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Lessons Learned about Supervising School Counseling Field Experiences during a Pandemic

September 02, 2022 - 3 minute read

When students decide to pursue a graduate degree, it is life changing. Time and money are poured into their education and that comes with a lot of sacrifice. This was no different for a cohort of students in their fieldwork in early 2020. Each student had made progress toward their 600-hour requirement to obtain their Master’s degree and PPS Credential. As their supervisor, we met weekly to discuss their experiences, support one another, and troubleshoot any problems that they may be facing. This group of 12 students was dedicated to their practice and to their students. Then March 2020 hit and everything changed!

We all know what an uncertain time that was in all of our lives. However, these students were reliant on their school sites and mentors to finish their degree and to obtain their credential. How were they to do this when schools were shut down? Our weekly meetings shifted to troubleshooting and thinking outside the box. Each student was determined to find a way to complete their hours and stay on track for graduation. Communication was difficult at school sites, as these school counselors and administrators were in survival mode creating processes and learning a new way of doing their job one day at a time. They often did not have time or energy to address the needs of a fieldwork student. This often brought frustration and hopelessness to many students.

As a practicing high school counselor myself, at the time, I saw firsthand what the demands as a school leader looked like, while also providing care for my own family. I could see both sides and was able to guide my students to be most effective in the midst of such chaos and uncertainty. We worked together to identify the needs at each of their school sites and brainstormed possible solutions. Asking their supervisor how they could help, would no longer be helpful in this situation. These fieldwork students had to focus on data and proactive solutions to take the burden off of their school counselor mentors’ plates rather than adding to it. We worked together on reframing communication, brainstormed programs that could be done virtually and shared trials and successes!

Key takeaways from navigating fieldwork experiences in the midst of a Pandemic:

  • Identify the problem and offer a solution- If students can learn to identify the need of a school and offer a solution, they become a valuable member of the team!
  • Sometimes you have to get creative, and that is ok- Thinking outside the box became our mantra and pandemic living was ALL about thinking outside the box.
  • A group of minds are better than one to solve complex problems- We all know that individuals do not have all the answers and we can be more creative when we work together to solve problems.
  • The need for school counselors is now greater than ever to meet the needs of students post-pandemic- Students were in a mental health crisis pre-pandemic, and now after the pandemic, the needs are even greater making school counselors an even more valuable asset in today’s schools.
  • A lot of virtual resources and online learning is here to say to meet the needs of a greater population of students- Virtual learning was a benefit to many students and is here to stay! During this time we were able to build processes and resources to meet the needs of students virtually.

Those students conducting their field experiences in the peak of the pandemic are now practicing in the field, picking up many of the pieces left behind by COVID-19. They are strong, they are capable and they are prepared to meet the needs of these students. It was an honor to mentor those resilient students in 2020 while simultaneously managing the needs of my own high school students.

Dr. Heather Churney is the Director of the School Counseling Program at Concordia University, Irvine. She spent 12 years in public, private and charter schools serving as a high school counselor and is credentialed in Arizona and California. For the past 7 years she has served as a mentor for Graduate School Counseling students in a variety of capacities.

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