When I ask you to think of summer, a normal summer, the range of thoughts from those reading this will vary widely. Several
of you have year round jobs, whether as independent counselors or on the college side, and if your office doesn’t have good air conditioning, then summer may bring up unpleasant memories of working through clothes that are sweat soaked by 11 a.m. Others may love the flexibility of seeing students more through the day instead of after school hours during the summer. On the other end many of you work for high schools where you do get some time off in the summer, and for you the memories of summer are filled with travel, catching up on books, lazy afternoons at a baseball game, and many other pleasant memories.
This summer, by necessity, really needs to be viewed differently. At least by high schools, in my opinion. I wrote back in November about things that I wanted to see kept in a post pandemic world, and summer melt outreach was one of several things I listed. It was something I wrote about briefly in one paragraph, but something I really want to take a little time to expand further upon here because it’s already the end of February, and summer is getting close. I know I know, with financial aid deadlines, end of year push to make sure students graduate, and everything else we do, how can anyone be thinking about the summer? And not to put more on anyone’s plate, but this is the time those conversations and planning need to be started so that we can get our district level counterparts to sign off on what we need.
Now I know in a normal year for those of us who have summers off, there is a range of attitudes people have towards checking their emails and answering student questions. Some will say “Nope, I’m not being paid right now, so I check nothing until the first day I’m back on my school site.” Others will check in on emails every so often and still respond to students, despite not being “on the clock.” I am not here to say that either approach is the right now, that’s up to the individual to assess what their mental health needs are and how they need to recharge.
What I am advocating for is to have our districts see the need for greater communication with students this summer of all summers, and to hopefully earmark some funds to make it happen. (I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s better to be paid for work than not.) There will be many students graduating high school this year without once setting foot on their high school campuses as seniors. They never had a face to face chance to work with their counselors and teachers on their post high school plans, in making sure that everything is pointed in the right direction, and that they’re all good to go in the fall. For the go-getter students who seek out answers on their own, that’s not a problem. But we all know that middle of the road kid who will do what their guided to do, but not necessarily seek it out on their own. Or the kid who has a drive, but is first in the family to go to college, and is truly stumped by how to start at community college and get on the track they want.
These are the kids that will need purposeful outreach, likely beyond the end of the formal school year. These are the kids who might get stumped with a question about next steps that risks deterring their college plans without a trusted person or contact to reach out to. While an argument can be made that this help should be available every year, this is the year that it will especially be necessary.
This is not to say that the works needs to fall singlehandedly on any one counselor. Within our field on the high school side there will be a range of what people need or want from the summer. Some of us will need to disconnect for long periods of time to recharge, and that is ok that our brain works that way. Others may not be travelling due to things not being quite normal just yet, and would gladly work a couple hours a week for extra summer money. So maybe in one district it could be two or three counselors appointed to do a few hours a week as the main summer people. In another school one person might be single handedly up for the job. Either way, we need districts with high schools to find a way to make this possible this summer.
What I am imploring each of us on the high school side to do, if your school doesn’t have something like this in place, is to advocate to your admin teams about the importance of making counselors available for graduating seniors this summer. Too many students fall through the cracks in a normal summer, and there will certainly be a lot more this year if a plan isn’t put in place. Of course, since it is outside of regular work, it needs to be filled out counselors who want to do it, not those who are being “voluntold.”
And once this plan is put in place, I feel that whatever one does for summer relaxation, will feel even better knowing that more support structures are in place for students who really need it.
On a personal note, I do want to completely shift gears in my final paragraph for this month and take a moment to acknowledge the announced split of Daft Punk, which broke the morning of me posting this article. If you’re not much into electronic music then this isn’t news that probably concerned you much, but as one of the first groups I started listening to when I was getting into electronic music, it’s a sad day to see them split. Around the World playing on repeat for me today.