Bits & Bytes: Jack-of-all-trades

Quite the rumor

You may have heard it – about how school counselors have to be everything for everyone…all the time? Yea – I have heard it too, but I refuse to believe it. Too often, when meeting colleagues around the country, do I notice that school counselors run around their schools like their hair is on fire. Naturally – there are days when that very much is true (and should be), but for many this is a perpetual experience that makes up their existence. Let me bring you in to a secret that really may be too well guarded…

This is not the way it should be!

That’s right – your role at your school is NOT to take care of everything. It isn’t dealing with every parent that walks through the doors or every crying child (whaaaaat?). School counselors have a very specific purpose at schools, but even we – the school counselor – often ignore this. You are a highly educated, highly experienced student support system all wrapped up into one person, but you are really just that one person. This means you do not have infinite time or energy. That is okay.

But that’s the way I have always run my programs…

I am sorry if I am direct (these are designed to be short posts though and hey — it’s my blog), but you are likely running some of your program wrong. It may be time to sit down, refocus and regroup to really make a difference at your school in a purposeful, comprehensive and meaningful way. Running around with your hair on fire is not acting purposeful, meaningful or addressing a comprehensive program.

How do I start to change this?

Great question and glad you asked! There isn’t one right answer. In fact – there are many wrong answers and reasons why you cannot – but the answers I do have – take some guts before you start to see the glory. You may have 1000 kids on your caseload, an admin who doesn’t really like school counselors or a very challenging caseload. All valid and all difficult, but not excuses.

First step is to actually figure out what is most important – set your priorities. You should do this by yourself first, but eventually bring in your admin. A motivational speaker I recently watched on a video said some sage words that really sank in that I think help us here:

“Procrastination really doesn’t exist – it is just an excuse for something not being a priority to you.”

So for the folks with hair on fire out there – stop procrastinating…and yes you are. I hear it (and sometimes say it myself) — the “I will do the ASCA model when we get another counselor” or “I will become data inspired…next year” excuses. That is procrastination and it hurts your programs.

So start with your priorities that make the biggest bang for your buck and write them down. Once you have your priorities – here is my next tip (tact required):

Start saying no.

We are not the utility player or jack-of-all-trades. We have very specialized skills that are often wasted doing things that someone else could very easily do, but we do not stand up and say no. We are too nice. So if what someone asks of you is not part of your priorities or address a priority Рstart practicing saying no. You will be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you are not trying to do everything.

One tip for saying no, but remaining respectful and retaining the relationship — say no and say why. That right now your time is focused on X, Y or Z and the impact it will have on this specific population. If you are not comfortable with saying no – practice at least saying not now. You can say “I really would love to help you with this, but right now I do not have time that I can fully devote to it – I can see an opening for us to look at working on this together in about 2 weeks”. This may be a good compromise while you get started at taking back your role and dousing the head of flames.

You have such an incredible role in your school that you cannot afford to waste your time with things that are not priorities for your program. You need to start playing the MVP and not the pinch hitter. Think about it.


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