There was a time when the title of guidance counselor actually meant something to the educational community. The idea of a person put in charge to make sure the education students were receiving was relevant to their career path is a good one in theory, but has become less affective in reality.

Maybe it is because of rules set forth by school districts, the student-to-counselor ratio or the fact that we as people get lazier in regard to our professions the more time we spend at it, but in my experience, the days of guidance counselors being a relevant position in our schools is long past their prime.

Case in point: My daughter, who is a junior here in New York City’s public school system. She did not always live with me; after long custody battle, she left her residence in New Jersey, where she attended the Jefferson Township public school system and was a slightly above-average student. She needed to be pushed due to lack of educational stimulation, and her counselor at the time did nothing to challenge her, despite our efforts to have her moved into more advanced classes.

At the time, my daughter complained constantly that her classes, which she passed with minimal effort, were too easy. As a parent, it’s hard to inspire your child to do the best they can when their abilities are so far beyond what they are being offered.

Even though we couldn’t get her bumped up despite our best efforts, the last straw was when I had received custody of her, and we couldn’t get her transcripts transferred into the New York City school system. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the proper paperwork showing the legal change or that I was unreachable to receive her transcripts, but rather the problem spurred from pure laziness.

In the beginning, I would call the school once a week, and each time, I was asked to provide the proper legal paperwork, and each time I did. This process repeated itself for more than a month, until finally I started calling the school every other day, just to be told her counselor was on vacation and unreachable. Luckily, the NYC school system accepted her report card, which we downloaded fonline, and alas she was enrolled. Good thing, too, because three years have passed and the inept Jefferson Township school still has het to submit her transcripts to us!

Upon arriving to her new school, we explained her previous situation, and she was put into a more challenging academic program. She went from being an average student to taking college-level classes by the middle of her sophomore year. Now well into her junior year, she is in honors classes holding a steady straight-A average, is a member of the National Honor Society and is within striking distance of becoming her class valedictorian with still one year of school to go!

Aside from being an academic standout, she has also been a member of the varsity volleyball team since 9th grade, is a co-founder of the school’s UNICEF club and a member of the photo club, which shortly after joining helped her decided to peruse photography as a career. We have already visited colleges, and seeing how she is taking specialized classes in design, something her high school is known for, you would think that her current counselor would inspire and support her future career advancements, but that has not been the case.

Aside from taking part in so many school-related activities, my kid decided to take on an internship. The opportunity she received was tremendous, working with a fashion company that could not only give her hands-on access to backstage runway shows, but to the photographers who shoot them as well. However, as good as this opportunity is, her guidance counselor refused to give her an excused one-day absence to take part in a very high-profile event.

Which leads to the question: If a child is academically supporting themselves at the National Honor Society level, participating in school activities at a much higher rate than the average student body and finding ways to ensure their future career path on their own, what purpose does a guidance counselor actually serve?

I understand that every case is different when it comes to each aspect of a student’s career, but isn’t it the job of one’s assigned counselor to get to know the students they represent, as opposed to adhering to a format answer of “No” just because it is the easiest solution?

Educational reform is constantly changing the academic landscape, and the more we learn about how students excel, the more changes we should be trying to meet those needs. In the end, the job of a high school as a whole should be to help set their students up to further their education — or prepare them for a career path worthy of their intuitional means.

Obstructing them from the experiences that could make that happen is both irresponsible and unprofessional. So when budget cuts come, don’t turn to the teachers who promote art and culture, two things this world most desperately needs, instead, turn to those who are the obstacles and ask yourself, “What purpose is it they really serve?”

Categories: Life

Tom Roarty is a professional art director with a degree in graphic…

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