Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 12, 2013

MARK HEINIG: How can we help our high school counselors?

Collaborate with parents, health officials

(Continued)

Fewer teachers mean bigger classes. Kids learn less in bigger classes. They can’t use what they didn’t learn to raise standardized test scores. If test scores go down, enrollments and funding also decline. Guess what that means for next year’s test scores! That’s why I left the principal’s office and returned to the classroom. That’s also why counselors stop counseling and resume teaching.

The greatest weakness of high school counseling in Indiana isn’t educational counseling. It’s personal counseling. We expect our school counselors to do it, but we don’t teach them how to do it well. Some Hoosier universities offer a master’s degree in school counseling, but people with that degree don’t go into private practice as therapists. You need a different kind of master’s degree for that.

However, there is a need in high schools for qualified people to help students deal with many emotional and psychological problems. School counselors, often called guidance counselors, lack the training and experience needed to help troubled teenagers. Unfortunately, guidance counselors often have no alternative. If personal problems affect a teen’s school work, mental health or well-being, and referral to a therapist isn’t possible, the guidance counselor tries to help.

The troubles of many adolescents are way beyond the ability of the principal or the guidance counselor to help. In my second principal’s job, I found myself in a small, rural school corporation that had recently experienced three adolescent suicides. Fortunately, the school board had the wisdom to seek well-qualified outside help and worry about paying for it later! Tragically, there is no foolproof way to prevent teens from attempting suicide. However, that school corporation did succeed in creating a program to help severely troubled kids. There have been no subsequent adolescent suicide attempts.

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