I remember being a young, misguided teenager, roaming the hallways of a school where I felt like a prisoner.
Even as a student in elementary school, I can recall how I wasn’t the most popular, nor the prettiest, girl in school. I remember once being in a girls’ bathroom when I was in the second or third grade being told, “What are you doing in here? You should be in the boys bathroom.” Protesting that I was in fact a girl, it was argued that I did not look like one. I took that comment with me, and held onto it for years.
Middle school, probably the worst years of my adolescent life, was made worse by guidance counselors who might have possibly gotten their degrees out of cereal boxes. They had no idea what they were doing, nor did they seem to empathize with my struggles of puberty. Some of my issues were mine alone, to be held secret until I was old enough to handle the outcome of such admissions. The struggles that stemmed from problems at home that cropped into bad behaviors and choices in my personal life became cause for intervention. But it wasn’t the counselors who intervened; it was my peers.
I was bullied.
When I got into high school, the guidance counselors were still no better. I recall looking at colleges I wanted to apply for because I was looking forward to a promising future, dead set on being an English major, but not yet knowing what I wanted to focus as a career choice. I was so excited about going away to a great college/university and when I showed my choices to the college advisor during our class brainstorming, he flat out told me, “You’ll never get into that college. Lower your standards.” I felt my face get hot (I still feel it get hot now) and I just crumpled up my college list and threw into a wastebasket near the door and walked out, tears welling up. I was crushed. Why would any guidance counselor do that to someone? Regardless if my college picks were unrealistic there was no reason for anyone to destroy my dreams. I remember being told I was wrong for saying sarcastic comments after that. I was angry and hurt, and he ruined the rest of my year. Two other guidance counselors told me I was wrong and owed him an apology because he was hurt by my comments of his attitude. I adamantly refused to apologize, but I believed I had to for reasons I cannot remember. Maybe I should have had thicker skin and kept on with my applications, but I had low self-esteem already and that had put me in an even lower emotional state. So, I didn’t apply for any colleges. My grades were mediocre at best and wouldn’t get me into an ivy league, but my test scores were high enough that I was obviously smart enough to be considered for an English award at the end of the year. That should have been enough to get me in somewhere, but I still gave up.
I had terrible luck with counselors, or I was just one of those kids that didn’t take “constructive criticism” well. But how do you take “you can’t get into college” or “well why do they bully you if you’re not wrong” without feeling like some kind of failure.
Being a guidance counselor must not be the most glamorous career choice, I’m sure, but if you choose to do it, do it right!
A friend of mine states that “School counselors are so limited in what they are allowed to do in the little time they are available.”
I believe this is true but even in the time that these counselors have with these students, should a student feel worse when they walk out of the room? Or they should at least feel that they got something off their chest, are not being judged, and are at least not responsible (entirely) for the actions taken against them by their peers? If you want to help kids, be helpful. Try to empathize with them because these are the hardest years of their life. These are the years that help define them as people. With the rise in depression in young adolescents, it is becoming more obvious that something needs to be done. So many school shootings are happening in colleges all over the country. More suicides are being reported among young kids due to bullying, or at least being publicized, and it is beginning to shock so many people because of how widespread it has become. Maybe when I was growing up it wasn’t as serious, and I was forced to deal with my issues alone. People didn’t understand what it was, or they did but no one was open about it. I kept quiet and maybe it made it worse, but for many years I was left to guide myself because no one could really help me.
The ones who were there to help me were the ones who hurt me most. They were just as bad as the kids who bullied me, but a bit more discreet in their deprecation of me than the teenagers that made school much more unfavorable. They didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt, nor did they give me the support to feel that I wasn’t the problem. Maybe I wasn’t open to their idea of support, their criticisms. Who even knows anymore? I do know one thing though, guidance counselors need to do better jobs to guide. Students count on them to feel a little bit more at ease or at least understood so they can go through the rest of their educational career feeling, misunderstood by the societal pressures of the cliques yet, validated in some way.
I was not allowed that comfort, and went through school confused about what “clique” I belonged in and if being me was good enough. Turns out, in hindsight, I was good enough, just not good for everyone. That is okay.
I just wish the guidance counselors would have been better at telling me that when I needed it, instead of making me feel like an outsider anyway.
I didn’t turn out so bad, even with the absence of positive guidance from school professionals. It was with years of therapy and self-reflection that I finally decided that it was just growing pains we have to go through because all teens go through a period of that… Now that I’m past my awkward stage of life, I am a bit more secure with who I am and I turned out to be pretty great. No thanks to those guidance counselors in school, but because at some point you have to put your big girl panties and stand tall. I just hope you can’t see the panty lines in my good slacks while I do it.