School counselors do more in the 21st century

“Guidance counselor” is now considered an outdated term. For the 21st century, students receive help from school counselors.

“Guidance counselor kind of implies that you’re working mostly with students on a career path or a college course path, and we really do a whole lot more than that,” Kim Bodholdt, Fort Dodge Middle School counselor, said. “It’s really broader than just providing guidance in academics to students.”

Counselors today are more proactive, Trista Thompson, Fort Dodge Senior High counselor, said.

“Guidance counselors had a reputation of just kind of being reactive if something arose, rather than trying to get the skills out there so students can use them to solve their own problems,” she said.

A school counselor’s curriculum has three elements: social and emotional development, career development and academic development.

These are uniquely applied at the middle school and high school levels.

At FDMS, one counselor focuses on eighth grade, another on fifth grade and half of seventh grade, and a third counselor on sixth grade and the other half of seventh grade. The focus for them is Positive Behavior and Intervention supports.

“We don’t do as much career planning with fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders,” Bodholdt said. “We do more interventions with students and help them do better in school, be more successful in school.”

Middle school-age students, Bodholdt said, face many challenges as they approach adolescence.

“There are a lot of difficulties that kids have maneuvering through the teenager years,” she said. “And so we work with students individually who might be referred by their teacher or their parents. We work with them to help them maneuver through those issues they have so they can focus on school and be more successful.”

At FDSH, students enter Freshman Academy to help with the transition from eighth grader to high school. After, from 10th to 12th grade, they are advised by their counselors.

“I see them at least three times a year to go over scheduling for each trimester,” Thompson said. “Many of them, a lot of times it is just their scheduling that they’re in my office for. They all have Dodger Time, and we write a Dodger Time curriculum that gets out those social and emotional, academic and then career skill-building.”

Thompson said she has seen students benefit from such active counseling.

“We can help remove or work around barriers students may be facing, whether it would be transportation, a learning disability, conflicts that would arise between peers or teachers,” she said. “We can sit down, and a lot of times it ends up just being miscommunication.”

According to Bodholdt, counselors’ efforts have also become more data-based.

“Everything we do is driven by the data,” she said, “whether it’s individual student data that we collect on how they’re doing behaviorally, and then make changes to those interventions we do for those students. Or in PBIS, we collect data school-wide and district-wide on how the expectations we’re teaching are working, and changes we need to make to increase the positive behaviors in our building.”