Teaching Opinion

Response: A Teacher-Counselor Partnership Is ‘Essential’ For Student Success

By Larry Ferlazzo — May 27, 2014 11 min read
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(This is the last post in a two-part series on this topic. You can see Part One here.)

This week’s question is:

What are the best ways for teachers to work with school counselors and vice versa?

Part One featured suggestions from three exceptional educators on how to solidify the teacher/counselor partnership: Dean Vogel, counselor, teacher and President of the California Teachers Association (I am a proud member of CTA); Leticia Gallardo, who works at the school where I teach and who is the most amazing counselor I’ve ever seen; and Mindy Willard, the 2013 National Counselor Of The Year.

Today’s post includes responses from Julie Hartline, the 2009 National Counselor Of The Year; and educator/authors Trish Hatch, Dr. Sherrel Bergmann and Dr. Judith Brough. In addition, I’ve included comments from readers.

You might also be interested in listening to a ten minute conversation I had with Mindy Willard and Leticia Gallardo on one of my recent BAM! Radio programs.

Response From Julie Hartline

Dr. Julie Hartline entered the field of education in 1991 after serving as a parole officer in Atlanta, Georgia and discovering that over 85% of her caseload had not completed high school. She served as the chair of the Campbell High School counseling department for 14 years where her department became one of the first high schools in the state of Georgia to receive the Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) award from the American School Counselor Association in 2008, and she was named the 2009 ASCA Counselor of the Year. She is presently the School Counseling and Advisement Consultant for the Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia and the President Elect of the Georgia School Counselors Association:

Collaboration is key to being a 21st century school counselor and working with teachers is one of the greatest collaborative efforts school counselors can make on behalf of students. Teachers and counselors have to work together to maximize their impact on student achievement and this can be done in a variety of ways. Whether cross-walking standards for classroom lessons or talking about individual students, this partnership is essential to helping students to be successful.

School counselors are charged with the delivery of comprehensive programs which includes providing classroom instruction on the academic, career, and personal/social developmental needs of students. Research shows that students learn best when materials and instruction are not in isolation; therefore, counselors can have the greatest impact on these needs by working collaboratively with teachers to provide instruction that addresses content standards and school counseling standards. For example, counselors can teach students how to calculate grade point averages within the context of a lesson on math skills being taught by the math teacher or counselors can teach conflict resolution skills within the context of a lesson regarding conflict or war being taught by the social studies teacher. Teachers and counselors can work together to make the skills being taught within the content area relevant to students’ worlds. This will have the greatest impact on students learning not only the content area but also in helping students developmentally.

All teachers have experienced students who are disruptive in class. School counselors can be an excellent resource in assisting teachers in dealing with difficult students. While school counselors do not have magic wands, they are trained to address issues outside of the realm of the classroom teacher. If a student is angry because of issues at home, the counselor can assist him/her in finding healthy ways to cope with the anger so that the student can focus better in class. If the student is acting out because he/she is struggling academically, the counselor can work with the student in areas such as study skills, time management, and organization so that the student can be more successful. When the teacher and counselor work together, they can identify the needs of the student and determine the best way to address the concerns.

In order for school counselors to make a difference in the lives of students, they must have access to them and the teacher is often the individual who can make this happen. The teacher must share class time with the counselor so that classroom lessons on the development of academic, career, and personal/social skills can be delivered, and the teacher must allow students out of class to meet with the counselor individually or in small groups when the counselor is addressing more individual needs. Teacher buy-in is key to counselor success and students will benefit the most when teachers and counselors work collaboratively to impact student achievement.

Response From Trish Hatch

Trish Hatch, Ph.D. is the author of The Use of Data in School Counseling: Hatching Results for Students, Programs and the Profession (2014); co-author of the ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2003; 2005) and co-author of Evidence-Based Practice in School Counseling: Making a Difference with Data-Driven Practices (Dimmit, Carey & Hatch, 2007). Dr. Hatch is the Director of the School Counseling Program and Associate Professor at San Diego State University. References for this post can be found here:

As colleagues, allies, and partners in student achievement, teachers and school counselors work together best when both understand how the profession of school counseling has changed significantly over the past decade . Today’s school counselors are: partners in implementing core curriculum ; evidenced-based , data-driven interventionists ; culturally competent student advocates ; promoting college and career readiness for all students ; and school-wide leaders and systemic change agents .

School counselors and teachers work best together when they respectfully collaborate as experts in education, valuing each other’s time, talent and learning environment, while holding themselves and each other accountable for student outcomes.

Collaborative planning on classroom lessons, calendars, referral systems (much like an RtI model), data-driven approaches to counseling interventions, and supporting a triage approach to crisis referrals can lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness. Finally, the best way is for both professionals to remember the ultimate goal is doing whatever is in the best interest of the student.

Response From Dr. Sherrel Bergmann and Dr. Judith Brough

Dr. Sherrel Bergmann, retired professor, National Louis University and Dr. Judith Brough, Professor Emerita, Gettysburg College are award-winning educators and authors. Their research and practical approaches to working with reluctant learners, motivation, parent-school relationships, and building life-essential skills are widely used in classrooms. They are the authors of Teach My Kid, I Dare You:

With the current emphasis on high stakes testing, the roles of both the teacher and the counselor have been changed to focus on test results rather than the students themselves. The role of the counselor must be clearly defined so that teachers understand how they can best work with the counselor. A task force whose purpose is to assess, define, and set goals for the counseling services in a school must be the first step. This task force should be made up of counselors, administrators, and a representative sample of classroom teachers. Student input should be given via interview and survey. Too many counselors today have unrealistic caseloads of students and have little time for actual long term counseling. Each school can supplement the work of the counselor by training teachers in basic advocacy and identification skills and then establishing an advocacy program where every student in the building has an adult who knows him/her well and cares for him/her.

A simple form on which teachers can identify why they feel a student needs to be seen and how immediately that student needs the counselor has been very helpful in many schools. If a school has teaming, counselors should be assigned to work with specific teams and attend team meetings.

Teachers should invite counselors to lead or participate in classroom activities that deal with social and emotional issues such as bullying, decision making, and safety. Counselors should be invited to observe classrooms that are having group issues and then help the teacher establish an action plan to solve the problem. Teachers should take, not send, students to the counselor so that the student sees two adults who are concerned about them. Teachers cannot assume that counselors will be available when a student is in crisis and should have a means of letting the counselor know the degree of the problem by using a number or star system. For example, a two star crisis means that this is an on-going problem and the student needs support and should be seen within the week, while a five star crisis means that the student’s safety and health are in danger and this student needs to be seen immediately. This system can be determined by the counselor and teachers working together.

Responses From Readers

John D’Auria:

The social and emotional underpinnings to learning is a critical area that has not received appropriate focus in our field. Counselors can assist classroom teachers in understanding how small adjustments to their practice can improve relationships, lower anxiety, and develop resilience in the face of setbacks. Teachers can also help counselors understand what they see as blocking learning in their students. Almost always, that blockage has an emotional context that relates to confidence or anxiety. Effective counselors understand how to to work with those issues and how to advise teachers on what they can do to strengthen psychological safety in a classroom.


It is imperative that teachers and counselors invest in building strong relationships with each other as well as understand each other’s role and demands within the school. Unfortunately there are still educators (and administrators!) that do not fully comprehend the role of the professional school counselor. Communication, accessibility, and visibility are vital to navigating these relationships. Teachers must have explicit means and methods to approach, communicate, and share feedback and concerns with the counselor. Moreover, the counselor needs to be actively involved in PBIS/SIP/grade level team planning, student support/educational management team meetings, articulation meetings, and the special education/504 identification process to collaborate with staff and keep a pulse on current events and student concerns. Working together on planning strategic classroom lessons doesn’t hurt, either!

Brian Mathieson:

At our high school, the school counselors examine data to find gaps in achievement, attendance, behavior and/or school safety. We then set program goals and start intervening using school-wide programs, counseling lessons in the classroom, small groups, and/or individual counseling. Our high school, for instance, has identified attendance and as a major barrier to learning. We’ve uncovered the fact that 30% of our students are missing 20 or more school days a year. So, we’re using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model to focus on increasing student attendance next school year. If our efforts are successful, teachers will have more academic learning time with their students.

Thanks for asking the question. There are hundreds of school counselors who are excited about working together with teachers to improve student achievement and other outcomes. We often get left out of discussions of school improvement. This is unfortunate because a fully implemented school counseling program can make a big difference for students.

Some readers contributed comments through Twitter. I’ve collected them using Storify:

Thanks to Julie, Trish, Serrel and Judith, and to readers, for their contributions!

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