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The Comfort in the Uncomfortable

By Noelle Rizzio | May 2022

The last couple of years have been uncomfortable for all of us, for some more than others. But what we choose to do with that discomfort is our choice alone. I have chosen to embrace that discomfort and run with it! As school counselors, we can’t expect our students to tackle uncomfortable situations if we aren’t willing to do so ourselves, right?

When schools first shut down back in March 2020, our counseling department was at a loss as to what we were supposed to do. How are we supposed to see students remotely? Won’t that impact confidentiality? What will that look like? How can we best support our students? I spent a lot of that time (as I’m sure everyone else did) trying to figure out the landscape of virtual school counseling. My main focus was to get resources out to my kids. If I couldn’t physically be there for them, I wanted to arm them with as many tools as possible. The best way I could figure out how to do that was to create a Counseling Google Classroom. I was already super familiar with Google and our district was using that as our remote platform, so it made perfect sense. I loaded all my students into my classroom and just started filling up the classroom with all sorts of different resources. The students didn’t have to utilize it but they knew it was available to them if they needed it. The coolest part: now that we are back in person, I still have my Google Classroom and we have found so many more uses for it! It’s a great way to get all sorts of info out to students.

During all of the societal issues that have been going on since COVID-19 started (well, most of them have been going on long before but were brought to the forefront in recent years), I really felt like there was so much more I could be doing. An email came across my desk about nominations for the Illinois School Counselor Association Executive Board. I had no idea what that was all about but I thought, “Here is an opportunity for me to try to make a difference for students and school counselors in Illinois!” Again, I was diving so far outside of my comfort zone but I was willing to give it a shot. Being a part of school counseling leadership has opened my eyes to so many things and given me a voice that I didn’t even know other people wanted to hear. It’s definitely still very much a learning experience and I’m figuring out how to fit it in with all of the other things on my plate, but the experience alone – being part of something bigger – is worth it

There have been several times in the last few school years when I was ready to give up – find a new job, a different career, drop all of the extra things I have committed my time to. But being a part of something bigger, a larger organization but one that understands what we’re all going through, kept me going. Feeling so defeated and ready to quit, I would jump onto the Google Meets and then hear someone start describing a situation at their school or within their district. It helped me to see that we are all going through stuff and we can all be there to support each other!

Having been a school counselor for 16 years, it is easy to get into a rut; to do the same old things because that is what you’ve been doing and no one is telling you not to do things that way. But what if we could do things differently and open more doors for our students? This past year, I have been trying not only to get out of my comfort zone, but out of my rut as well. I have been trying to immerse myself in new experiences and knowledge. If you have the opportunity to participate in the ISCA Race and Equity Credential or the ASCA U Culturally Sustaining School Counseling Specialist Training, I definitely recommend both. I have been a member of our school’s Equity Team for four years and both of these trainings taught me so much about how much more school counselors can be doing for our students in equity and social justice.

Overall, my advice to anyone who feels stuck: Reach out and see what else is out there for you! You will be surprised how much good you can do if you stretch yourself even just a little. Go for it!

Contact Noelle Rizzio, ISCA Board member, at