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School counselors are busy people. Their time and attention are split between helping students meet academic goals, addressing social and emotional issues, and exploring college and career options.

Counselors, usually positive, upbeat, and empathic, are among the first people to ask, “How are you doing today?”

Well, flash-forward to 2020 and COVID19 with all the adjustments happening at schools, I wanted to flip the script and pose a very real question: “How are school counselors holding up in 2020?”Counselor wearing a mask in school.

I reached out to a variety of Nebraska school counselors for perspective on how they’ve adapted to school during COVID19. I found their responses to be fascinating!

Whether from larger metropolitan schools, or smaller rural schools, here are some insightful thoughts that counselors shared with me:

What has been hardest for you as a counselor in adapting to the circumstances of COVID19?

  • Lack of control! Last spring, students did not want to communicate with me.
  • Accessing students at home, whether because of a social/emotional concern or an academic one.
  • Many students are doing school fully online and really struggling at it, and are also really difficult to get in touch with– even their parent/guardian — making it hard to help.
  • The most challenging part for me has been having to hunt students down to complete tasks after they have been out of school due to quarantine.
  • I never have the whole class in attendance at one time.
  • I really missed the face-to-face opportunities with my students!

What has been helpful to you in serving your students?

  • Starting our counselor Instagram page and using QR codes.
  • Virtual college / military “visits” have been a surprising hit!
  • Patience, letting them know I’m here and that I’ll advocate for them in situations where no one else is standing up for them.
  • Using NON-SCHOOL hours (evenings) to get parents involved.
  • Having our virtual FAFSA Night with EducationQuest.

What messages do you have for parents?

  • This is hard and it is ok to be struggling right now.
  • Support students academically by giving them a public-ish place to do schoolwork (vs. in their bedrooms or even their beds!) in an effort to make school a separate place in their homes.
  • Encourage students to shower and change clothing as they did pre-pandemic.
  • Reach out to counselors and/or teachers if you are concerned about your student– we are here to listen, help, and problem solve!
  • Make sure your children do their work. Make them “attend” school every day!
  • Completing tasks via the internet can be overwhelming and time consuming, so prioritize the things that are most important and let the rest go.
  • Keep a sense of humor and remember that we’re all in the same boat.  If you’re unsure what you could be doing to help your child, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
  • Keep the lines of communication open!  Don’t be afraid to talk about mental health.

Any words of wisdom for a high school student as we enter December break?

  • I have been so impressed by the resilience and adaptability of our students in facing change, uncertainty, and disappointment over the past months.  I heard someone refer to them as “Generation Unstoppable” and it seemed very appropriate.  Just keep moving forward!
  • We need to experience dark to understand and appreciate light! This pandemic has created some interesting opportunities amongst all the difficulties; find the lessons to be learned and adjustments to be made from your struggles and failed experiments.
  • School counselors are here to help you in times of need and to guide you through these times of uncertainty. We all work for the things we want.
  • We’re all in this together!

Please join me in offering a big “Thank you!” to school counselors for all the work that they do!

And a special “thank you” to those who shared their perspective with me, from Nebraska communities such as De Witt, Dorchester, Harvard, Lexington, Lincoln, and others!