school guidance counselor doesn’t care about that. They’re fine with whatever the role is, and whatever it morphs into. The old school guidance counselor probably hasn’t done any real PD in a while. Maybe you’re telling them about this podcast, or the Clique Collaborative, where there’s this greater High School Counseling community and you get shut down time after time.

Lauren Tingle 11:07
You’re excited to go to ASKA and they look like they want to punch you in the face when you bring it up every time. You ask them what they’re going to do over the summer, and they don’t care anything about school counseling, not that you have to do everything school counseling over the summer. That is not what I’m saying. But you know, they were disgusted, that you would even think about your job outside of these four walls.

Lauren Tingle 11:28
So what do you do? I just described this person that maybe you came up with something in your mind of who that is. And I hope that’s not offensive if somebody listens to it, and they’re like, oh, wait, that is me. I’m guessing it’s not because I’m guessing if you’re listening to this, then you want to be that newer school counselor who is an advocate for students and an advocate for your role. So maybe I just described to you what that old school guidance counselor looks like.

Lauren Tingle 11:54
So let’s talk about what you do if that person is around you or you step into a role, and that who you’re partnered with as your teammate. As you’re heading into the start of the school year, I want you to set SMART goals. Lay out the plan for your year. If you have to start small and those SMART goals or just your own personal SMART goals and not a team SMART goals or smart goals with your partner, then do that.

Lauren Tingle 12:19
You got to set some goals to give yourself some direction for the school year. And you know that as a school counselor, and not a guidance counselor that you need to be data driven and have some direction of where you’re going to take this high school counseling program and your role for the year.

Lauren Tingle 12:32
So as you’ve come up with a SMART goals, I want you to lay out your plan for the year. What things are you gonna put on your calendar so that you can achieve those SMART goals? You can have two to three of those goals for the year. And everything that you put on your calendar throughout the year should point back to those SMART goals.

Lauren Tingle 12:47
I’ve found that this is a great way to advocate for your role to the higher ups to your admin or to your teachers who decide or who think they should decide what goes on your calendar. Go ahead and use the beginning of the school year before the year even really starts and put all of those presentations on the calendar, schedule all the classroom lessons, move forward with your advocacy efforts that you would normally even if they are not going to come along with you.

Lauren Tingle 13:15
Now I know this can be hard. This can force a lot of tension or drive a wedge between you and a partner or you in a team. But this is a present day school counseling program. If you want to go ahead and share resources with them, let them take their time to digest them. They might need a slow burn into the world of newer school counseling and to get out of that mindset.

Lauren Tingle 13:39
If they can see with what you’re doing and that your efforts are mattering in the lives of students, maybe they will come around and start doing that with you. Maybe they’ll become part of the team and contribute to those conversations, especially if you can really get to know them and what makes them tick. When you can ask them for their opinions or use those years of knowledge that they have as a veteran counselor to ask their opinion and ask what has worked in the past. Maybe they’ll see that you are valuing those years that they’ve put in.

Lauren Tingle 14:08
Like those shouldn’t be discounted, I get that I want them to know that what they’ve done all these years is so valuable. And maybe things have changed over the course of the last few years. Like the technology that’s available to reach students, or just the pop culture kind of stuff that’s out there that we could use to draw students in to help teach them things about their own social emotional awareness, or the academic college and career sides of what we get to do as school counselors.

Lauren Tingle 14:35
Like there’s so much out there that we can do to reach students. And if they’re not trying to maybe it’s because they don’t know where to go for resources because things have changed so much over the last few years. So invite them in along to see what you’re doing, see if they’re open to it. And I would say don’t expect that to change overnight, especially if you’re working with someone who doesn’t really see a lot of value in advocacy.

Lauren Tingle 15:47
Another major point that I want you to notice if you’re working with an old school guidance counselor, they are not student centered. They are passive, they might rather sit in their office all day and not talk to students, if given the option. Kind of like what I said about advocacy, they’re kind of fine with just whatever falls into their lap. They’re reactive instead of proactive. So they might just sit back and accept that everything is always on fire. But it doesn’t really stress them out. They don’t really feel like they need to make any changes there.

Lauren Tingle 16:19
Now, let me tell you, this would not be a sustaining way for me to function as a high school counselor. And maybe that’s my personality, I want things to be effective and efficient. And that would just seriously overwhelm me if everything was on fire all the time. Because even when you’re trying to be proactive things are on fire all the time. So I can’t imagine just sitting back and letting that happen. And just seeing what happens, hoping it all works out hoping I get to see students and make a difference.

Lauren Tingle 16:45
If they are not interested in learning new counseling techniques, keeping up on what’s new to date with college trends, or the FAFSA, for heaven’s sake, maybe they’re also not trying to understand the troubles that students are dealing with right now. Like the trends that you’re seeing in individual counseling, those might all be indicators that they’re not really student centered, if they’re not trying to figure out what’s best for students.

Lauren Tingle 17:10
This point number two, not student centered is a real red flag for me. Personally, I’ve always said if this ever became me, if I ever stopped caring about students then I hoped, I prayed that someone would tell me this because to be honest, it’s the thing that I do miss the most about being in a school. Y’all know, I’m not full time in high school right now. It’s the thing I knew that I would miss the most about being in the school, the students, it’s the best part of this job.

Lauren Tingle 17:39
It’s not the parents, it’s not the administrators. It’s not even the relationships with your co workers, like your other counselors or the teachers in your building. It’s the students. It’s why we do what we do. So I have found that an old school guidance counselor is not student centered. And that’s a red flag.

Lauren Tingle 17:56
So what do we do when this happens when we’re working alongside this person who doesn’t really care to see students? I think if you have enough of a relationship with them, you can have a conversation about that. Maybe just something really casually like asking them what they love about their job. You know, this could, like I said, drive a wedge between the two of you.

Lauren Tingle 18:16
And I would say go back and listen to the episode that I did, where we talked about having friendships at work. Now you don’t have to be best friends with everyone that you work with. But maybe it might give you some ideas for sparking some conversation and just like a really human way and not a school counselor way around lunch just to get to know your co workers.

Lauren Tingle 18:34
Maybe they are overwhelmed with things outside of the building. And they are caring for a lot of other things other than their job right now. And so dealing with students and handling the emotional burdens that come with students might be a lot for them right now. They might be on the course to burnout because they’ve been doing this for so long that man is just hard to hear one more thing in somebody else’s life that’s hard because they’ve got stuff going on in their own lives.

Lauren Tingle 19:02
But if they’re not student centered, I would say this is a hard one to drag someone along with, because it feels like such a center part of our job. Students are the center of why we do what we do. And so my mentality with this one is that almost they would shape up or ship out. If you are the one who is leading the charge and being student centered and they don’t want to be along for that. I would hope that they would exit the career at some point.

Lauren Tingle 19:31
Like I said, I hope that if that was not the thing that I cared about any more than I would just leave if I didn’t want to work with students, I would find another career where I didn’t have to work with students. Feels like a really thankless and not lucrative job to not care about students and want to stay in the job. Do you know what I mean? If you’re not in it for the reasons like you love working with younger students and mentoring them and helping them find their way then why are we doing this?

Lauren Tingle 19:58
And I know maybe I’m just preaching to the choir here as I’m having this conversation, but I think that this counselor who is not student centered, will eventually see their way out of the profession, if you are continuing to move forward with what the role is actually supposed to look like.

Lauren Tingle 20:14
And you know, over time, if you work with a lot of these people, maybe they will all phase out one by one. And you can add people to your team who are student centered. Get yourself a hand in the hiring process, or get yourself around that table, where the conversations are happening about what kind of person you need in the role within your team the next time they go to do a hire. If you say that you are student centered, and that’s what your team needs moving forward, I think it would be really hard for an administrator to argue that that’s not important to them as well.

Lauren Tingle 20:49
Number three, you are working with an old school guidance counselor, if you are working with someone who is stuck in their ways, who is not open to trying new things, or hearing how things could be done differently.

Lauren Tingle 21:03
Now, we’ve all done this in one way or another. But if this is a co workers mantra that this is always the way we’ve done it, man, you are going to have to do some hard work first. It is really hard, like I just mentioned before to drag someone along who doesn’t want to be there. But that just might be the person have a hand that you were dealt with this team that you are a part of. I would think a red flag here would be when they complain about things all the time, but don’t have any solutions for them.

Lauren Tingle 21:37
So for example, they are complaining that well, we have to do paper credit checks for every single student, and I have to have binders and I have to print all these papers. And it takes so long, but they’ve never considered using a digital file before like the high school credit check spreadsheet that I have in my TPT store. Even when you’ve mentioned it before, or you’re using it and it’s making your life easier.

Lauren Tingle 22:01
They’re slow to answer 1000s of emails that you get every day. But they’re not even curious, when you mentioned the email templates that you use to save time and energy. When you are bringing them solutions to the things that they’re complaining about and they don’t care, they’re just stuck in their ways of doing the things they’ve always done. Man, that is hard, and you are doing all you can to offer some solutions for them.

Lauren Tingle 22:25
And so this might not be something that you can do to change them. You just have to keep moving forward taking steps forward, showing them what is working, what might take them from being old school to new school. I mean, you don’t have to say that you don’t have to say that’s what your goal is of trying to convince them to change from this veteran counselor with all these years of experience, but stuck in their ways to to a more flexible and adaptable school counselor.

Lauren Tingle 22:52
Now, I can’t imagine being a school counselor in today’s day and age, without having some flexibility or adaptability. We all know no two days are the same. And that’s kind of the fun of it. Right?

Lauren Tingle 23:05
So what do we do? What do we do overall? I kind of mentioned a few points as I talked about the characteristics of the old school counselor. But what do we do overall when we are working with this person? Okay, first and foremost, we aspire not to be this person. That kind of sounds harsh, I guess. And you probably were already thinking that like I don’t ever want to end up being that person who is the veteran who is years and years into their role, so much so that they don’t care about what’s going on around them.

Lauren Tingle 23:35
So how do we not become this old school guidance counselor? First, listen to last week’s episode about how to know when it’s time to move on. This can be for a variety of reasons and seasons. But I believe that once we become jaded, once we’re frustrated with students all the time, when we find ourselves not wanting to help like we once did, it’s time to move on.

Lauren Tingle 23:58
And that can be a really honest reflection, a sabbatical maybe just some time off, a season of change so that we don’t end up haggard and tired. Maybe that looks like really taking advantage of your summers to look differently than they have before, advocating for some more time off instead of constantly spending time in the office just because it’s always been done that way. And someone has always expected the counselor to be there.

Lauren Tingle 24:22
So the magic answer to the question I posted in the title of this episode, what do we do when we work with them? You just keep moving forward. You know, as good as I do, what you can and what you can’t control in his role. You can control how you respond to something, but you can’t control how they act or how they respond.

Lauren Tingle 24:42
I sort of view it as a shape up or ship out. You may have zero pull on how this team goes or how this department shapes up to serve students in the school. But you sure as heck can be the best high school counselor out there that you can possibly be. And this may come with eye rolls or shuns from the current old school guidance counselors. They might wonder why you’re so extra why you’re going above and beyond when you just may think you’re just doing your job, but they see it and they roll their eyes and just another initiative at one more thing that you’re wanting them to do.

Lauren Tingle 25:15
So whether you’re new to this role, or you’re a veteran hoping for some new ideas, I’d invite you to check out my membership for high school counselors called the Clique Collaborative, where I house over 25 trainings on different topics for you to pick from. It’ll keep you connected, growing, fresh, motivated, all of that to keep you excited about your job.

Lauren Tingle 25:35
But I can’t promise you that all of this won’t be frustrating. I’m doing my hands in a circle right now. Because it’s a lot that we’re encompassing. You’re gonna have to put your head down, and you’re gonna have to work harder and harder to win the respect of your teammates and the stakeholders in your school.

Lauren Tingle 25:49
But I want you to analyze your own strengths to move your program forward. If you’re a positive person channel, that positivity to good works and good programs that you’re confident that you or those people on your team with, you could pull off. If you’re a connector or grab people in your building or in the community who could help you reach your goals.

Lauren Tingle 26:08
If you’re wondering, you don’t even know what strengths you have, so that you can go out and channel the strengths, I would encourage you to check out Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. I’ll link it in the show notes. That has been a very helpful tool for me to know what my strengths are, and then to think how can I use those in different scenarios that I find myself in. So whether that’s work, home, friends, there are a lot of resources that you can pull from there. And it’s just a book and like a little quiz that I have loved to develop my own skills and my own self awareness and my own leadership abilities as I am in different work settings.

Lauren Tingle 26:43
I hope this episode was helpful for you as you find yourself in points of frustration, maybe with someone who you don’t see eye to eye with and maybe you’re in that role for a long time with them. Hopefully, it’ll be some encouragement and some solidarity, like yes, I see you. Yes, we all work with a person or whole team of these people.

Lauren Tingle 27:03
But there is hope it can change over time. It’s not going to change overnight. But you you new Aage school counselor who is ready to change the world that will come with time. And so I’d say give yourself some grace and patience, and keep listening to this podcast. I hope that you’ll find some new inspiration along the way. I’ll see you next week.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

Like what you’re hearing? Follow and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps other high school counseling friends find it!

Can’t contain your excitement? Share the pod! Tell a friend! Your word-of-mouth referrals mean the world to me!


Share it:


You might also like...