I recently announced that I wanted to go back to school to become a counselor, and yesterday reinforced that decision to the nth degree! Last semester I arranged it so I could discuss report cards and grades with each of my students. There are 2 reasons for this, first of all, it gives me a relatively easy day of planning, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want an easy day every now and then? It also gives me an opportunity to make connections with my kiddos and to help them feel like someone cares about their progress. Yesterday, I hadn’t planned to do this because, well, they’ve only been back a week, and I have a whole crew of new kiddos whose names I haven’t learned yet. Those kids can’t trust me yet, right? But they did. When I began with my normally scheduled lesson, one student looked at me, hurt, and said “aren’t you going to look at our report cards?” So I lied. “Of course, I was just going to get everyone started… You can go first!” I was shocked! Some of these kids try not to show me their report cards because they haven’t been trying, and yet me not looking hurts their feelings… I do think talking with them has been successful! One student has obviously decided to not drop out and is scheduling tutoring with me so that he can pass his STAAR test! Another student who keeps telling me he is going to drop out is suddenly doing his work. Several students now feel that they can come to me with their problems, which does create more work for me, but is what I eventually want to do with my life, so it’s quite alright. Every way I look at it, talking with them about their grades is doing good. The main obstacle I’ve come up against is that I’m NOT a counselor. So when students bare their souls to me, I legally can’t give them any advice because if it back fires, I’m not qualified to give them that advice. But how do you not? When a student is discussing her somewhat abusive lesbian relationship, how do you not tell her that she should walk away because it is unhealthy for her? Or when another students shows an extreme interest in MEDICAL school because it can lead him to a career in body modification later in life, how do you tell him not to pursue that instead of going into real estate like his uncle? Come on, it’s Medical School! What mother wouldn’t be proud of her son being a doctor? Even if it is just a means to an end… All my life people have come to me for advice. Sometimes it was homework advice, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher. Well, that and when I was in third grade my best friend and I used to take our stuffed animals and play teacher with them. We even used my mom’s printer to make tests and assignments for them. Teaching is a serious life-long calling for me! But when people weren’t looking for homework advice, they would ask me about relationship advice. The fact that my only experience with relationships when I was in school was my seventh grade year when I dated a high school freshman who bought me a silver necklace for my birthday (still have that, by the way) didn’t seem to bother anyone other than me. It was kind of a high school version of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” My own jealousy aside, I kind of got good at spotting where a relationship was going. Being outside of the relationship, I could see all the possibilities, the good and the bad. Now, into my 30’s, I still can see where others’ relationships are headed. The difference is that I’ve learned to kind of limit myself in what I say. If I tell one of my girlfriends “You’re creating your own disaster by snooping,” I’ll lose a friend, so I’ve learned to be a friend when the relationship crumbles instead of being the voice of reason. Or when one of my guy friends keeps going back to his ex to try to salvage their friendship when one or both of them really don’t want to give up the romantic relationship, I sit back and watch the fireworks, wondering how long before she tells him to get rid of me. Or rather, how long until he does get rid of me because our friendship doesn’t mean as much as his damaged relationship with her… But if I say something, if I point out that they fight because she’s trying to tell him how to live his life, or that she’s manipulating him into feeling guilty, he’ll assume I have ulterior motives, won’t he? Most guys do, because most guys assume that all women want to be in a romantic relationship with them more than they want to be a good friend to them. Somehow, we all forget that the best people to date are the ones who want what’s best for us because they are good friends as well as lovers. And somehow I can limit myself when I’m talking to my friends, but not when I’m talking to my students. I suppose that’s because I’m not friends with my students, although some of them can’t make the distinction yet. I’m their teacher. Always. I watch over them and help them grow into mature adults, but I can’t be their friend. Yes, I will help them, even “have their back” in certain situations, but I can’t condone their bad actions. I won’t be their friend who turns a blind eye while they do something illegal, for instance. As a teacher, my job is to help them achieve knowledge, but as a counselor, I get to help them learn to handle their own problems, make better decisions, and help them understand themselves and the people around them. Or at least that’s how I imagine it. Now if only my crazy car problems would actually go away, so I can stop worrying about that and begin the journey of becoming a counselor. Then life would be good indeed!