Counsellor’s Corner: From The Main Office to The Guidance Office

The evolving relationship between the administration and guidance during the pandemic

Round and round, up and down, here we go again.  

So, a new year arrived and so too did new, nationwide COVID-19 protocols. As the holiday break unfolded, province after province announced that schools were moving to remote learning. Some went further, establishing province-wide curfews and while others moved into various stages of lockdown. 

In Ontario, where I work, the provincial government announced that we would move to remote learning for two weeks to start with a return to in-school learning on January 17th. While I was discussing this decision with my Principal, Annibale Iarossi, our conversation shifted to him sharing how he feels COVID-19 has impacted the relationship between Administration and Guidance and how he, as a Principal of a secondary school, envisions the role of Guidance in the post-pandemic world of education.

Annibale Iarossi is a Principal with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. An Administrator of eight years, Annibale was a former Student Success and Special Education teacher, who always had a passion for (and compassion for) our most vulnerable students. Annibale has personally and professionally helped many students achieve their academic goals, graduate high school, and move on to their post-secondary destination. He leads our school with kindness, tolerance and a progressive vision.

As we spoke (via Microsoft Teams as per COVID protocols!), I asked Annibale this question:  

Navigating through COVID-19 and all these phases and lockdowns, how do you believe administrators have changed their way of interacting with Guidance? 

Annibale answered this question quickly (after chuckling). He believes that the interactions between Guidance and Administration have become more frequent during the pandemic (BTW, I agree with this perspective). This is partly due to the nature and increasing complexity of the issues and problems that have emerged over the course of the pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19, more factors go into decision-making for student well-being and for the school as a whole—and conversations with Guidance are essential in determining next steps for our student population and the school community.

As we continued our discussion, Annibale pointed out that when making decisions around staffing, student success, mental health and other pedagogical initiatives, a historical background is essential for any Administer to make an informed decision. The Administration tend to rely on Guidance for their perspective regarding students and staff. Guidance also tends to have their pulse on the broader community. Generally, the Guidance Department has been there longer than the Administration team and usually has a deeper, more rooted relationship with the community, their needs, strengths, and deficits. It’s essential to keep the lines of communication between the Administration and the Guidance Department open, fluid, and transparent to meet the needs of both the school and community.

As the Principal of the school, Annibale also feels that the interactions between the Administration and Guidance have become multi-faceted as they involve other stakeholders to help with mental health, including Child and Youth, Social Work, School Psychology, Student Success Teacher, Academic Resource. Many times, Guidance helps facilitate these interactions and develops these relationships. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Administrative and Guidance teams have had to investigate mental health a lot more and look into students and the supports inside and outside of school. On many occasions throughout the past two years, they have had to find supports virtually.

As our conversation shifted, we spoke about school post-pandemic. I asked Annibale: 

Moving to a post-pandemic world, how do you believe the role of Guidance will change and what role should Guidance play to have a thriving school environment?

Annibale believes that a lot of unintended good has come out of our lockdowns and our virtual world. Guidance has become more proficient at providing information and making it more accessible to parents and students. Many Guidance Departments have started social media accounts that help students navigate their pathway, mental health concerns, as well as provide resources for students and parents alike. Using all these virtual platforms, Guidance allows students to have a glimpse to a more global view of post-secondary institutions, through virtual presentations, webinars, and information sessions. This applies not only to institutions that are within their community but extending that information to post-secondary programs and institutions across the country and abroad. To be able to share the breadth and depth of post-secondary planning information (instead of having a one-off information night that Guidance Departments used to do pre-pandemic) is something that will stick around. Most communities and parents have a thirst from schools for information to help their children navigate their future. Along with what Guidance was doing in the past in meeting the direct needs of students in the schools, Annibale believes their impact is going to be far greater with the addition of all these virtual tools.

Ultimately, both Annibale and I agree that the new era Guidance Department is a department that isn’t hidden. In the past, some parents did not even know who their child’s Guidance Counsellor was. Now Guidance Departments and counsellors are so accessible via twitter, Google Classroom, they have become familiar faces that parents have gotten to know. Increased familiarity with our Guidance Departments translates into better relationships with students, parents, and the community. With better relationships parents feel that their children’s education is being prioritized by the school and the Guidance team. Annibale Iarossi and I both agree that the relationship between Administrators and their Guidance Team has deepened and strengthened throughout the pandemic – and that’s a very good thing. 

By: Anna Macri