Within our Jamaican schools the guidance counseling programmes are designed to implement core principles as stated by the Jamaican school curriculum. Guidance counsellors are the ones who play the role of effectively analyzing and implementing these programmes which ensure that all students are well prepared to manage these “exciting times”; every student needs support and guidance. This is imperative as they embark upon the academic, social, spiritual and developmental challenges of adolescence; a time of rapid growth and change.
Our guidance and counselling programmes offer students the opportunity to develop these characteristics necessary to become successful adults in a fast changing world. The primary goal of guidance and counselling and guidance counsellors is to guide and support overall student development and well-being in three broad areas of student life; while keeping in mind the central tasks of adolescence such as acquiring and assimilating self-knowledge, developing future goals and purposefulness, building strategies to accomplish goals, developing decision-making skills, coping with outcomes of decisions and exploring social relationships.
The guidance counsellor is charged with the responsibility of being the one who facilitates positive change in the lives of those in their care especially in the three broad areas. These include ‘Personal/Social Goals’ which entails helping students acquire the inter personal and communication skills to increase their understanding and respect of self and others. Academic Goals’, which helps students develop a wide range of academic skills and become effective agents of their learning, ‘Post Secondary-College Planning Goals’ achieved through information sessions and by making resources available to research and apply to college, students are able to plan and make decisions about their future. John is a fifteen year old student who has recently returned to Jamaica to live with his father. John had left Jamaica at an early age to live with his mother in the Cayman Island. She is now incarcerated in the Cayman Island and so he now has to live with his father.
John is having serious problems in school and at home. He has been getting very low grades in class and is sometimes very disrespectful to his teachers especially his female teachers. John also finds it hard to adjust and to make new friends; he resents the woman with whom his father now lives and is now hiding from school and hanging out at the video arcade. John’s teachers and his father have made arrangements for him to have weekly sessions with the schools Guidance Counsellor. The roles of a Guidance Counsellor in any Jamaican school vary.
John’s case is just one example of the wide spectrum of psychosocial problems experienced by many Jamaica students who are in need of guidance and support. The role of a counselor in John’s case is vital to his adjustment to his new situation and with him dealing with the pain of his past experiences. Whatever his counsellor does is critical in his survival from his maladjustments. Myric (2003) defines the term ‘role’ as an elusive one. It generally refers to the part that one plays in a given situation. He further gives the definition of function as the way in which a professional carries out his/her part.
Function gives attention to various behaviours that might be performed in the role. Guidance and counselling is therefore a necessity in all Jamaican schools. The needs of students especially those at the adolescent stage are overwhelming. As postulated by Makinde (1993) persons at the adolescence stage in life need guidance as they seek to clarify their goals and values, strengthen their interests and aspirations, appreciate their philosophies and cognition and adjust to the norms of society. Some major roles and functions of the guidance counsellors according to Gibson et al. 1999) are to provide individual counselling, group counselling, work with parents, and consult with teachers and administrators. Guidance counsellors should also conduct classroom guidance instructions and assessment activity and coordinate with community agencies. The Ministry of Education (2009) outlines the major components that comprise roles and functions as: preventative, interventive, supportive administrative and pro professional development. In order to help Jamaican students make the transition from childhood to adulthood, the guidance counsellor’s role is integral in this quest towards the holistic development of these students.
How important are these roles and functions in the development of our children, our future? This essay seeks to outline the major roles and functions of a guidance counsellor in our Jamaica school setting and also to examine some of the factors which negatively impact the guidance counsellor in his or her quest towards fulfilling these roles. As a guidance counsellor the implementation of all the components geared towards the holistic development of students must be considered and implemented. These should be ongoing and emphasis should be placed on classroom guidance as well as group and individual counselling.
Ministry of Education (2009) coined preventive measures as proactive initiatives implemented to deter the onset of individual and group problems. These measures and strategies will provide students and others the opportunities to learn skills of conflict resolution and reduction. Guidance Counsellors are able to assist in the planning, implementing and coordinating of orientation designed to help students adjust to new experiences within the school community. The preventative components also help guidance counsellors to promote leadership development of peer counsellors and encourage participation in community service programmes.
These programmes also furnish principals and other stakeholders with relevant information concerning students in the various stages of development. As students progress through the different levels of academic life, they are faced with tremendous problems of deciding and selecting their subjects, courses and career choice. This challenge can be alleviated through the professional guidance of the guidance counsellor. The counsellor will assist the students to make rational decisions toward their life goals.
Through career development programmes the Guidance counsellors help provide placement services and work experience for the students. Through this kind of programme the counsellor is able to help the students to make the transition from one school level to another or from school to employment, in this way students are better prepared and equipped with skills necessary for the world of work. The guidance counsellor also assists students who although they have been exposed to the options and guidance in a group setting, have not made up their minds as to which area they would like to pursue.
These students are usually assisted on an individual basis. Another major role and function of the guidance counsellor includes individual counselling of students. Gibson (1999) defines individual counselling as one-to-one relationship involving a trained counsellor that focuses on some aspects of the client’s adjustment, development, or decision making. This process can therefore help a counsellor develop a close personal relationship and communication base with the student. As such the guidance counsellor in the school can help tudents to develop understanding of self as it relates to their social and psychological world. Students can also be assisted in exploring possibilities relating to their lives and also understanding how to initiate change in their lives. Through individual counselling students will gain a better sense of confidence in the counsellor and will no doubt be more comfortable in discussing and dealing with issues presented. With individual counselling the opportunity is there for them to speak freely without the fear that may exist in a group setting.
For a student such as John an individual session will help him to deal with underlying issues which have created his bitterness and anger. He would be better able to cope with all the changes with which he is faced. Such an individual counselling session would allow him the framework on which to maximize his true potential and understand his world in order to impact positive change. Saginak (2003) provides additional insights into how effective counsellors can help identify students of multiple intelligences.
This finding can help a counsellor care for the different needs of students. For example, the use of journal writing, art, music and poetry has been advocated for many years as effective ways with counselling students. Individual counselling is basically a continuous process as the counsellor seeks to build a relationship with each student he or she comes in contact with. Individual counselling by a guidance counsellor is sometimes the only means of providing some kind of hope for some children. Hence, the counsellor should ensure that a harmonious relationship is built.
Although some students are confident to go to a counsellor’s office after being referred by their teacher, parents or peer, some may be reluctant; as such, group sessions will help to cater to the needs of these students. The importance of group counselling (small group, large group) and guidance in schools cannot be overemphasized. According to Johnson (2000), group counselling involves two or more individuals in face-to-face interactions, each aware of positive interdependence as they strive to achieve mutual goal.
Myrick (2003) adds value to what Johnson (2000) said that group counselling in school is a unique educational experience in which students can work together to explore their ideas, attitudes, feelings and behavior especially as it relates to personal development and progress in school. For some students this might be the only intervention experience in learning about themselves, others, life task and how to deal with certain confidential issues. It is clear that group counselling helps students to share common interest and concerns.
Students like to know that other students are having similar experiences as they are having. Groups are valuable as students are better able to support each other as they struggle together. As such, students are better able to relate to each other in their social contexts. Improvise the opportunity for students for students to learn and live with each other as a team. Gladding (2009), states that students participating in a group develop social relationships and emotional bonds and often become enlightened.
Research has also shown Flemming (1999) that group counselling is more effective than individual counselling to address the need of students, especially “at risk” students. He further asserts that this contention is supported through research into violent youths, which suggests that peer group interventions are effective in redirecting peer values, confronting antisocial behavior, teaching problem-solving skills and encouraging pro-social behavior. Dollarhide et al (2003) opines that students in group counselling allow counsellors to expand their awareness of student client.
What better way to see how students react in their systems than to witness it first-hand. In essence group counselling in Jamaican schools provide both students and guidance counsellors with a more comprehensive knowledge of what students are faced with on a daily basis, issues can be dealt with and students continue to focus on their goals. As in John’s case, he may not be responsive in a group setting as well as he might be timid or embarrassed to tell his story. Although group counselling can be beneficiary to many students, it has its down side.
The nature of group settings can at times bring out complex and sensitive issues which might require counsellors to speak to teachers and parents to better aid students in this process, hence the need for consultation. Saginak (2003),defines consultation as a three part helping relationship characterized by confidentiality, mutual respect and collegiality, focused on helping the consulted function more effectively with the client. Saginak further states that consultation provides a systematic intervention allowing counsellors to reach into student’s context and mobilize other persons in the student’s support network.
In the consultation process the Guidance Counsellor can maximize the opportunity to educate the teachers, parents and community on the developmental issues that students are faced with this level of consultation is vital in Jamaican schools as it provides stakeholders with the assurance in dealing with the issues which may arise with their children. Parents are better able maximize on their roles as caregivers and confidants. This is as a result of the access to cooperative relationship with their child’s Guidance Counsellor.
This enables them to better understand their child’s behavior, attitude, relationship and other concerns. In addition, it provides the opportunity for counsellors to consult with parents who are not actively participating in their child’s education. In a case like John’s which is similar to many children in Jamaica, the guidance Counsellor would not only help him to deal with his present problems but also to develop skills that would allow him to be able to cope with other challenging situations which will inevitably occur throughout his lifetime.
His parents would also be enlightened as to how their actions influence his state of mind and behaviour and the steps they can take to help him to live a better life. Parents would also have a closer hand on what exactly is going on in the life of their children and would receive information as to whether or not their child need further help to cope with different situations. Consultation also helps teachers and administrators in dealing with students who are exhibit anti-social or dysfunctional behaviour.
It provides the teacher the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to deal with these children who are problematic. Teachers would understand the adjustments of the curriculum and instructions needed to effect positive change. In his or her role in the Jamaican school system the guidance counsellors also provide consultation to the members of the school community this is deemed necessary as the community is usually the nurturing ground for the members of the school. This in effect filters down to benefiting the student and the entire community.
This also fosters a better and more effective communication process between the school and the community. Although not an official role, the guidance counsellor in the Jamaican schools, through community involvement, are often times called upon to lobby for sponsors for different projects these are usually projects undertaken by the counselling department or administration for the funding of different project geared towards students’ development. As stated by Miss Cindy Nemard guidance counsellor at Quest Preparatory, many students benefit from these programmes specially in the public schools where school feeding programmes, school fee payment, sport scholarships, examination fees, uniform to books and other programmes benefit the children based on the collaboration effort of the guidance counsellors and the community members. Miss Nemard further states that this allows the community members through their support of the school a sense of being a part of the school development and progress. They also get to voice their opinion on their hopes and plans for the school and in turn the students.
In addition the counsellor gains easier access to engaging families in counselling the process and if necessary collecting information to assist the police, judge or social worker. The overall benefit from community consultation is immeasurable. She further states that when the stakeholders are involved in the children’s development the school environment is more shaped within the community. To maximize on this the guidance counsellor must have a good programme which will be beneficial towards the total development of the students.
Without a plan we have very little hope of achieving the full potential of our dreams and aspirations, similar is the case with a guidance counsellor in achieving his or her objectives. He or she must have a clear idea of the needs of the students and the objectives must be in line with such. The role of the guidance counsellor in this instance is one of being administrator as he or she must not only decide on the objectives but plan careful and effective programme to achieve these goals. These goals must be in line with the Ministry of Education’s guidelines and at the same time cater for the needs of the stakeholders.
These programmes must be infused with the school’s curriculum. The counsellor has to maintain records of the process and progress of the guidance programme and all the activities involved, these include career day, orientation of new students, staff and student development seminars, curriculum lessons and consultation time. Myrick (2003) says that a guidance counsellor is like the co-pilot on a plane, responsible for his or her own programme. The question therefore arises: what are the specific ways in which a guidance Counsellor leads?
The guidance counsellor at all times has to be involved in planning, coordinating, organizing, assessing and evaluating. The counsellor has to be reliable, impartial and accountable. The guidance counsellor has to be supportive of all stakeholders. Ministry of Education (2010) views supportive as those management activities that establish, maintain and enhance the total guidance and counselling programmes. A full assessment of programmes activities in schools helps the counsellors to plan for future programmes and evaluate to what extent the programme are working or their effectiveness.
Ongoing assessment needs to be done for the students to ensure readiness for ongoing learning. As guidance counsellors are seen as helpers who understand and respond to human needs however, he or she must be cognisant of his or her needs as well. With the approval of the Ministry of Education and the school boards counsellors must engage in personal and professional development. According to the Ministry of Education the guidance counsellor must attend conferences, workshops, and meeting.
These include those at the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education (JAGCE), the Guidance Counselling Unit and other organizations not exceeding fifteen sessions per year. As the guidance counsellors acquire these skills and knowledge he or she must demonstrate knowledge of the law and policies as it relates to education, guidance and counselling, children and adolescent. The counsellor must also abide by the Education act (1980) and the Code of National Ethics of the Jamaica Association of JAGCE Ministry (2009).
Being a proactive, knowledgeable individual, a guidance counsellor has to keep up to date with the required skills and knowledge in order to be a competent and effective counsellor. Although the guidance counsellors are reaping some success in schools, they are faced with existing challenges which affects the effective performance of their daily tasks. Myrick (2003) thinks that the individual counselling is becoming a luxury in schools. It cannot be provided for everyone. He further states that some students need this more than others because of the nature of their concerns and their inability to work with groups.
In essence, counsellors face limitations to effectively cater to every student. Counsellors do not have enough time to see all. Guidance counsellors are also seen as coordinators of many activities and programmes within the school setting. They are responsible for a number of administrative work involving students, teachers, parents and all the stakeholders involved. This role in itself impedes the speed and progress of other important roles. It may lead to an overworked counsellor and an unbalanced counselling programme.
Myrick (2003), points out that the coordinating functions of can be a millstone round a counsellor’s neck, or it can lead to some productive outcomes in guidance. Counsellors are seen as teachers with flexible time and so at times there is disregard for the structured plans and routine of a guidance counsellor as he or she is often called up onto fill in as a substitute teacher in the absence of a regular class teacher. Another problem that counsellors face is that of the increase in the violence in the society which is then mirrored in the Jamaican schools. Counsellors are limited to their jobs as it is often difficult for them to gain access to the root cause of the problems involving violence in the schools.
Students who are exposed to violence in their communities may begin to adapt to this kind of life experience and sometimes may even accept violence as the norm. Although the guidance counsellors use their initiatives to encourage students in situations like these at times their efforts seem to go unnoticed The limitations and challenges also extend to the lack of or insufficient resources in schools. For the counselling process to be effective the counsellor should be provided with certain basic essentials such as a comfortable counselling area in which to practice.
Counsellors are sometimes hesitant to pursue difficult cases involving students especially as it relates to criminal offences. Counsellors are often apprehensive of the repercussions which may arise when reports are made against persons who commit crimes against children. With the inadequacy of our legal system, counsellors sometimes have to think of the safety and well being of themselves and their families. The roles and functions of a guidance counsellor are many and varied and sometimes extend to areas undefined; however as a guidance counsellor one must ensure that his or her role is carried out comprehensively and effectively.
All the roles mentioned are specific to all counsellors but may vary depending on the type of school. The finding in this research outlines and gives definite answers relating to some roles and functions of the guidance counsellor within the Jamaican schools. The roles identified include providing education counselling, career counselling, consultation, classroom instruction, individual and group counselling. It can be concluded that the role of the guidance counsellor is important for the continued development of the students in our school and in effect the continued development of our Jamaican society.
Reference Gladding,T. (2009). A comprehensive Profession. New Jersey Gibson, L. (1999). Introduction to Counselling and Guidance. United States of America Prentice Hall Inc. Mankind, O (1993). Fundamentals of Guidance and Counselling London Oxford Mack Millan Education Myrick, D (2003). Development Guidance and Counselling: A Practical Approach. 4th Edition. United States of America: Education Media Corporation. Ministry of Education Guidance Counselling Unit