A Letter To MyselfWhat I Wish I Knew On Day One
Five years later….
Having recently returned from the 2017 ASCA National Conference in Denver, CO – I had a lot of learning, reflection, and networking on my mind. I got to meet and reconnect with both uber experienced veteran school counselors and school counselors just starting their journey into the profession. I still feel like a baby-faced newbie, but finishing year five – I feel like I have learned a LOT in that time. I decided I wanted to write a letter to myself that I wish I could have read on day 1 of the job. Check it out below and I hope you think about writing a letter to your future or past self.
What I Wish I Knew – A Letter to Myself
Congratulations on starting your journey down one of the more difficult, frustrating, tiring, yet awesome, creative, supportive, and oh so needed profession in the world. You are excited but scared out of your mind. There is a lot of pressure, but know that you can be confident in your training and your heart. I have 3 things I want you to remember as you begin your journey.
1. Never be too proud or afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes you feel like you need to have all the right answers, never struggle and have it all together. You don’t have to! Know that you have people who care about you and who want to help. Whether you are a solo school counselor or a part of a 15 person department – there are ways to get help. Ask your digital PLN (#scchat on Twitter or one of the 3 Facebook groups are some of my favorites) or those more experienced in your building. Not have an answer is 100% okay and often better than trying to make one up to sound right.
Some of my favorite words that actually make you more of a leader and content knowledge expert that parents and students trust are:
“I don’t have an answer to that question right now, but I will use my resources and do some research to help you find the information you are looking for.”
Model for students that you don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers. The last thing they need is another “perfect” person. You are not that and be okay with that.
2. You cannot make all people happy all the time.
The first time a parent or student comes to your office pissed off about something you did (or didn’t do) – you will feel like a failure at your job. While you should always strive to help people and make them happy, you are not solely responsible for their happiness. Often those people who come in with negative attitudes are not even mad at you – they are hurting people who need to be heard and helped. It does suck being the person that those feelings are directed at – but know that you are likely the best suited and prepared person in the building to work with these people. Hang in there and keep your head up. Remember these two words:
Second, to I Love You – I’m Sorry are two of the most powerful and disarming words in the world. Practice using them and it will lower the anger or frustration level in the room almost instantly.
3. Follow your heart…but take your brain with you.
Your job and calling is to be an unwavering advocate for your students and families. One definition of the word Counsel I have heard and love is “to stand between”. We stand between students and their issues, students and their families, students and their teachers, and so much more. You need to be a creator (not gatekeepers) of opportunity for your students. Dr. Calvin Mackie called school counselors to stand in the gap and protect our cheetah cubs (our students) from the lions of this world who are trying to (metaphorically) kill them. This is something that takes work and honestly – is not always the easiest thing to do. Your feelings and own bias can get in the way. Your job is to own those things and let them get out of the way.Follow your heart...but take your brain with you. #scchat Click To Tweet
On the flip side of being an unwavering advocate – you also must be the voice of reality in a world of unrealistic expectations and goals. While goals and dreams are things to be valued and not crushed – you are called to provide some relevance and grounded, action-oriented steps to work towards those goals. Students need to face failure, struggle and the word “no”. They need to know how to overcome obstacles and grow from their process. Hard work and persistence are some of the biggest return on investment in reaching towards goals. Mark Kelley, NASA astronaut, said at ASCA 2017 – “How good you are at the beginning is not an indicator of how good you can become.” The world and our education system put the expectation on students that they should be good at the beginning of any process and if we are not – something is wrong or we are a total failure and should give up.
When you are starting this journey in such a great field as school counseling – you will try to place those same expectations on yourself. You also need to have realistic goals for your professional growth.
Jeff, you are the maker of your future. You need to dive in to your profession head first. Don’t be afraid to get involved. You have value to add and you can step in as a leader. Don’t let your hesitations prevent you from supporting your peers and, in turn, students. Be brave, be bold and be strong. You can and you will do this.