I’ve talked a lot about the lessons I learned from various staff members at my schools, including my teacher of the visually impaired and my case manager- read the post about my TVI here and my case manager here. However, my guidance counselors were also working hard, usually behind the scenes, to help ensure things went as smoothly as possible. Today, I will be sharing ten reasons that my guidance counselors are the reason I am doing so well in college, in honor of National School Counseling Week 2018.
They were always accessible
My guidance counselors had an open door policy so that I could easily reach them whenever I needed them. And if for some reason I couldn’t see them the same day, I could send them an email and get the information I needed. My guidance counselors were also easily accessible for my parents, which was helpful when we were dealing with more complex issues. This helped keep smaller problems from piling up quickly and creating massive issues.
My feelings and conditions were always valid
I had some teachers that thought I was faking my vision impairment because I didn’t fit their idea of what a vision impaired student should look like- one of these experiences inspired the post about how reading my phone isn’t the same as reading paper, which can be found here. I also had teachers tell me how they wished I wasn’t in their class and say other hurtful things. My guidance counselors never doubted me when I reported these things to them, and always told me that they knew I was visually impaired, and that my negative feelings towards the situation were valid, something that especially helped me in middle school. Of course, I couldn’t spend too much time feeling bad for myself, which brings me to the next point.
I learned to self-advocate
When I first heard about learning to self-advocate, I thought that meant that I was being told to get over things and deal with them myself, with absolutely no support. That was not the case at all. Instead, my guidance counselors helped me think of solutions to common classroom problems and helped me execute them. For example, one of my guidance counselors helped me set up a system where I could enlarge my own assignments with assistance from another staff member, which was helpful when I had a teacher who consistently did not enlarge my assignments. Read more about learning to self-advocate here.
They defended me
While I wasn’t in the room for this, my mom told me about how when a teacher had been talking negatively about me in a meeting, my guidance counselor immediately defended me, making sure the teacher knew that my disability and chronic illness were real, and that I was trying my hardest with the resources provided to me, something that I really appreciated while I was learning to manage my conditions. Read more about having an undiagnosed chronic illness in high school here.
I stayed on track for graduation
At my first high school, I had several staff members encourage me to graduate early at age 16- they wanted me to get a GED and get out. My parents began to consider moving to a new school district, but before we did anything else, we met with a guidance counselor at my new high school, who informed me that I would not be graduating early, and that I would be welcomed at this new high school. Read more about this in my post about not graduating early here.
They helped me get into virtual classes
Transferring into classes midway through the year can be a chaotic experience, but when I was in a toxic classroom environment, my guidance counselor worked hard to get me out of it. And when I had to take a virtual gym class, my guidance counselor helped to ensure that I would get credit for the class too. I write more about these experiences in my posts on transferring to virtual classes here, taking gym here, and taking virtual classes in high school here.
I was encouraged to try new things
When I transferred to a new school, my guidance counselor asked me to talk about my friends from my old school. After I did so, they suggested that I join the anime club so that I could meet people like my old group of friends. I had never watched anime in my life, but went to the meeting anyway and ended up meeting a lot of really great people, some of which I am still friends with today. I also was encouraged to join the school news program and learn more about videography- read more about how people with low vision participate in school news programs here.
They let me be in band
A lot of guidance counselors will tell students to drop band in favor of AP classes or similar pursuits. No matter what my schedule was, my guidance counselors always made sure that I could take honors band with my friends. They knew how much band meant to me and never once suggested I not take band. One of my guidance counselors even encouraged me to try marching band one year- read more about marching band and low vision here.
I applied- and got into- my top choice college
While I always knew that I was going to college, my guidance counselor helped me with getting my application together and getting information about my college too. Thanks to them, I got into my top choice college where I attend today. Read more about disclosing disability in college applications here.
They continue to support me
Even after I have graduated, my mom and I stay in touch with my favorite guidance counselor and tell them all about the adventures I’ve been having in college. Some examples include meeting Joe Biden (more on attending political events here), being featured by Microsoft (read more about my Microsoft feature here), and really great blog posts I’ve written. If it wasn’t for my guidance counselor, none of this would have been possible.
I am profoundly grateful for my guidance counselors and all of the work they did to help me be the student I am today. While there were times when things seemed incredibly chaotic, they always reminded me that things would be better and that I would achieve incredible things. So, thank you to my guidance counselors, and all other guidance counselors as well, for helping students not only reach their potential, but achieve things no one else thought were possible.