Sharpen Your Influence, Part 2: Educate and Engage
By Rebecca Pianta and Caroline Lopez-Perry, Ph.D. | January 2023
Educating and engaging stakeholders allows you to use your networks to advocate for adequate school counseling program resources to meet students’ needs. To stay at the forefront of the school counseling profession, attend school counseling conferences, watch ASCA webinars, read scholarly journals and magazines and consult with school counselor educators and other school counselors.
For district directors overseeing school counselors, it is crucial to understand and meet school counselors’ needs to empower them to implement the ASCA National Model. Give them needs assessments and provide training based on identified needs. Host drop-in help centers to provide direct support to school counselors who need more individualized support. Conduct site visits to learn about the barriers your school counselors are facing, and then develop a plan to address their concerns. Create video tutorials so school counselors can access the information from the comfort of their school site.
Advocacy and leadership can be isolating, so it is essential to develop a strong support system to help you process your ideas, obtain guidance and persevere during challenging times. The following strategies detail how you can engage and influence various stakeholder groups to recognize school counselors’ value.
Staff: To gain staff buy-in and support, start the school year by providing a school counseling program overview presentation to staff, and let them know how to make counseling referrals. Staff meetings are an excellent opportunity to engage and garner feedback from staff about site needs. Throughout the year, school counselors can share mid-year and end-of-year reports and share data related to student outcomes. Invite administrators and influential teachers from various grade levels to be part of your school counseling advisory council. When key staff members are involved with planning the school counseling program, the other staff members are more likely to buy in.
District officials: District officials need to understand that the work school counselors do directly affects the district’s goals. To educate district officials on the school counselor’s role, attend district leadership meetings to present an overview of the ASCA National Model. Have school counselors implementing the ASCA National Model share examples of their work and highlight how they have improved students’ achievement, attendance and discipline outcomes.
School board: Provide your school board and superintendent with regular school counseling updates, and present at school board meetings. Volunteer to write a column for your district’s newsletter. The updates you present should include examples of school counseling interventions and how they improved student outcomes. Invite board members to be part of the school counseling advisory council so they gain an in-depth understanding of the school counseling program and can provide feedback. Board members will see firsthand the direct impact you have at your school and can become your most prominent advocates.
Parents and the community: To educate the community and parents about the vital role school counselors play, host school counselor showcases and present at back-to-school nights. At these events, review how you spend your time and share annual student outcome goals and results. Invite parents to share experiences of the positive impact their child’s school counselor had on their child’s life.
Have school counselors facilitate workshops on a wide array of topics, including the districtwide school counseling curriculum and ways parents can help their children be successful. Host informational tables where parents can consult with school counselors and preview materials school counselors use with students.
Educating influential parents is also essential. Present at a districtwide PTA presidents’ meeting, and invite one of these parents to be part of your school counseling advisory council. If your district has a parent legislative advocacy group, educate them about the crucial role school counselors play.
As a school counselor, you can’t accomplish your program’s mission and vision alone. Sharpening your emotional intelligence and broadening your sphere of influence can go a long way toward meeting your program goals.
See right menu to access part 1 of this article.
Contact Rebecca Pianta, coordinator of counseling and student support at Capistrano Unified School District in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Caroline Lopez-Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach, at email@example.com.