Being an educational guidance counselor is a rewarding job, but it does come with a wide range of challenges. While there are some common elements to being a public school counselor, regardless of grade level, there are definitely some distinct responsibilities depending upon the age of the students in one's care. Here are a few examples of the differences in a school counselor's job responsibilities, based upon whether one's students are in elementary school, middle school, junior high, or high school.
Counseling Elementary-Level Students
Students in elementary school are just getting used to the idea of an academic curriculum. Some difficulties with standard learning models become evident at this point, and it's helpful to be able to assist a student with developing coping strategies to handle them. More frequently, students will have difficulty with being away from family for several hours per day, five days per week, and will experience a range of social issues for the first time.
Counseling Middle School Students
One of the most overlooked periods of transition in a child's life is that which occurs during middle school. Tweens experience several issues, from self-esteem and body image issues to a wide range of social drama, for the first time. Academic pressure is also amped up during middle school, with many school districts taking the opportunity to divide students between subject-specific classes and teachers for the first time. Many lack the skills that are needed to handle these issues appropriately, and a great deal of understanding and guidance may be necessary in order to help them learn to cope.
Counseling Junior High Students
There is a measurable impact made upon the lives of students who are in the process of transitioning to a more forward-thinking academic mindset. In many parts of the United States, junior high students are taught separately from middle school and high school students; the aforementioned change in mindset is fostered through the introduction of more intensive exams, elective subjects, and information about colleges and professional careers. Social drama and other issues are much the same as they are in middle school, though behavioral problems — due to the stress of escalating academic expectations — are slightly more common. Junior high students can often be coached through a wide range of issues through assistance with their academic challenges.
Counseling High School Students
High school students face a profound escalation in both social and academic issues. Life comes at them from all directions, which is part of why only the most qualified counselors wind up working in American high schools. Social issues include common features of young adults slowly adjusting to the concept of increased personal independence; things that are commonly viewed as being "special" or "exclusive" to adulthood are indulged in. Academically, there is a great deal of work to do, and a lot of pressure to succeed; many students feel as though their entire future rides on their success with each new test or exam. High school guidance counselors commonly offer a range of social coping techniques, as well as forward-minded academic support.
Depending upon the age and academic level of the students you're watching over, the job of a guidance counselor covers an expansive range of responsibilities. You will be providing assistance with certain common social issues, suggesting avenues for improving academic performance, and helping students to prepare themselves for the challenges of post-secondary education. Knowing which areas to focus on, while being prepared for some unusual challenges along the way, is the best way to ensure that all responsibilities inherent to the guidance counselor position are met, to the best of your considerable abilities.
Related Resource: The 20 Best Online Masters in School Counseling Programs