April 2018

President’s Letter: Serving All Families

By Geoff Heckman
Recently my oldest daughter read “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry. In the novel, the main character, Jonas, lives in a Utopian society and is part of a family unit that was purposefully put together because their character traits and abilities balance well with each other. Like all family units in their society, choices are informed and made to prepare them for long term goals. All meals and needs are provided for. They have no wants. How many of you work with families like that? I can’t think of a single one…ever. Because we don’t live in made-up societies in which every need is provided for and conflicts never happen. We may work with families every day that work hard, love each other and support one another through life’s daily demands, but we also work with families that struggle to meet their daily needs, who fight about choices and have genuine concerns about the future. In the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance, family dynamics are described in stark contrast to those in “The Giver” and reveal a situation that is far too frequently the reality. This memoir describes a broken home with drug abuse, a revolving parental landscape and housing situation, and a struggle to create a successful future.
As school counselors, we are trained to work with all families. Students are our daily focus, but we cannot forget the homes that they go back to each day. Helping families to create a supportive, nurturing environment allows our students to be successful in the school setting and in their future plans. Many parents are looking for creative solutions, opportunities to learn and chances to be heard. When we work with them to ensure that student needs are met through social/emotional learning, academic planning and career readiness, parents not only feel supported, they become our advocates. They serve on our advisory board, speak to our administrators and are a voice to our communities. They, too, are able to communicate the benefits of a fully implemented, comprehensive school counseling program because they have seen those benefits first hand.
While the families in your district may not fit any mold and vary on the spectrum from “The Giver” to “Hillbilly Elegy,” one thing is true: we must all work together to ensure that the future is bright for our students. As my year of serving as your president wraps up, there’s one family in particular that I’d like to focus on: my own. Although I feel that this year has blessed me tremendously and I’ve been so fortunate to serve as president of this great association, I have to give thanks to my greatest advocates. We are not a Utopian family and have disagreements from time to time, but I cannot do the work I do without their support and sacrifices. As this school year comes to a close, I hope the support you provide to the families you work with mirrors the support you get from your own.
Contact Geoff Heckman, MSCA president, at heckmang@platteco.k12.mo.us