Uploaded: Mon, May 14, 2012, 8:55 am
Stanford lecturer headlines counseling panel
Proposed changes to Gunn counseling program is topic of Wednesday event
Denise Clark Pope, a Stanford University senior lecturer, will be the featured panelist in a discussion of Gunn High School's guidance counseling program Wednesday, May 16.
Pope is a cofounder of the Stanford-based Challenge Success organization, which aims to "improve student health and engagement with learning." The group's anti-stress conferences in recent years have filled Stanford's 1,750-seat Memorial Auditorium with interested parents and school teams from throughout the country.
Wednesday's event will include a panel discussion focused on Gunn's counseling program, which currently is under review by an internal school working group, with recommendations for change anticipated in March 2013.
The sponsor of the panel discussion is the parent-led group We Can Do Better Palo Alto. For more than a year, We Can Do Better has urged the Board of Education to have Gunn shift from a traditional counseling system and adopt the "teacher-adviser" counseling model used at Palo Alto High School.
The event will begin at 7 p.m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave. in Palo Alto.
Palo Alto Weekly staff
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2012 at 8:16 am
Dear "Paly parent":
Not only did we NOT "cherry pick" these examples, these are among the mildest examples from over 700 other comments by students asking for improvements.
As Chris Kenrick's story on the open-ended responses states (Web Link), many of these comments are fairly characterized as "pleading." 1621 Gunn students took the survey and 755 (45%) were negative. Only 3% were positive.
I am a sociologist on the Stanford faculty. I took the time to hand-code all of the responses from both schools and have posted all my coding choices to the web. Not only are the Gunn comments more negative they are also more detailed and longer. The students apparently felt so frustrated by their experiences in a system that is overburdened and unresponsive that they thought writing into the comment box of a survey was their best option for obtained needed assistance. The Gunn responses are quite qualitatively different from Paly responses as well. Paly students who gave negative feedback often wrote short comments such as "more one on one." Gunn students often wrote paragraphs.
To the extent that we "cherry picked" examples it was away from the many disturbing stories of students suffering from serious problems but who were unable to find needed help in favor of less dramatic but more prosaic examples such as those below. Several students expressed that they were in crisis and needed help urgently but because the data was anonymous (and because no one at the district office read it anyway) no help was forthcoming despite their requests.
The only theme that emerged from the Paly data is that some students would like more one on one time with their TAs. By contrast, Gunn students are upset about the lack of access to counselors, would like the onus to be shifted so that students do not always bear the burden of reaching out for help, want better and more information in a more timely manner, more individualized treatment, more emotional support, a lower student/counselor ratio, more responsive communications (probably a subset of access), greater personal respect and more individualized information. Many were very angry.
Many, if not most, students have interpreted the poor structure of the system at Gunn which is overburdened and overtaxed not as a structural problem but as a lack of caring by the adults. While I do not agree with this interpretation, I think it is very important for the community to realize that these young people have come to see the unresponsive system in which they are placed as one in which the counselors do not care about them. Many comments reflect this anger and resentment through sarcasm and irony, as with this sophomore male, who wrote: "actually talking to me might help. hahahaa."
Also exhibiting this anger and frustration, a junior girl who wrote: "He/she does not explain what the classes are, just wants to fill up the table so that you can graduate." Similarly, and more poignantly, a freshman female wrote: "What the guidance counselor has to do is to meet the students, every one of us, and memorize our names. Also, do not lie or blab or make a whole spiel on something you do not even know! JUST DO THE RESEARCH and work hard, and don't just leave and lie that you are sick when I e-mail you that we have a meeting planned a week ago and you confirmed. You should try to be a good counselor that even students from a poor family can go to, not one of those paid-for counselors!!!!!!"
In these examples we can see that the child has interpreted the lack of accessibility brought on by the structure of the system as a personal rejection of her need for support, and has assessed the situation as being about a personal rejection, perhaps on the basis of her class, rather than as a counselor who is too busy and overburdened to provide her with needed assistance.
Another student similarly sees her overworked counselors as hostile and and uncaring, and has interpreted the consequences in her life as the result of the counselor's lack of "believing in her heart" in the student: "i feel that the only way that the guidance counselors can grasp the severity of the choices they help make students do is to look past the silver lining and believe in their heart. Also the councilors wouldent let me change classes. SO ipso facto they are the reoson im not graduating."
It is the job of the school board to reflect the democratic will of their constituents (including these students, who are constituents) and then the job of the administration to provide that leadership and support necessary to implement the decision of the people.
Here are some more typical examples from our youth. I urge all community members, especially, Gunn, Terman and JLS parents to visit this website to read them all: Web Link
We need more counselors to be able to handle the amount of students we have. The Paly model seems to work better than ours, follow what they are doing. Counselors should meet with each student more times and make themselves more approachable. They need to make it easier and evident that they want us to say hi with a tidbit of our personal lives for it to be easier for them to write letters of recommendation. Also, when we ask the same question more than once, it would be nice if you answered the question [the first time] when the question is totally something each counselor would know. (When is my appointment scheduled for?) Make it known for what circumstances and when one should take SAT, SAT II, and ACT tests and what an individual should do to prepare for them. Also, don't say that we won't get in to any college because we didn't do something nobody even told us was important, and then voila, we got in to Harvard. Tell us before freshman year what we should do SPECIFICALLY during our summers, extracirriculars, etc. and be consistent. Nothing that you are doing is working out very well, so why don't you just rewrite your policies, hire people who can actually do the job, and start fresh.
Freshman Female:I don't ever remembering them help me academically or with college. The only time I see my counselor is when I need a schedule change. I don't see my counselor as someone to talk to or tell them how I feel or if I'm stressed. I do not think my counselor really cares about me or even remember who I am.
I had a very difficult time meeting with my counselor. Finally, after many emails from me and my father, I was able to schedule an appointment. It was after I had already decided my classes for junior year and overall it wasn't too helpful. I feel like I barely know my counselor and I do not feel comfortable speaking with her about anything, even school related things, because we are so distant. It would be really nice to have some guidance and be able to talk to my counselor about personal issues but I think it would just be awkward because we don't know each other. I would really recommend getting more counselors so the student to counselor ration would be lower. I don't think my counselor would even recognize my face.
We need more counselors! My counselor does not really know me, even though I have spoken with her many times. If each counselor had fewer students to worry about, each student would get more attention and probably feel much more comfortable speaking with their counselor. I also think that graduation requirements and college entrance requirements need to be more thoroughly explained.
I would like to meet with my Guidance Counselor during times other than when I'm struggling with a class or when I want to change my schedule, I haven't had all that much time to really talk about my future goals with them.
I am currently waiting to have a meeting with my counselor even though I arranged it at the start of the semester, so I guess actually having that meeting would be something to change. Apart from that everything is fine.
Somehow contact students to tell them who their counselor is.
when people stand outside there office and even tho there helping someone else, they should take a minute to ask whats wrong or tell the student if its important or a serious issue instead of writing whats wrong in a peice of paper and wait for them to read it and sometimes they dont even call you right away.
Junior Female:Honestly, I think the Guidance Counseling department does not do anything. To change and drop classes, students have to go around and try to find teachers on campus, which is very time consuming. Also, everyone I know goes to a private consultant for admissions, because they have more knowledge about getting into college and what it takes.
Answering e-mails would be a really great improvement to the guidance department. I find that my schedule fills up and the only way I can get in contact with my counselor is through e-mail. I sent an e-mail at the beginning of January about help with the FAFSA and other various financial aid things and I still haven't heard back.
I feel like the counslers are too busy to help me. I also went to the counslers across from the main office to ask about this charity organization and they said they would get back to me in a few days. It has been a month and still no response. . . .
I have only met with my counselor twice, i think that more required or more planned meetings would be better.
I think the Guidance Counseling department is seriously flawed. Paly has proven to have a system that works. Gunn needs to take a look at what other top schools have done with their counseling department and model ours after theirs. For example, how many times has the average student seen their counselor by the time they reach 10th grade? Maybe 1 or 2 times. The counselors seem to always be pushing a certain cause the moment you enter their room. ("Don't take this AP class or that Honors class", "Make sure to take a semester of living skills and not during the summer.") They are not flexible and willing to change their views to accommodate the specific needs of students. Ask around. Look at the other survey responses. Everyone knows that the Counseling department is flawed. Sure, we have a lot of Gunn students. But group counseling sessions, 1 meeting a year, etc. is sub-par.
Be more connected with the students More required visits if students are uncomfortable going by their own accord (about college, other stuff)
I would suggest to make appointments with the students so they know who their student are. I have never actually met my counselor . . .
I think having meetings with guidance councilors on a more regular basis would be helpful. A lot of the time I have small questions, so I feel like it's kind of a waste of time to arrange a meeting just for a 30-second question. Freshman year the guidance councilors would meet with classes (like you'd go during your history class or something). If we could do that more often, it would be helpful because then I feel like a lot of kids would ask questions that they otherwise wouldn't.
IT is often hard to meet with my guidance counselor in person. I often find that she is out getting lunch or at a meeting during one of the few times a day that I am available to see her.
Provide more meetings every year with individuals. One a year does not seem to be enough.
They can be more readily available when people make appointments. I have made appointments with my counselor before and have never been called in. I've always had to go in on my own again.
We need more counselors! I have had my counselor tell me that she does not have time for me, and she does not know my name, even after I have visited her many times. It feels like every time that we talk, it is the first time we have met. I understand that she cannot remember everything about every single student, so it would be a lot easier for her, and beneficial to the student, for counselors to have fewer students assigned to them.
when people stand outside there office and even tho there helping someone else, they should take a minute to ask whats wrong or tell the student if its important or a serious issue instead of writing whats wrong in a peice of paper and wait for them to read it and sometimes they dont even call you right away
I think guidance counselors should ASK about personal problems because even if they are nice and inviting, it isn't necessarily clear that they are open to discussions. This is mostly because the meetings are usually rushed and focused on academics/college. I also felt that counselors could learn more about colleges to help reduce the list of schools to apply to per student
I havent actually met my new counselor...... I also find it difficult to meet with a counselor because they get back within a week and thats kind of a long time
I think that the guidance department should at least know their student's names because a lot of students' counselors do not give students adequate time to meet and keep in touch with the counselors and therefore the counselors do not know many of their kids sufficiently.
I have never met my counselor.