Begin Again: From the Heart and Mind of a School Counselor Intern and Site Supervisor
By Naamonde Williams-Lega and Stephanie Miller-Henderson | May 2023
“The best school counselors are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.” – Unknown
In every task we undertake in life, we will always find ourselves in the role of a beginner. After 15 years in education, in August 2022, I was subject to the inescapable fact that I was again a beginner in the field. I served as a professional educator, starting over in a new role under the tutelage of a site supervisor that held the key to the skills I hoped to unlock and embodied the characteristics of a school counselor I hoped to learn. Along this journey, I quickly learned that serving as a school counselor intern is a period of vulnerability, transparency and, most important, humility. I showed up daily with an open mind and heart, ready to undertake the task of helping elementary school students shape their lives and futures. However, with every journey, some moments are filled with apprehension, skepticism and doubt. I doubted my abilities and capabilities, my expertise and lack thereof were challenged and I wondered how I could learn everything I needed to succeed as a school counselor. When I succumbed to those feelings the most, I had to turn to my supervisor and realize that she, too, was beginning a new journey as a counseling intern supervisor. When we communicated about students, skills and perceived strengths and areas of improvement, I realized that I was learning and growing and that this was a learning experience for both of us. The intern/supervisor relationship is not scripted. It is developed daily, and there are days when it will feel like nothing is right, but as the relationship grows, so do the skills required to advocate for the role of a school counselor and excel in it. To successfully engage in the intern/supervisor relationship, it is important to keep in mind that the supervisor is an experienced guide, keep communication lines open, and be willing to make mistakes in order to grow.
It is important that we are good stewards over what has been placed in our path. This includes the professional relationships that we are privileged to cultivate. The collective responsibility of the site supervisor and school counselor intern is the catalyst that catapults the academic, social/emotional and career development success that is to occur within the school setting for generations to come. I am reminded of the Chinese proverb that reads, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I find this to be a foundational principle of the intern/supervisor relationship. It is in the strategic and intentional teaching of the ASCA National Model in which all intern/supervisor interactions are rooted. It is in the application of that teaching where the intern’s school counselor identity takes flight.
As a site supervisor, it is my duty to ensure that I leave no stone unturned as it relates to helping my intern navigate the road toward defining, managing, delivering and assessing a comprehensive school counseling program. As a first-year site supervisor, it is a journey that I humbly take on as both a driver and a passenger. It is just as enriching when the teacher, or in our case, the supervisor, comes to the realization that she can also serve as the student. I believe that this humility breeds integrity and a keen sense of ethical responsibility. Prior to my 11th year of service within the Chicago Public School district, I had the honor of leading teams of a variety of capacities within the field of social services. Just as in leading a team, leading an individual is most effective when the individual’s input is valued and support is rendered as the individual moves through the learning process. This is the difference between leading the intern versus managing the intern. This is the contingent nature of the professional relationship and whether it would have created a space where the intern can flourish as a professional school counselor during the upcoming school year and beyond.