Last night a had a truly cool experience visiting a practicum class at the program that I just finished in last December. My former internship supervisor is the practicum professor (and still a full time school counselor--she's that awesome!) and she asked me to come talk with the group about being a first year counselor.
I remember not long ago struggling in my own practicum experience. I was uncomfortable in my school placement and feeling (sadly) invalidated for my feelings. Every day I went into my practicum, I felt that this school counseling stuff was less and less for me, and I became less and less confident in myself. I didn't know what I was doing and felt like I was in a place where I could not learn the skills that I didn't even know if I had. I was in a high school (which was where I pretty much knew I didn't want to end up, but still wanted the experience) working in a "guidance" program. 'Nough said. When I did have the opportunity to work in a counseling environment with a student, I was terrified that I was going to mess someone up. I didn't like that I had to actually learn by doing--it made me feel uncomfortable and unprepared. I wanted to watch and listen and observe, but that is just not the way to truly learn in this profession. Somehow, I developed a relationship with a senior student who was bustin' it trying to graduate and plan her life. We were able to meet frequently and I (hope that I) was able to help her make some realizations, gain self-awareness, and plan for life after school.
Was I a great counselor? Nope. Did I make mistakes, have times where I didn't know what to say to students, and feel totally out of my element? You bet. But in reflecting on that time in my journey to get to where I am now, I realize that despite my feelings of inadequacy and my frustrations of my experience, I did learn something. I learned that although I am far from perfect and confident, I am passionate about helping children. I am a go-getter and completely uncomfortable sitting around and waiting or talking about doing something... I want to do it. Right now. As much as I can. I want to help, connect with, support and love children who need it. I won't let the "there's not enough time in the day" excuse keep me from seeing as many children as I can, visiting classrooms and running groups. The records and testing and paperwork can get done when the kids leave. We have such little time with these precious and amazing children, and I want to listen to each of their stories.
It was empowering for me to reflect on how far I've come in just 2 years. I am settling into a wonderful school community. I am creating, coordinating and running my very own program-- with lots of help and support from my mentors and counselors that I've been so fortunate to connect with. I am much more confident in my skills (although still working on containing the self-doubt from time to time). Lastly, I am truly excited to be a change agent in this amazing field of school counseling. In my district, so many counselors are part-time and split between schools. That is CRAZY! I see it as my obligation to my students, and students everywhere, to show people how important this role is so that others realize the true impact that we all know school counselors can have.