Career Story: Prep School Guidance Counselor

Prep School Guidance Counselor

Job Title: High School Guidance Counselor

Type of Company: Currently I work at the only all-male secondary school in the state of Rhode Island. It's a prep school run by the Irish Christian Brothers.

Education: BA, History, Stonehill College •• M.Ed., Secondary Administration, Providence College •• additional courses, University of Virginia, Providence College, University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College •• 29 credits beyond my Master's degree, University of London •• numerous CEU's

Previous Experience: I worked for 29 years in secondary education at West Warwick High School. I taught English, coached track and cross country, ran the SAT program, was the drama coach and student council advisor at various times as well.

Job Tasks: High school guidance at a private, parochial school is very different from its counterpart at a public high school. Because of our mission, we are automatically more streamlined. By this I mean that we deal primarily with questions pertaining to college searches and college preparation. The nature of an all-male institution minimizes the social aspect that is prevalent in public co-educational schools. This is not to say that the problems we deal with are completely unique. We have problems with students who don't make teams, competition over class rank, and time missed on service projects.

It is most important to acquire a student's trust. This means many things on many levels. A counselor should never feign interest. Genuinely listen to the student, but realize too that regardless of his size, he's still a child. Asperger's students are a classic example of this. Asperger's is a form of autism and poses a whole host of problems in school. I truly appreciate the parent who works with his child every day, and I especially appreciate the ones who realize that sometimes the problem is Asperger's and sometimes it is a normal fifteen year old using the syndrome as an excuse. This takes a lot of work, study and cooperation to get right. You have to really listen to the student, communicate with the parent, and communicate with the teacher. The most important thing is to ascertain what is in the best interest of the student.

I mediate with teachers and administrators on behalf of students. Much of what I do deals with responding to and with parents. One of the key things to realize is that there are two sides to every story and it would not be in anyone's interest if I did not find out the entire story.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I work with young people. I have done this in various ways for forty years. It keeps you young. You laugh with them. You demonstrate how to become inquisitive by demonstrating that behavior yourself. The job is never the same, no day is like yesterday. Part of the routine is that nothing is routine. You share young goals and you see towering success stories every day. You teach idealistic people that idealism is a reasonable goal. It's great!

Job Tips:
1. You don't want a job, you want a career. A career is a way of life, a job is drudgery. Recent reports say that most Americans hate their jobs. Talk about stress! Confucius says "the person who loves what he does will never work a day in his life."

2. I have always said that high school is a time to learn who you are and college is the time to learn how to be good at it. Be a perpetual student because I promise that change will happen. Learn as much as you can about what you do so that you can do it better than anyone. Be the Ted Williams of what you do (without becoming a savant).

3. Hang around with people who don't do what you do for a living. In other words, don't become myopic. If you only associate with like people you will have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills and will totally lose your perspective. You never want to do this.

4. Don't close doors, open them. Be flexible. Stay intellectually curious.

Additional Thoughts: If you teach, you must love children. Know your subject like the back of your hand, then learn more. We are teaching children to be students, so read, read, read. You don't have to take a course to learn, but you can stay a student forever.

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