Yes, Career Counseling Is Necessary

The following is a guest post by contributor Frankie Wallace.


Yes, Career Counseling Is Necessary

By Frankie Wallace

For many students, the idea of graduating from high school is daunting. There is an undeniable sense of urgency in figuring out exactly what they want out of life and exactly how they are going to make it happen over the next few years. That feeling of standing on the edge of a nest and being forced to jump out of it is at its strongest.

Is college the right direction or is something like a vocational or technical school the right move? Regardless, how does one navigate paying for all this education? Furthermore, what does it mean to be a real adult who has to do laundry, feed themselves, and work to pay all the bills while still balancing a social life?

None of these questions have particularly easy answers, especially for students who are lacking the support and expertise to get this information from home. This is where a career counselor can come in and make a real difference in the lives of the students they counsel. Counselors in schools can provide a multitude of services ranging from career preparation advice to emotional support for traumatic situations and bullying.

Providing Career Preparation Support

Arguably the most influential role a school counselor will play in the majority of student’s lives is providing advice on career decisions after graduation. This process can start early in a student’s academic program, sometimes as early as middle school. One of the most important things counselors can do during the school year is provide advice on class scheduling. According to a College Board poll conducted on the class of 2010, nearly 40 percent wished they’d taken different classes while in high school to help better prepare them for the real world.

Unfortunately, a substantial number of students do not have the support to help them prepare for higher education after graduating, especially if no one in their family has pursued higher education before. There are a lot of unknowns that can provide serious barriers to finishing technical school or becoming a successful college student. Without the help of a school counselor for decision making and timelines, even some of the smartest students can fall through the cracks.

School counselors can provide career advice by suggesting employment paths that students may not have thought of or even knew existed. They play a pivotal role in helping students decide if college or technical school or other types of higher education is right for them and kicking off the enrollment/application process. Some studies suggest that helping students through the post-high school education application process is the most important means of boosting enrollment among students who want to go.

Providing Life Advice

In addition to offering career advice throughout the young adult years, career counselors in schools also prep students for making the transition into the real world. Making this transition can be a surprisingly difficult move for many students, especially while balancing post-high school education plans. Failure to successfully do so is often listed as a factor explaining why students drop out during their first year of college right after high school.

School counselors obviously cannot be the sole teacher of what life is like in the real world, but they can provide advice on numerous things that can make a big difference. For instance, they can help students understand the financial decisions that impact their credit score. Most students don’t have the slightest idea how important keeping a high credit score can be to making successful major purchases in the future, and often times it doesn’t come up until it is too late to fix easily.

Furthermore, school counselors can help students prepare for a successful transition into their career by offering insights on things such as developing a healthy work-life balance, maintaining and building friendships while working, and budgeting successfully. On the surface, these may not seem to directly impact the career success of graduating students, but in reality, these may be the most important little things in ensuring goals are reached.

Providing Emotional Support

Outside of career advice and preparation instruction, counselors also play a significant role in the emotional and mental support of students throughout their educational experience. Whether it is coping with anxiety over test taking, working out misunderstandings amongst friends, or combatting bullying, counselors play a role. A good school career counselor may be the single biggest factor in helping students overcome emotional barriers.

Bullying is perhaps one of the most devastating aspects of the modern educational system. According to a 2015 U.S. Department of Education study, nearly 25 percent of students reported having been bullied at some point during their middle or high school careers. School counselors have an impactful role in identifying and addressing bullying through educational programming and emotional support for students working through the ramifications associated with bullying.

The emotional support provided by counselors can be life changing to some students. For instance, learning to manage workloads and anxiety can help students to balance projects successfully —  an important skill both in life, in careers, and in higher education. Developing these strategies can also boost self-confidence in students, which can have substantial impacts on improving success in the classroom.

Overall, career counselors in schools are a vital component to the long-term success of students. They work towards helping them achieve their career goals through schedule planning and post-high school planning and enrollment. Furthermore, they help students through difficult emotional situations and provide tips on successfully transitioning into adult life.

Yes, I Am Challenging Your Kid

The following is a guest post by Eugene Eaton.  Eugene is an Australian-based blogger for CareersBooster, who is into stand-up comedy. His favorite comedians are Louis CK and George Carlin. A good morning laugh is what keeps Eugene upbeat and motivated through a harsh day.

Dear Parents, I Am Challenging Your Kid

Education has always been a controversial topic. Parents want the best for their children and teachers try their best at the same time. A problem arises when kids don’t accomplish what their parents expect of them.

Their struggle leads parents to misunderstand what’s happening and approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Instead of working things out as a family, they sometimes blame the teacher.

Even when they have a chance to converse normally, they ask uncomfortable questions. Amongst them is an accusation that teachers don’t “challenge” their child. This elephant in the room causes rifts in parent-teacher relationships.

The parents’ perspective

When they raise their children, parents get to know them and learn their habits perfectly. However, this is in a limited environment, without too much proof of the child’s character. The moment school starts, parents expect more from their kids, but from the education system as well.

Expectations are the wrong way to look at their child’s intellectual growth. Instead of bringing joy and success, parents tend to get mad or disappointed when their expectations aren’t met.

Jeremiah Matters, a pedagogy and psychology specialist at CareersBooster, says, “Parents go through a lot of pressure because they want the absolute best for their child. They try so hard that they sometimes end up venting their frustrations the wrong way. Unfortunately, teachers are the ones who suffer because of their children’s shortcomings. The most uncomfortable thing they do is question the work ethic of teachers.”

During parent-teacher conferences, some parents want to know if the teacher is doing everything he or she can to educate their child. All they think about is results, instead of looking at the whole picture.

The parents think the problem is because the teacher doesn’t challenge their child enough. Even posing this question is insulting. As a teacher, I will give you an analysis of the educator’s perspective.

Unnecessary questions

We teachers take our job very seriously and work on even the most basic things. Amongst these facets is the best possible teaching method – posing a challenge to students. A class is structured precisely this way. I teach math to high school students, and I follow one of the most efficient teaching methods. Here’s how it goes:

  • I explain the lesson and everything connected to it.
  • In between different explanations, I pose questions to cause students to become more curious.
  • As they become more curious, they become more involved as I explain the rest of the lesson.
  • Once the lesson is done, I explain problems.
  • Simple problems give children confidence.
  • After we’re done with simple problems, I give them the opportunity to solve the harder ones.
  • As they solve the harder ones, I ask them additional questions and challenge them to give their best.

Education in itself is a challenge. We give our students the tools to solve seemingly difficult tasks. When they feel challenged, they are motivated to give their best and succeed.

In the classroom, we only want the very best for them. So yes, your child is being challenged, and not a single lesson is an exception to this way of approaching students. What’s the problem, then?

Where the problem appears

Some might not realize, but we further deepen the challenging part of our classes. Every day, I do all the following things to help your child become better:

  • Give them a challenging task and allow them to engage
  • Encourage them to solve the problem by establishing a healthy and competitive environment
  • Give them the opportunity to think deeply about the crux of the problem
  • Offer the students an opportunity to teach each other through group assignments and working in pairs
  • Stimulate their love for the topic

Not only do I teach your child everything they need to have an A+ in math, but also everything they need in life. A problem appears when the child doesn’t have good enough marks or if he isn’t motivated.

At this precise time, you should talk to your child before you talk to me. No matter how much I challenge my students, there will still be factors I cannot influence. Through talks with your child, you can learn so much.

Understand your child

Childhood is the most difficult period in everyone’s life. In a little more than one decade, children have to learn so much, about a variety of topics. Even if your child is incredibly intelligent, he can still feel fatigue.

Sit down with them and talk. Don’t be afraid to come over and have a talk with me together. My job isn’t done after the bell rings. Your child is a person, and I want them to grow into the best person they can be.

As a teacher, I encourage all of my students to tell me if I’m making a mistake or if I can do something better. However, you cannot say I am not challenging them enough. That is the basis of my entire profession, and I dedicate every moment of my work to bringing out the best of my students.

Parents and teachers aren’t enemies. We have to work together, and I am always available for cooperation.

Your child may not like math, and that’s okay. Encourage him to speak to me, but please don’t think he or she is not challenged enough. Instead, let us work as a team to make them the best person possible.

Concluding thoughts

A child is going through a turbulent period in their life, and we’re here to help them. Talking resolves all problems, and I’m sure we can come to a solution. Teachers are human too, and we would love if you stopped thinking we’re not challenging your child. Every day, we give our best to provide challenges for the entire class, and we’re never going to give up. Instead of accusing us, talk to us and allow us to get to know your child. Let’s build a relationship.

The Teacher’s Veto

We’ve all been there. Sitting in another meeting and being told about yet another initiative that promises to solve the same problem the last initiative was supposed to solve. We’ve sat stone-faced as failed teachers (also called trainers) explained to us exactly how to use the fancy new program our district overpaid for. We’ve kept silent as principals informed us of new policies that conflict with everything we believe about good teaching. And we’ve nodded along, feigning assent, as district leaders sold us on the latest education trend, which they have eagerly adopted on our behalf, that will at long last get the results we all want.

In spite of the furious rebuttals trying to punch their way past our lips, we’re able to hold our tongues (and our good standing among our supervisors) because we all know where the last line of defense resides. If you’ve taught for even a couple of years you’ve heard (and probably thought) the teacher’s saving grace, the one sentence that likely prevents teacher after teaching from doing their best Howard Beale, upending their neatly stacked letter trays, kicking their tote bags across the room, and storming out of the building in righteous, fed-up anger.

It’s always there, whispering its comforting assurance:

“Whatever,” the voice says. “I’ll just close my door and keep doing what I’m doing. Who’s going to know?”

This is the teacher’s veto, the last vestige of true autonomy in the classroom. It recognizes a reality that all teachers understand but few reformers or school leaders seem to acknowledge:

What happens in classrooms is ultimately up to the teacher.

You can tell teachers how to do their job. You can tell them what to teach. You can tell them what to write on their boards. You can demand fidelity to your new program. You can ban movies or independent reading or competitive games or candy in prize boxes.

But the only way you can enforce any of it is by actually going into classrooms, observing, and disciplining the mavericks. Most school leaders, for reasons both good and bad, won’t do that.

And teachers know it.

You can design brand new standards that you claim will raise student achievement, but you can’t make teachers teach them. You certainly can’t make them teach the standards the way you want them to.

You can purchase the best curriculum money can buy, but you can’t force teachers to use it with fidelity.

You can require learning goals be written on the board before every lesson. You can even require a particular format for them. But you can’t force teachers to use the goals with students or to actually teach the things that are written on the board. (Admission: I’ve often left the same goals on the board for weeks. No one’s ever noticed.)

You can make teachers define success criteria and write performance scales and you can send a document telling teachers which assessments they will use to mark report cards and how to use the scales, but once teachers sit down to mark report cards, they can use whatever criteria they want. And chances are pretty good that no parent will ever question it.

You can institute a no-movies policy, but unless an administrator is going to spend a lot of time peeking through classroom doors, you can’t do much to prevent teachers from showing whatever movie they want.

You can roll out a new state test and you can force teachers to give it to their students, but you can’t ensure that teachers stress the test’s importance, or that they establish a good testing environment, or that they don’t tell their students, “I don’t give two mushy turds how you do on this stupid test because you’re far more than a test score and besides, no one is ever going to care about your dumb fourth grade science test score results, so if you want, just go ahead and click stuff so we can finish this thing and get back to learning.”

Thank God for the teacher’s veto. It may be the only thing keeping some of our best teachers in the profession. The knowledge that you can usually ignore the dumbest ideas and continue to do what’s best for kids is what makes laughably bad policies and ill-conceived mandates bearable.

Smart teachers will figure out ways around stupid policies. They will follow the letter of your law while protecting students from its unintended consequences. They’ll limit the damage created by your ill-informed mandates.

So what’s a reformer or school leader with new ideas to improve education to do? If teachers are going to ignore anything they don’t like, what’s the point? Why not just throw in the towel and admit that change will never happen?

Because the solution is remarkably simple: Include teachers from the start.  Ask them what they need instead of telling them what to do. No, you won’t get them all, but they will be a lot more likely to try something they’ve had a hand in creating than something they’ve been compelled to do.

If teachers are telling you that something is a bad idea, then they’re telling you it’s not going to work and you can be sure that teachers aren’t going to do something that doesn’t work for very long. They are the ones who’ll be blamed when it fails. They’re the ones who have to field the parent phone calls. They’re the ones who have to look students in the eye and explain why they’re doing what they’re doing. When they need to, they will exercise their veto.

And we should be glad they do.




Busy Teachers: How To Help Your Kids With Their Homework

A guest post by Paisley Hansen

Your kids need help with their homework, but you have very little time to help them. Perhaps even if you did, you wouldn’t really understand the subject matter anyway. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can pursue to not only make the time, but also secure outside help if it is needed. Here are some ideas for how you can help your kids with their homework when you have little time to spare.

Use Technology

Technology continues to change education by leaps and bounds every day, and it can be an indispensable tool for helping your child with their homework. Major sites and programs, such as YouTube and Skype, have educational components which offer a number of educational resources. If you travel for work, you can use programs like Skype to communicate with your child and help them with their homework remotely. There are also crowdsourcing options, such as Course Hero, which have 24/7 access to tutors and study resources to give kids the help they need.

Take Advantage of After School Programs

After School programs have been around for years to enrich children in the period between when schools let out and when their parents get home. These programs can help take care of two of the issues you likely face as a busy working parent: a place for your kids to go until you get off work, and a significant source of help for your kids academically. Most afterschool programs have tutors or other educational resources on-site to help kids with their homework, so they can get it done before they ever get home.

Set Aside Time

Even if you are particularly busy, you can hopefully set aside some time to help your children with their homework. Unfortunately, helping your kids with their homework is a difficult thing to do while doing something else, because it requires significant concentration to understand what is being asked in the assignment. However, you may find that occasionally stopping by to help while your child does her homework and you do something else works well for you. It is easiest to establish homework time as part of a daily routine in your house so you are sure to budget time for it.

Keep Up With Their Curriculum

If you just don’t have the time to figure out every assignment your child brings home, one thing that can help is if you keep up with their learning curriculum. This can save you significant amounts of time you would otherwise spend trying to figure out what your child is learning and what he or she has already learned. If you do not have a copy of the syllabus, you can contact your child’s teacher for it. You can also peruse his textbooks when you have some spare time to gather this information as well.

Don’t Do It For Them

Recent research has shown that high parental involvement in their children’s academic life either yields little return or can even backfire. The key is to put the child in command. It is far too easy for you, as a working parent, to take over the session, to the point of giving out answers just to get it over with faster. This is not helpful for your child because they will not learn the material. Have your child explain the assignment to you, and not the other way around. When correcting them, ask questions and steer them towards the correct answer rather than giving it to them. They will learn the material better that way.

If you can make time in your busy schedule to help your child with their homework, you should. It allows you to spend more time with your kids, help them get the most out of their education, teach them to value an education and will likely teach you a thing or two as well. Turn to outside tools and programs to help as well, and you should be able to come up with a system that works with your busy schedule.

Schools Should Do Less

I recently published an article in which I suggested that schools should not be doing their students’ laundry. My rationale was that schools already do too much and the more they do, the fewer things they will do well. This is hardly a groundbreaking observation.

  • Restaurants that focus make better food than those that try to make everything.
  • Companies that focus make higher quality products.
  • Individuals that focus are more successful.
  • Even teachers that focus are the only ones you’ve heard of. Jaime Escalante taught calculus. Lucy Calkins teaches writing. Rafe Esquith was best known for teaching kids Shakespeare.

To get really good at something, you have to aim your energies in one direction. Schools do the opposite. As a result, most of them rarely excel at anything.

Suggesting that schools not do students’ laundry led to predictable responses. A fair number of readers agreed with me. Those who didn’t argued that schools have to step up and be the communities kids need. Schools should fill the gaps left by neglectful parenting. Kids can’t learn unless their basic needs are met, and if those needs aren’t being met at home, then schools must do everything within their power to meet them. We shouldn’t punish kids for the sins of their parents.

All of those are appealing sentiments, which is likely why they’re hard to resist. But resist schools should. Because it is such thinking that exhausts educators and provides fuel for the failing schools narrative.

What Schools Offer Becomes Expected

Every disappointment results from unmet expectations, which means that schools should be very careful about what they offer. Provide lunch and you can bet that parents will complain about its nutritional content, the time allotted for kids to eat, the noise in the cafeteria, the demeanor of the adults staffing the noisy cafeteria, food waste, a lack of gluten-free options, and 15 other things that aren’t ideal. Offer free transportation to and from school and prepare to field complains about the safety of the buses, the lack of supervision leading to bullying, long bus rides, the professionalism of drivers, and many more.

When schools add offerings they shouldn’t expect gratitude; they should expect disappointment and criticism. Humans are kind of assholes, and one of our more unattractive traits is that we quickly feel entitled, take new things for granted, and find stuff to bitch about. It reminds me of this Louis C.K. bit where he talks about wi-fi on airplanes:

“I’m sitting on the plane and they go, ‘Open up your laptop, you can go on the Internet.’ It’s fast and I’m watching YouTube clips. It’s amazing! I’m in an airplane! And then it breaks down and they apologize. ‘The Internet’s not working.’ The guy next to me goes, ‘Pssh. This is bullshit!’ Like, how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only ten seconds ago.”

Schools like to make people happy, so their leaders hardly ever tell anyone no. The irony is that taking on too much hasn’t led to a greater appreciation for schools; it’s led to scapegoating. Doing so many things means that schools do very few things well. And like wi-fi on airplanes, you’re better off not having it at all than having it perform poorly.

Responsibilities Adopted by Schools Become Responsibilities Forfeited By Parents

When schools continually take on more responsibilities, society starts expecting schools to take on larger and larger roles in the socialization of young people. That means we all start to expect families, churches, and communities to do less.

Once schools take on a role previously reserved for parents, a not insignificant number of parents will be happy to abdicate responsibility for that role. The thinking might go something like this:

If the school is teaching sexual education, there’s a series of uncomfortable conversations that I don’t have to have with my child.

If the school is providing an hour of exercise through recess and gym class, then I don’t need to play with or supervise my child outside. Alternatively, I don’t have to let them roam the neighborhood and risk my neighbors’ judgment over my free-range parenting methods. One less hassle for me.

Since the schools are providing counseling services, I don’t need to get my child the professional help he needs.

Where does it end? Schools have already taken responsibility for their students’ physical health (why have nutritional guidelines for the federal lunch program if they haven’t?). Those with washing machines have taken a step toward accepting responsibility for students’ cleanliness. But if schools are going to launder students’ clothing, shouldn’t they also provide a time and place for morning showers? Shouldn’t schools supply deodorant and toothpaste if parents aren’t providing them?

Why stop there? If schools are concerned with students’ physical health and hygiene, how can they neglect mental health? After all, students with mental health problems can’t properly learn. Shouldn’t schools provide counseling services? Shouldn’t the state provide funding so every school can afford to have a therapist in the building? Shouldn’t there be a nurse on every campus to administer mental health medications?

The More Schools Attempt To Do, The Less They Will Do Well

Every teacher knows this. Ask us to teach 100 things and we’ll do it; we just won’t do it particularly well. Tell me to cram 18 different things into my seven-hour teaching day, and I’ll cram them in; they just won’t be done effectively.

Many schools act as if tradeoffs don’t exist. Teachers are expected to teach exceptional reading lessons and exceptional math lessons (and don’t forget great science and social studies lessons, too!). We’re supposed to build a positive community of learners and instill moral character in our pupils, but those test scores better also be high!

You don’t get to have it all. Nobody does, and that includes schools. That’s just not how the world works, and schools, no matter how well-intentioned they are, don’t get to change the fundamental rules of time. They must either choose, which means saying no, or accept mediocrity (at best) in most of what they do.

The More Schools Attempt to Do, The More Resources They Will Need

One Facebook commenter said, “If we do want educators to do all of this, we must provide resources.” There are two problems with such an argument. First, there are large segments of the population that think we already spend too much on education. They are unlikely to support more money for things that aren’t directly related to academics. Second, asking for and receiving more funding opens schools up to even more criticism and makes them more vulnerable to the narrative that our schools are failing. Read any article critical of public schools in this country and you can be sure to hear about how much more money we spend than other countries and how even though we’re spending more on education than we did ten or twenty or fifty years ago, our results haven’t changed much. We’re not getting much bang for our buck, the argument goes, so maybe we should spend fewer bucks.

More spending means higher expectations, especially from those who think we already spend too much on schools. But those expectations are tied to academic performance because in most people’s minds academics is still the primary responsibility of schools. Nevermind that the money is being used for more administrators, counseling, discipline, and safer buses. The critics will pounce if increased funding doesn’t lead to higher test scores, regardless of whether those funds were intended to lead to higher test scores.

Schools are being judged on academics, even though academics make up a progressively smaller part of schools’ focus as they foolishly take on more and more non-academic responsibilities.

The Less Schools Do Well, the More They Will Be Criticized

By accepting responsibility for an ever-expanding role in the development of young people, schools have set themselves up for consistent, blistering attacks. Consequently, they have made it less likely that they will effectively develop young people. Their noble intentions have sabotaged their intended results.

Pulled in 50 directions, schools make it harder to do the one thing almost everyone expects of them — educate their students. In the process, they exhaust the people responsible for producing the desired outcomes. Every person working in a school has too much to do, and it’s no wonder.

When leaders fail to focus and instead attempt to solve every societal problem, it’s those doing the actual work who end up spread thin. Exhausted people aren’t effective. And when schools are blamed, the people working in them take it personally. They feel shit on, and shit on people don’t perform well. Some of them walk right out the door and never return.

Burned out people don’t need more to do. Those trying to solve every problem created by society don’t deserve to be scapegoated. Schools will never get the results they seek if they continue to stretch their employees like rubber bands and set them up to be criticized for failing to solve all of the problems they’ve been asked to solve.

When schools act as if they can do it all, then anything they fail to do well is ammunition for their critics. Enemies of public education can point to countless “failures” of public schools because schools have blindly accepted responsibility for so many things that they can’t help but fail at most of them.

If you take on reproductive health, then you’re going to be blamed when teenage pregnancy rates rise.

If you serve breakfast and lunch, you’ll be culpable for a nation of obese children.

If you’re going to have drug-prevention programs, then kids better use fewer drugs.

If you teach financial literacy, then guess who’s fault it is when millions of people grow up and take out zero-interest loans, creating a real estate bubble which eventually bursts and sends the entire economy into a tailspin?

If you’re going to take responsibility for instilling character in your students, then where will fingers be pointed by those who believe the country is in the midst of a moral crisis?

If you’re going to train teachers on suicide prevention, then who gets the blame when a student takes his or her own life?

Nearly every societal problem today can be blamed on schools. That’s because schools have made it easy for critics to blame them. When public schools attempt to solve every societal problem, they do nothing but undermine their own mission. They open the door for their enemies to point and say, “Look at how badly those public schools (fill in the blank).”

One commenter on my last article summarized: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…”

I might finish the line… “when to others no responsibilities schools leave.”