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An elementary school counselor provides guidance to children in large or small group settings as well as on a one-on-one basis. His services may be sought after by a concerned teacher or parent. He may also independently determine the need for guidance by observing children in their daily learning and recreational activities. Common issues presented to an elementary school counselor include intervention involving disruptive students or offering guidance to students with physical handicaps who are experiencing assimilation problems.
The job of the counselor normally includes his participation in curriculum and activity planning. He regularly advises administrators and teachers on which programs are best suited for particular age groups. His advice generally includes suggestions on how to make activities and curricula best fulfill the sociological, educational and developmental needs of the student body as a whole.
If the counselor observes student behavior that he considers atypical, antisocial or aggressive, he may confer with teachers and parents on the issue. The more personal information he can gather on a student, the better equipped he is to determine the cause of the behavior. His evaluation commonly results in recommendations to teachers and parents on how to address, alter or eliminate the inappropriate behavior. If he believes outside evaluation or counseling services may be helpful, he may provide referrals to relevant professionals.
Besides evaluating individual student behavior, an elementary school counselor commonly observes the student body as a whole. He usually discreetly watches the children on the playground, in the lunchroom or in other group situations. Based on his observations, he regularly prepares reports on how children in specific grades or with different teachers develop. His conclusions, whether positive or negative, are regularly used to evaluate the value of certain teaching methods and programs or the job performance of teachers.
Unlike a junior high or high school counselor, an elementary school counselor does not normally provide guidance on career or job choices or substance abuse. His focus is generally on helping the youngsters cultivate communication and coping skills fundamental to academic, social and personal development. If he witnesses problems outside his realm of expertise, such as physical or mental abuse, he is normally ethically and legally required to seek assistance from outside authorities.
A bachelor’s degree in education, psychology or the liberal arts is normally required to qualify for this position. Coursework specific to counseling and human growth and development is desirable. Additional certifications in teaching or counseling are sometimes required and vary by region and vicinity. Experience in teaching or counseling is highly valued for candidates applying for this position.