A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, December 14, 2006

T-minus 10 days to Christmas-- I mean Winter-- Break. Not that anyone's counting.

Dear (Lazy A**) Guidance Counselor:

Today I approached you, 'at in 'and and very 'umble, guv'nah, and asked you if you knew a kid who was on your counseling caseload. I am concerned about this kid because he is acting spacy and out of it, he's missed nearly eight days of school in the last two weeks, and he is definitely not his usual self. He came to school the other day bleeding and didn't even know it.

You said you did not know this kid. Now, I suppressed a comment about how, since he's a senior, maybe you should at least KNOW him since he's been on your caseload for four years, but I didn't. I simply asked you to speak to the kid and see if you could find out anything, because the mama's in denial and the kid claims nothing's wrong. Even the other kids in the class have come to me and said that they think he's out of it.

Your response? For me to fill out three different forms that will take three weeks to clear and shunt him off onto someone else. Those forms clearly state that the kid is supposed to have been referred to the counselor before I refer him to the crisis team.

Now look, I am already mentoring/counseling/wiping the noses of four other kids on your caseload for whom you haven't had time, and dealing with the one unmarried pregnant girl who hides herself in my room at lunch and the other girl who is no longer pregnant (--by the way? Has anyone thought about this sudden spike in pregnancies??) and the one kid from last year who comes by every day and today was so excited to show me the 83% he got on his paper in government after scraping by with a 60% all last year and emailing the helicopter mom who strangely thinks it's a great idea to take her son out of school the last three days of the semester before finals to go with her to a baby shower in Omaha when he's missed my class 4 times in the last two weeks, and to whom I must point out to her that her son has skipped missed math class 15 times this semester and Harvard will probably look askance at that F on his transcript besides his plummeting grade in my class.

On top of teaching 140 kids and grading their papers and preparing my lessons and my finals-- none of which you have to do. I'm not complaining. About that, at least.

I come by your room, and there you are, NOT counseling someone, every time I walk by. Or you're not there at all, but are walking in the building with a bag of fast food, the aroma swirling around your head like visions of sugarplums.

I'm just saying, "Do. Your. Job."

Please.

Either that, or grab a red pen and a stack of essays on the influence of the railroads in the late nineteenth century, brush up on your editor's marks, and get cracking.

16 Comments:

At 12/14/06, 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooohhhh you can't know the itch that scratched for me. A deep one. Thank you.

 
At 12/14/06, 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at a school like that before I escaped. At the new place the counselors don't have time to work with kids because they are busy preparing the state mandated measurement tools that will tell us kids need guidance from counselors and teaching from teachers instead of endless classroom interruptions from tests.

 
At 12/14/06, 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Smithie said it better than I could. I see our elementary counselors doing a myriad of "other" duties...duties that don't include counseling kids.

Tomorrow's my last day...I'm just trudging along one tile square at a time.

 
At 12/14/06, 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to teach, but you've just laid out all the reasons I will not teach in a public school. Thanks for reminding me of why I'm looking for an independent school; perhaps I'm crazy, but I want what little sanity I have left.

 
At 12/14/06, 9:33 PM, Blogger M-Dawg said...

December 22nd is my last day (a full day - no early release) :-(

At my school, we have a few good and more bad guidance folks. I don't get it - if they don't want to help the kids then why did they become a guidance counselor???

 
At 12/14/06, 10:09 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

This one has said so that she didn't have to do all the lesson plans and all the grading.

 
At 12/15/06, 12:38 AM, Blogger La Maestra said...

Ooh, does your counselor keep 7:30-3PM hours as well? We have one, for 1100 students, and he's rarely at school past three on any given day. Forget trying to schedule after-school parent meetings--if the contract says he can be gone at 3, he's gone at 3.

On an hour-by-hour basis, I spend far more hours per week counseling than actually teaching/prepping/grading the 140 English students I do teach. In fact, I there are students that don't even have me for a class (and have never had me) who come to me for counseling advice, instead of going to the counselor, because (a) they'll know I'll listen, and (b) they don't trust the counselor.

That should say a BIG something, right there.

Of course, that ends up explaining my 60+ hour average workweek, but at least I know the kids are getting good advice and the listening ear most of them need, and I get to be there for wonderful moments like today, when a college admissions office (for a tier 1 private school) wanted to call one of my seniors and speak to him in person to let him know that he'd been accepted early-action (first in his family to graduate from high school, much less go on to college.)

Things like that make it all worth it.

Doesn't mean I'd turn down grading help from my counselor, though.

 
At 12/15/06, 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, you don't like counsellors? ;-) Yeah, I know where you're coming from. In our system, a regular teacher is assigned the job of counsellor and gets paid a little extra to do the job. Which makes it attractive to the kind of colleague who wants to make extra money, but couldn't be bothered to teach extra classes for it. Go figure - you get the same kind of motivated, gifted, equipped guys doing the job as it sounds your professional counsellors are like...

 
At 12/15/06, 7:07 AM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Gee, after all this bitching about counselors not doing their job, I feel compelled put in a good word for our school's counselors. Practically every time I pass by their offices, they are with students. They do a fantastic job of keeping on top of their caseloads. I applaud these two women--and I'm going to tell them so today!

 
At 12/15/06, 4:40 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Listen, we've got some good counselors, too. But there are three who are absolute horrors.

And that's three too many. It's like half and half.

 
At 12/15/06, 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been lucky. My counselors (those I teach with) care and are very concerned about our kids. The ones I HAD as a high schooler are just like the ones in your post--they didn't speak to me until I was pregnant my senior year and THEN told me I couldn't be both a mom and a college student)

 
At 12/16/06, 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the counselors in my school are just too young and inexperienced to handle some of the problems they face. I had a girl who everyone thought was suidcidal a few years ago and the counselor actually turned red when I went to speak to him. Years ago, counselors had to be classroom teachers for a few years. That way they would know what was going on outside their offices. We have one guy in our school who spends his day surfing the internet playing and looking for administative jobs. He gets mad if you interrupt him with a problem about a kid. The sad thing is that his AP is hoping he gets the administrative job just to get rid of him. The school could have gotten rid of him from the start. He was just as bad when he didn't have tenure, but his mom is a friend of the principal.

 
At 12/16/06, 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have six counselors -- we need nine or ten. Of the six we have, three are effective and one of those three is coming back to the classroom.

I know they are overoaded with student numbers and overseeing state mandated testing, but the level of incompetence reached by the three (one Slug, one Idiot, and one [W]itch) is not explained by that.

The kids who stream through with their huge burdens only have a 50-50 chance of seeing someone competent and caring. And that's heartbreaking.

 
At 12/16/06, 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have six counselors -- we need nine or ten. Of the six we have, three are effective and one of those three is coming back to the classroom.

I know they are overoaded with student numbers and overseeing state mandated testing, but the level of incompetence reached by the three (one Slug, one Idiot, and one [W]itch) is not explained by that.

The kids who stream through with their huge burdens only have a 50-50 chance of seeing someone competent and caring. And that's heartbreaking.

 
At 12/16/06, 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have six counselors -- we need nine or ten. Of the six we have, three are effective and one of those three is coming back to the classroom.

I know they are overoaded with student numbers and overseeing state mandated testing, but the level of incompetence reached by the three (one Slug, one Idiot, and one [W]itch) is not explained by that.

The kids who stream through with their huge burdens only have a 50-50 chance of seeing someone competent and caring. And that's heartbreaking.

 
At 12/16/06, 1:43 PM, Anonymous Lady S said...

I was molested, in my sleep, by a classmate in HS. Two of my guy friends went to the counselor's office and told her about it. I also wrote about it in my English journal which my English teacher reported to her (my counselor) as a mandated reporter.

Two or three weeks later I got a slip to go to her office. We talked about me going to college, how I was dealing with a friend in remission, and two other unimportant things. As I was leaving she said, and I quote "Oh, and about [Asshole] (I don't use his name). His counselor spoke to him and he didn't understand boundries." That was it.

You know who took care of it (as best he could)? My Theater teacher. He heard me talking to my best friend and got suspisious. He talked it over with my English teacher (they are good friends, and my English teacher was head of the dept.) and found out more (albeit still vague) details. When Asshole was mentioned at graduation time for a large scholarship given at graduation, my favorite teacher in the whole world (still a good friend) said, "No, that young man does not represent what we want in our students."

Meanwhile, I never went to see my guidance counselor.

 

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