Counselors’ Chaotic Commencement

Eighty students pack into the Hale counseling office and turn in their schedule change request forms. Each student anticipates a long wait and the chance of being denied, or acquiring yet another useless gym credit when you’re forced to remain in racquet sports for the rest of the semester.

During the first weeks of school, behind the red line in the attendance office, the counselors start a long process each day, keeping them at Hale for hours after students leave.
“It’s really a heavy, busy, and chaotic time right before school starts and within the first ten days,” academic counselor Tina Camero said.

In addition to their responsibilities of supporting 400 students in academics, home life, and graduation readiness, counselors deal with the crowd of about 300 individuals asking for tweaks in their schedule.

“Most of September, I’m here 10 to 12 hours doing scheduling, and I’m only paid for eight,” counselor Marion Howard said.

The counselors go through a time-consuming process for each request.
If a student already has a full schedule, then they fill out a schedule change request form. Once the student turns in the yellow request form, they add it to a large pile which is then sorted for the respective counselors.

Next, the counselors scrutinize each sheet and decide whether the change is available in terms of class sizes and period during the day. Counselors prioritize changes for students with schedule gaps and for seniors who lack certain credits.

If the preferred change is not available, a counselor may spend hours meeting with the student and shifting classes around to make a change happen. If that still cannot fix a request, a counselor will deny the change all together.

“It’s always really sad when you have to say what the limitations are…. It sort of feels cold,” counselor Serena Swanson said.

All of the Hale counselors feel similarly when turning down a student’s request. But often times, Hale’s block classes, for freshman and sophomores, and the teacher paired blocks for juniors prevent students from getting the class they want.

When a student is denied their change request, they often file more requests, sometimes for the same class and period that was denied.

“It gets hard when you have to say no… and then somebody like a parent gets involved and pushes the issue,” Swanson explained.

Students face stress while waiting for a schedule change response. Their classes may be shifted around, making it hard to settle into a rhythm, or they can be thrown into classes for a semester, or even a year, that they don’t want to take.

Camero is aware of this complaint.

“I took a long time to get back to students, and I’m sure that was frustrating, but I really was trying to make it happen,” she said.

The counseling staff emphasized that their goal is not to make students upset, but to work with students to accomplish changes if possible. When the preferred schedule changes are not possible, the counselors hope to show students the best options available and empower students to continue to work hard in less desirable situations.

Even though the job involves long hours, and includes immense responsibility and stressful work that affects hundreds of students, the counselors feel rewarded by their work.
Swanson finds that the little successes make up for any stressful hours.

“I really enjoy when a schedule change works out and someone’s just really happy,” Swanson said.

“This is a lovely job, but it can be difficult at times,” Ms. Howard said.

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