In webinar #3 of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s K-12 series on US Teacher Shortage, Dr. Mary DeRaedt, program director of the School Counseling master’s program and Assistant Professor of Counseling and Human Development, explores how the next generation of school counselors can help to steady our schools amidst the declining numbers of school counselors alongside school staff shortages.
There is a critical mental health crisis in children that has existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Suicide rates increased by 76% between 2005 and 2017, severity of depression and anxiety in multiple forms (social anxiety, separation anxiety) are increasing exponentially as well. It is a challenge that impacts teachers, schools, and parents. One of the roles of school counselors is to focus on mental health and explore and understand some of the things that are happening in schools socio-emotionally, from a mental health perspective for children.
School counselors are uniquely placed to do research – in the School Counseling program at GSEHD, students are required to do action-research in their second year where they examine issues that are facing the schools they are in. It is an important skill that counselors are able to do, and we encourage them to do more of that to understand the issues and how to move out of it. Post-pandemic, children are facing quite a few more challenges. Some contributing factors include social media, rising poverty rates, academic pressure, instability, fear, grief, and isolation. Children are grieving two years of lives that they lost as a result of the COVID pandemic.We need to re-think about how we are providing services in school and how we are approaching education.
There is a shortage of school counselors in the US that has gotten progressively worse since the pandemic. According to federal government data and the National Center for Education Statistics, there are very few districts that meet the recommended ratios of student/school counselors. Some have retired, some have transitioned into private practice, and some have moved into new roles. The increasing need for school counselors can be seen across the country. Looking forward into the future, we need to reshape the role of school counselors by looking at school culture, emotional regulation, and teacher support in order to create a solid emotional and academic foundation for children.