In the Eyes of a School Counselor

Nikki K. and Ginny Z.

On a Monday morning, a student steps into Mrs. Gaines’s office and takes a seat. The student begins to talk about their week. Mrs. Gaines sits patiently and listens to the student.

Imagine you’re a school counselor and you see new students every half hour to hour and try your best to give them advice. Seems hard, right? Well, that’s the reality of being a school counselor, and our school counselor, Ms. Gaines, goes through this routine daily.

Ms. Gaines works hard every day to make sure that she makes a difference in her students’ lives, even if it’s a small one. She makes sure that she never brings drama and emotion from her work life into her home life, keeping it professional at all times.

Ms. Gaines came from a line of educators. Her mother was a special education assistant so she heard stories about “family dynamics” and the struggles that students go through in their home lives, or school lives.

“My mom was a coordinator for special education, so growing up I heard interesting stories about family dynamics and struggles that students would face…” This influenced Ms. Gaines to become a school counselor to help students through difficult times.

Ms. Gaines was always “the therapist friend” growing up. She said, “I’ve also always been the type of person in my own friend group, when I was younger, like you, where people would come to me and ask for advice.” With all her friends coming to her for advice, over and over again, it’s clear that she knows what she’s doing.

She always tries to have the best communication style she can provide. “And at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was giving the right advice, but, there was something about my communication style that, I guess, was intriguing and made others comfortable and safe to speak with me.”

She continues her communication style today, which provides students with a kind of safe haven for them to talk about their feelings, their thoughts, and what they’re going through, allowing her to help them get through things.

Ms. Gaines thinks it’s important to have someone to listen to students’ struggles and guide them through it, even if the student doesn’t need it. “…I feel like just knowing that someone is there for you if you need them is reassuring and brings comfort to students, especially those who don’t have support systems at home,” Gaines said.

Students often go to her just to discuss what’s happening in their personal life, even if they’re not going through any struggles. Ms. Gaines said, “So oftentimes students will have regular check-ins with me and it doesn’t mean that they’re coming to talk about something that’s troubling them.”

Ms. Gaines has always worked in a school setting, but not just in middle schools. She’s worked in post-secondary counseling (college counseling) and admission counseling and has been in the counseling field for over 10 years.

“My entire career is counselor-related,” Ms. Gaines says, “I’ve been doing counseling for almost 11 and a half years now. Grades from kindergarten through post-secondary…Everything I’ve done has had counseling at the [center] of what I’ve done.”