School counselor induction and the importance of mattering.
Student counselors (Social aspects)
School administrators (Social aspects)
Curry, Jennifer R.
|Publication:||Name: Professional School Counseling Publisher: American School Counselor Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 American School Counselor Association ISSN: 1096-2409|
|Issue:||Date: Feb, 2012 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 200 Management dynamics|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
This study explored the personal and professional needs of novice
school counselors and the ways in which they feel mattered through
qualitative methodology. Findings revealed that mattering manifested
through interactions with administrators, positive student connections
and student success, and collaborations with others. Factors that
reduced feelings of mattering included lack of formal interaction with
administrators, ineffective transition processes, and lack of an
assigned, formal mentor.
School counselors enter schools with existing organizational structures, cultures, histories, and institution-specific practices. Although school counselors generally experience a practicum or internship in which they have counseled in a school (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs [CACREP], 2009), once hired, they often enter a system that is completely new to them. The introduction into a system can bring a host of professional challenges for emerging school counselors, who must acclimate to the context of their particular schools. The purpose of this investigation was to determine how novice school counselors' personal and professional needs were met, through a framework of mattering. School counselors face many obstacles in the course of their work. They must be culturally competent, proficient in assessment and use of data, and effective counselors, leaders, and advocates (Amatea & Clark, 2005; American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005). Further, school counselors balance large case loads, low social status, student crises (Baggerly & Osborn, 2006), role ambiguity, role conflict, and the lack of a unified, professional identity (Amatea & Clark, 2005). Counselors experience work-related and institutional stress factors, such as implementing comprehensive school counseling programs based on the ASCA (2005) National Model within systems where stakeholders may expect the counselor to function in an antiquated model (Escandon, Kroes, Boren, & Stewart, 2007; Scarborough & Culbreth, 2008; Young & Lambie, 2007). These factors contribute to occupational stress (Young & Lambie), which negatively correlates with career satisfaction and commitment and positively correlates with burnout and attrition (Baggerly & Osborn; Rayle, 2006; Wilkerson & Bellni, 2006).
Equally concerning, stress impacts job performance by impairing school counselor functioning, which may lead to emotional exhaustion, a lack of empathy and compassion, poor judgment, and increased risk to clients (Wilkerson & Bellni, 2006; Young & Lambie, 2007). Novice school counselors might be most vulnerable to issues of stress and job impairment because they must acclimate to the culture, learn structures and practices of the school they serve, and plan, develop, and manage a program for unfamiliar students and stakeholders.
Although many novice professionals are formally inducted into the organizations in which they work, induction processes differ. Schlecthy (1985) stated that some common types of induction activities include clearly stated expectations, clinical supervision, demonstrations and coaching, constructive feedback, time, support for learning new skills, and resources such as additional training. Later, Matthes (1992) asserted that education is unique in that it is a profession that has an implicit expectation that novice workers will be able to perform the same tasks with the same competence as experienced workers. Further, little support is given to novice school counselors as they begin their professional lives (Matthes).
Using survey research methodology, Matthes (1992) studied induction processes experienced by novice school counselors. With the exception of one participant, all first year novice counselors were expected to carry the same work load as experienced counselors. Further, 77% of novice counselors had not been assigned a mentor, and resources such as discretionary funds, clerical staff, and referral services were inconsistent and minimal. Many new school counselors felt isolated and Matthes described their induction as "sink or swim." The study provides a glimpse of the challenges facing counselors; however, the sample size was extremely small ( N = 40), little information was given on the instruments used to collect data, and the data was collected in 1986, prior to implementation of the ASCA (2005) National Model. However, Matthes appears to be the first to attempt to systematically study school counselor induction.
Although little work on school counselor induction has been done since Matthes's 1992 study, other researchers and scholars have proposed similar issues about school counselor induction. For example, Stickel and Trimmer (1994) contended that beginning counselors need some type of process that affords the opportunity for formalized reflective practice. Reflection leads to greater problem solving, enhances decision-making processes, and allows individuals to define their actions within the context of the systems in which they work and develop patterns for dealing with complex issues. Thus, Matthes and Stickel and Trimmer provide concrete examples of induction components that may be useful for novice school counselors including formal mentoring, professional resources, and reflective practice. Despite this, a paucity of research exists on whether school counselors are benefitting from such practice.
Learning from Teacher Induction
The teacher induction literature provides a basis for understanding how elements of support may ameliorate potential occupational stress experienced by novice counselors. As with the school counselor research, working conditions play a significant role in teacher career satisfaction and commitment (Loeb, Darling-Hammond, & Luczak, 2005; Protheroe, 2011) and are correlated with attrition and retention (Boyd, et al., 2011; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004; Weiss, 1999). Novice teachers are more likely to leave the profession when they experience limited social relationships and professional collaboration, autonomy in decisions, student success, and administrative support (Allensworth, Ponisciak, & Mazzeo, 2009; Boyd, et al.).
In contrast, novice teachers are more likely to remain in the profession if they receive planned personal and professional support (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Ingersoll and Smith (2003) ascertained that 40-50% of novice teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Subsequently, Smith and Ingersoll determined that first year teacher attrition rates were reduced from 20% to 9% when teachers experienced multiple induction elements. The teacher induction literature suggests that such induction elements may include a trained mentor, orientation programs, ongoing participation in collaborative planning with other professionals, planned and informal interaction with administration, high-quality professional development, and reduced workloads or extra resources (Bickmore, D. L., & Bickmore, 2010; Smith & Ingersoll).
Beyond being new to the profession and experiencing the stress of school counseling, novice school counselors also have personal and professional needs. Professional needs include quality professional development, mentoring, feedback, collaboration, reflection, and supervision (Stickel & Trimmer, 1994). Personal needs include feeling accepted by coworkers, balancing work and home life, feeling appreciated, and mattering (Rayle, 2006). Mattering encompasses the personal and professional needs of novice school counselors and therefore deserves indepth consideration.
Does Mattering Matter?
Mattering is considered an essential human experience that rests on the belief that humans are an important part of the world (Elliott, Kao, & Grant, 2004; Tucker, Dixon, & Griddine, 2010). Elliot, Colangelo, and Gelles (2005) stated, "mattering implies that people invest in us because they are sincerely interested in furthering our welfare" (p. 224). Elliott and colleagues contended that when a person feels they do not matter to others, the results are devastating, which may lead to feelings of low self-esteem and contribute to isolation and depression. Given that social support can promote feelings of mattering, it is important to consider how the school environment might meet the personal needs of novice school counselors. As noted by Schieman and Taylor (2001), the environmental and behavioral exchanges that occur in the workplace arc important to development of feelings of mattering. Yet little is known about how mattering affects the experiences of novice school counselors.
Evidence does exist, however, that mattering is valued among K-12 students in their relationship to adults and peers in schools (Bloch, 2009). Specifically, mattering may increase students' feelings of cohesion, belonging, and positive school climate (Bloch; Tucker et al., 2010). Mattering is also associated with overall wellness and positive coping, and, when students feel they matter, their motivation increases for dealing with academic difficulties (Rayle, 2006; Tucker et al.) and decreases in misconduct (Bloch). Mattering may also mitigate negative factors such as stress (Rayle) and is a significant moderator of suicidal ideation (Elliott et. al, 2005). Based on these findings, one may conjecture that, for novice school counselors, mattering might contribute to personal needs by helping the counselor feel accepted as part of the school team, bolstering self-confidence through the belief that one's work is appreciated, and by decreasing feelings of stress.
Nevertheless, mattering is a complex construct. According to Rosenberg and McCullough (1981), mattering has three distinct components that were later content validated by Elliott et al. (2004). These three components are (a) attention mattering, the perception that other people take notice of what one is doing (e.g., others recognize the individual, remember his or her name, focus on the individual, don't ignore or avoid spending time with him/her); (b) importance mattering, when one believe others are concerned for and are invested in his or her future (e.g., one perceives that others invest resources in him or her, promote the individual's well-being, take pride in and care for him or her, give constructive feedback, and inconvenience themselves to help the individual); and (c) dependence mattering, the perception that others need the individual because he or she is uniquely valuable (e.g., others seek advice and resources from him or her, miss the individual when absent, value the input and contribution he or she makes) (Elliott et al., 2004). Which of these components is most valuable or if they equally contribute to feelings of mattering is not clear. Moreover, little is known about how mattering impacts the perception of personal and professional needs being met. Yet, in a study conducted by Rayle (2006), results indicated that a positive, significant relationship existed between mattering and job satisfaction while a significant negative relationship existed between mattering and job related stress. However, Rayle was not solely investigating novice counselors, so any differences between novice and experienced counselors perceptions' of mattering are unclear.
Purpose of the Study
The findings reported here were part of a larger study on school counselor induction. The purpose of this embedded investigation was to ascertain novice school counselors' perceptions of how (and if) their personal and professional needs were met through formal or informal induction processes. Given the high stress and burnout risk of school counselors, this research highlights practices that added to novice school counselors' belief that their personal or professional needs were met, as framed within the construct of mattering. In this process, the study also investigated ways in which their needs were not met. Using a social constructionist framework (Koro-Ljungberg, Yendol-Hoppey, Smith, & Hayes, 2009) the researchers posited the following questions: (a) What contributed to feelings of mattering for novice school counselors? (b) In what ways were the mattering needs of novice school counselors not met? (c) What induction elements contributed to perceptions of mattering?
As part of a multi-case study (Stake, 2006) examining the induction of novice school counselors, the investigation reported here was based on a constructivist paradigm. Specifically, a constructivism paradigm within the interpretivist lens, as outlined by Koro-Ljungbergy, Yendol-Hoppey, Smith, and Hayes (2009), grounded the researchers in the subjectivity and perceptions of counselors as they experienced their induction. This research was conducted in three different school districts in the southeastern part of Louisiana. Researchers elicited the perceptions of seven novice counselors to answer the research questions.
Researchers in Context
A critical element of qualitative investigations is the researchers. They are considered one of the research instruments, as they are a temporary presence affecting the fives of participants (Rossman & Rallis, 2003). The authors chose to use interpretivism to frame and analyze data in this embedded study of novice school counselors. Through an interpretivist approach, researchers look at general principles of how individuals in a system interact within a particular circumstance. Data is not meant to be generalized; patterns are noted and the researcher seeks to explain relationships specific to the individuals or systems studied (Chih Lin, 1998).
Beyond claiming an interpretivist framework, the authors also viewed data as scholars and through the lenses of their prior roles as a school counselor (Curry) and school administrator (Bickmore). The a priori assumptions were that limited or no formal induction processes would be in place for novice school counselors, based on the authors' professional experiences as researchers and practitioners.
In the original case study, the authors used purpose fill and convenience criteria sampling, as outlined by Collins, Onwuegbuzie, and Jiao (2007), to select participants, seven novice counselors and five principals. Novice counselors were defined as those in their first or second year of service or in their first year in their school setting. Four criteria guided participant selection. First, the authors identified new counselors in Louisiana, a state that had recently adopted the ASCA (2005) National Model of school counseling and was in its first year of implementation. Focusing on new counselors in this state allowed the authors to identify potential induction processes related to this implementation. Second, the authors narrowed potential counselor participants to those that had either graduated from the university in which the authors worked, which emphasized the ASCA National Model, or had attended one of eight model trainings provided by the first author, Curry. In the authors' original unpublished research study, one of the questions was how the ASCA National Model was represented in the induction programs of novice counselors. Thus, selecting people who knew the model allowed the authors to make this connection. Third, the authors identified the settings in which new counselors worked. The goal was to have counselor representation from a spectrum of settings including rural, suburban, and urban settings, and public, private, elementary, middle, and high schools. The authors were also interested in the induction dynamics of schools with only one counselor compared to settings with multiple counselors in the school. With these criteria in place, the final selection was determined by proximity to the university in which the authors work. Once novice counselors were identified, the authors contacted the counselors and their principals. All nine participants (see Table 1 for characteristics) identified agreed to participate. For this study, the researchers isolated the novice counselors as the focus of analysis because the authors were only interested in these participants' perceived feeling of mattering.
The authors' original multiple case study employed several data sources: interview of novice counselors and their principals, observations, documents, and archival data. The purpose of the original multi-case study was an exploration of school counselor induction processes. However, in the process of coding and referring to their analytic memos, the authors were struck by the ongoing expression of how personal and professional needs appeared to be manifested through the individual counselors' perceptions of mattering within the context of the induction process. Therefore, the authors developed new research questions and reanalyzed the counselor interview data focusing only on personal and professional needs and mattering. Novice school counselors were interviewed twice, once in the fall and once in the spring. During the interviews, a semi-structured interview protocol was followed.
Questions in the original research interview protocol included: What have been your greatest struggles? What have been your greatest successes? In what ways were you made to feel valued? What could the school and individuals at this school have done to better meet your needs? All interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed. The original interview protocol yielded data that led to the development of the research questions in the study reported here and the findings that follow.
The original analysis of interviews followed a recursive coding and theme-building process (Stauss & Corbin, 1998). Prior to the initial coding of the data, the researchers developed two frameworks. The first framework identified various induction components found in the teacher induction literature: mentoring, orientation, administrator, professional development, and counselor collaboration. The second identified elements of the ASCA (2005) National Model (direct services, indirect services, program planning, and evaluation) and issues of counselor concerns identified in the literature (stress, advocacy, role conflict). During the coding process, in vivo and additional codes were identified and added to the code list. Researchers coded all counselor interview transcripts together, using Atlas-t.i. 6 software (Scientific Software, 2010). As the coding process concluded, the authors began to see a pattern of personal and professional needs and mattering in the novice counselor interview's. This led to the new research questions and a reanalysis of the school counselor interviews only. Several new codes were added for reanalysis including a code for mattering that was overlaid on the original coding schema. Once the reanalysis was completed, codes that correlated were merged to form categories, and coding continued until a point of saturation occurred and no new codes contributed to categories (Creswell, 2007). The findings present the analysis of categories leading to the discovery of several latent themes.
Ethical considerations included Institutional Review Board (IRB) and a plan for referral to mental health services in the event that a participant of this study gave indication of unmanageable stress or other mental health concerns (Robinson & Curry, 2008). The authors also increased rigor by addressing credibility, transferability, dependability, and conformability (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). To address these issues, both authors collected data, included multiple novice school counselors as sources, and had prolonged engagement with the participants over the course of a year (Creswell, 2007). The researchers triangulated the data and analysis by completing member checks; all novice counselors were given their transcribed interview and all responded back in agreement with the interview as transcribed. By coding and analyzing data together and developing reflective memos to document thoughts, perceptions, biases, and reactions, the authors employed what Stake (2006) considered the most important triangulation technique, multiple eyes on the analysis. Memos were used to expose and bracket the authors' biases as former school practitioners (school counselor, principal) and to delineate the differences between and among codes. The purpose of these trustworthiness techniques was to capture any experiential data or researcher bias that might interfere with or affect the researchers' understanding and interpretation of participants' statements (Rossman & Rallis, 2003) and provide a "thick" description of the participants' experiences (Creswell, 2007). Finally, the researchers attempted to contextualize the data politically, culturally, socially, and historically to better understand the phenomenon described (e.g., Curry, Smith, & Robinson, 2009).
Three themes emerged that indicated increased feelings of mattering: administrator interactions, student connections/student success, and relationships with stakeholders. A fourth theme surfaced based on factors participants revealed that actually reduced feelings of mattering. All participant names used are fictitious.
The administrators (principals, assistant principals, superintendents) were critical to the development of feelings of mattering. These relationships manifested feelings of mattering for novice school counselors in two ways: formal and informal interactions.
Subtheme: Principal interaction--formal. Formal interactions with principals included regularly scheduled meetings with the principal, counselor(s), and others (e.g., assistant principals, deans, academic coordinators). These meetings were procedurally consistent and systematic, which assisted the novice school counselor in understanding expectations of them and other educators' roles (Schlecty, 1985). More importantly, the meetings positioned the school counselor as an integral part of the leadership team with input on school-wide decisions and access to critical information leading to a sense of importance and value within the school community. For example, study participant Bianca found meetings to be helpful as they were a time for the principal, assistant principal, counselors, and academic coordinators to organize, collaborate, prioritize upcoming events, and highlight counselors' achievements.
Bianca felt acknowledged and important (attention and importance mattering); the time spent by the administration to recognize her accomplishments and to assist her in organizing her goals and tasks was an investment in her success as a novice school counselor (importance mattering). Participants felt a sense of prestige or status from their alignment with the administration. Although a few of the participants did not have this type of regularly structured, formal principal interaction, for those that did, it was a strong component of why they felt they mattered.
Subtheme: Principal interaction--informal. All of the novice school counselors in this study felt a sense of mattering based on positive, often brier, informal interactions with administrators, such as the counselor dropping by to discuss a student with the principal or impromptu consultation between the counselor and principal. Many of these interactions included verbal acknowledgment of the counselor's work and importance (attention mattering). Often, principals gave personal support as exemplified by Robin, when the principal consoled her after a difficult interaction with a parent.
Robin's interaction with her principal reinforced his concern for her as a person, thus meeting her personal needs for feeling supported, encouraged, and cared for (importance mattering). Within this theme, principals provided the novice school counselors with attention, importance, and dependence mattering through formal and informal interactions. From the school counselors' perspective, the principals were invested in the school counselors' success.
Theme: Student Connections/Student Success When it came to feelings of mattering, relationships with students were vital for all of the novice counselors. Three major types of student interactions manifested in mattering: reliance, student success, and student appreciation. Reliance resulted in feelings of mattering when students sought the counselor's assistance, promoting a sense that counselor's expertise was valuable to the student (dependence mattering). Dependence mattering occurred when counselors believed that their interventions contributed to student academic, behavioral, and personal/social success. Finally, novice counselors' feelings of mattering occurred when they received appreciation from students (attention mattering).
Subtheme: Student reliance. Reliance manifested when students needed the counselor's services or relied on the counselor for help. As stated by Theresa:
All novice school counselors in this study had related stories about the ways in which students relied on them and how this contributed to their sense of mattering (dependence mattering).
Subtheme: Student success. Another student connection experienced by novice school counselors was the sense of accomplishment when students were successful. This manifested variably as importance and dependence mattering. As Robin expressed:
Beyond academic success, improvement in students' behavioral or personal/social concerns was perceived as equally rewarding for novice counselors. Novice counselors discussed intervening to assist students with issues such as divorce, behavioral disruptions in class, motivation, perseverance, and conflict resolution. Jessica highlighted a specific instance:
Subtheme: Student appreciation. Related to student success, many novice school counselors mentioned the importance of students' acknowledgment of what their work meant to the students (dependence mattering). Jessica told a story about a school wide holiday celebration activity and receiving notes from students saying, "You were there for me whenever I needed you." Natalie noted that students' expressions of gratitude helped her feel valued (attention and importance mattering). Specifically, she stated, "Hugs from kids, drawings, paintings; anything from the kids. They are really good at making me feel validated."
Theme: Relationships with other stakeholders Subtheme: Counselor Team/informal mentorship. Being part of a counselor team was especially helpful to some of the novices, although there were exceptions. Counseling teams affirmed and encouraged (importance mattering) members, as reflected by Theresa:
A special bond occurred when a team had more than one novice school counselor. Two schools had this unusual dynamic in which more than one school counselor was novice and an experienced counselor was present to help guide the novice counselors. This constellation allowed novice school counselors to relate to the other's frustrations, triumphs, and concerns while receiving support and encouragement (importance mattering).
Although the counseling team was important, so was mentorship. None of the seven novice counselors was assigned a mentor; however, informal mentorship helped novice school counselors by giving them an opportunity to ask questions and garner support from a more experienced counselor. Informal mentors assisted novice school counselors in understanding school-based policies and procedures and by giving the novice a resource for asking day-to-day questions (importance mattering). Although Theresa was not assigned a mentor, she described her relationship with the senior counselor at her school:
Subtheme: Teachers. Teachers also played a vital role in how mattered novice school counselors felt, especially through personal support and acknowledging the novice school counselor's progress with students (attention and importance mattering). Amber stated:
In addition, for some of the novice counselors, teachers promoted a sense of belonging and welcome that met the personal needs of being part of a community (importance mattering). Robin exemplified this experience:
Teachers expressed gratitude to the novice school counselor for their help, meeting both a personal and professional need. This was not always done in large ways, as expressed by Melissa, "It comes from the teachers, nothing formal, but just a 'thank you' or a 'you did a great job at this', 'we really appreciate it' ... just little things along the way." Of equal importance was the feeling that the counselors and teachers were working together, that they were truly collaborating. Theresa stated, "... we just feel like we are working in our own little world and nobody else is noticing but they do, the teachers do."
Subtheme: Parents. Parents were also a source of support and mattering for novice school counselors. Sometimes this support came in the form of compliments on work performance (importance/attention mattering) as in this statement from Bernecia:
The compliments given by parents let Bernicia know that she was valued and welcomed. Novice school counselors also felt valued when parents relied on their expertise (dependence mattering), as expressed by Melissa:
Theme: Mattering Needs Not Met
While the above themes contributed to a sense of mattering for novices, other factors negated feelings of mattering. These factors were encompassed in five distinct subthemes: professional development that was either poor quality or did not have a counseling focus, lack of orientation, ineffective transitional processes, lack of formal mentor, and administrator issues.
Subtheme: Poor quality professional development. Every novice school counselor displayed some degree of frustration with the lack of quality professional development to enhance their work performance. Most of the professional development they received was teacher oriented and often focused on antiquated duties out of the scope of the ASCA (2005) National Model. Not receiving professional development that fit with their role and supported their development lessened the feeling that others were invested in them (importance mattering). When asked about what district level professional development she received, Amber responded:
As an elementary counselor with no school counseling colleagues in the building, Amber needed quality, training to be able to perform her responsibilities. Without a mentor to rely on and poor training opportunities, she felt that she was left on her own to figure things out, lessening her feelings of mattering. Others found the professional development to not be additive, and on occasion, a waste of time at both the district and school level, dampening their belief that their unique role is important enough to warrant professional development specific to them (importance mattering). Melissa described a required in-service day at the school that was directed toward teachers:
Subtheme: Lack of orientation. All of the counselors in this study noted that they did not get a helpful orientation. Therefore, they did not perceive that their roles had been clearly defined and they did not fully understand what was expected of them or the logistics of their settings (professional needs). Bernicia described the typical orientation:
All of the novice counselors also described what would have made orientation more helpful. Five of the novice school counselors would have liked more information on logistics, what one participant called the "nuts and bolts." This included day-to-day information that they felt they really needed in their transition to their new schools. Examples given were how to use the phone and intercom system, where the restrooms were, the structure of the school, how to access students from classrooms, etc. All of the novice school counselors elaborated on how not having an orientation affected them in their first few days as a school counselor. As noted by Robin:
Subtheme: Ineffective transitional processes. Beyond transitional issues related to orientation, novice school counselors were expected to perform at advanced levels without needed support. Novice school counselors were not given adequate time or training to complete expected tasks such as programming, service delivery, and developing curriculum, nor were they given clear expectations or clarification of responsibilities. For instance, Theresa was asked to implement a major curriculum project and was given no resources or planning time to do so. She said:
Subtheme: Lack of formal mentor. None of the novices had been assigned formal mentors. For those with an experienced counselor at their site, it was assumed by the novice that the experienced counselor would serve as their mentor. Moreover, the novice counselors were frequently the ones who initiated that relationship. As a result, the mentorship had no structure: no training, role definition, formal activities, or consistency. This was problematic when it came to mattering: the perception of an investment in their professional development (a personal and professional need) was compromised by not having a formally assigned mentor. Further, the informal mentorship was neither efficient nor effective as evidenced by the novices having to continually seek help and ask questions rather than proceed through a systematic, structured format. Bernecia noted the frustrations and the amount of time spent seeking answers repeatedly, "well ... by the time I get to the fourth person, fifth person, they'll know the answer." In addition, she received little formative feedback or constructive support to assist in improving her performance. She stated, "For one of my classroom visits that I had for a week, the senior counselor peeked in a few times and she gave me some tips, but that was it." Robin, another novice, sought feedback from a supervisor at another school whom she paid to supervise her for licensure hours and was able to get many of her questions answered through that relationship.
The lack of a formal, assigned mentor was especially troubling for Amber, an elementary school counselor at a site without a more experienced counselor. In this situation, she had to seek an informal mentor at another school. When asked what support she received from her school or district, Amber stated:
Having no mentor greatly added to Amber's stress level. She eventually found her own solution to the problem of being isolated as a novice elementary school counselor. During the interview, she cried after describing the lack of support. The effect of not assigning a formal mentor to the novice counselors, particularly Amber, resulted in a lack of importance and attention mattering. In general, the participants felt that their districts were unaware of the struggles of novice counselors and did not invest in their personal and professional growth.
Subtheme: Administrator issues. For three of the novice counselors, feelings of mattering were reduced when principals did not structure formal time to meet with them. This led some of the participants to feel the principal did not recognize their potential contribution (attention mattering) or that the principal was not invested in them personally (importance mattering). This was particularly frustrating for Robin in her second year as a novice counselor. In her first year at her school, the principal had meeting times with her but a different principal in her second year did not. She lamented the lack of structured meeting times with the principal.
This lack of formal interaction was a devaluing experience from Robin's perspective. Possibly, Robin also felt a loss of prestige within the school from her first to second year. As previously mentioned, novices felt a sense of importance mattering when principals included them in decision making and entrusted them with confidential information. Theresa was also frustrated by the lack of a reporting structure in the administration at her school.
Frustrating for Theresa was that reporting structures changed without explicit instructions or expectations. When she needed answers to problems, she was unsure who to contact for what.
The primary aim of this study was to understand how induction elements (formal or informal) contributed to novice school counselors feelings of mattering. Novice school counselors, like teachers, have personal and professional needs and mattering contributes to meeting both. These authors view mattering as providing a useful framework for conceptualizing personal and professional needs of novice school counselors and for determining whether needs are met. The personal needs of novice school counselors are similar to the needs of novice teachers and include a sense of belonging, self-confidence, being effective, handling stress, and self-esteem (Bickmore, D.L. & Bickmore, 2010; Gold, 1996). These needs are met through recognition by others in the school (attention mattering), collaboration with collegues, student connections and success (dependence mattering), and feelings that the principal and colleagues are invested in the novices' personal growth and development (importance mattering). Professional needs include the practices that lead to successful counseling and positive student outcomes (Feiman-Nemser, 2003; Wang & Odell, 2002). Dependence mattering, most often associated with a feeling that others rely on an indiviudal's expertise, can meet both the personal and professional needs of novices. This is done by promoting self-confidence, feelings of efficacy in their work, and reeling needed by others because of their effective use of professional knowledge and skills. Importance mattering can also meet novice school counselors professional needs when they feel that others are invested in promoting their professional development.
Mattering and personal and professional needs can be met through many formal, planned induction elements. Induction elements that most affected novices' feelings of mattering included administrator interactions, student connections/student success, and relationships with stakeholders, all of which contributed to various types of mattering (attention, importance, and dependence mattering). The following induction elements promoted a sense of attention mattering for novice school counselors: principal formal interaction, principal informal interaction, student appreciation, and parent and teacher interactions. Importance mattering was fostered through principal formal interaction, student reliance/success/appreciation, parent and teacher interaction, counselor teams, and informal mentors. Finally, dependence mattering occurred through principal informal interactions, student reliance/success/appreciation, and parent interaction. Although these induction elements supported mattering, they were rarely planned or formally structured. The findings of this research support the concern that induction elements are seldom in place for novice school counselors as they enter the workplace.
Moreover, a lack of formal, planned induction activities contributed to participants' perceptions of not mattering and a sense that personal and professional needs were not met. Missing induction elements included quality professional development with a counseling focus, meaningful orientation, effective transitional processes, a formal mentor, and formal interaction with the administrator. The two issues that seemed to contribute most to a lessened sense of mattering were a lack of orientation and no formal, assigned mentor.
Matthes (1992) illuminated many concerns for school counselor induction, and although the study was conducted nearly 20 years ago, it appears that not much has changed, based on the experiences of participants in this study. Matthes found that novices immediately faced the workload of more experienced school counselors without a transition period to acclimate to the school setting, colleagues, planning activities, or learning the logistics of their role within a particular school. This study's findings confirm that these novices suffered from the same issues presented by Matthes. Further, every one of the counselors in this study suggested that they needed more support in the form of orientation that gave them the nuts and bolts of the operation of the school and acclimatized them to the specific culture and expectations of their role within the school community.
Matthes (1992) also found that novice school counselors were immersed in their work settings without the structured, formal support of an
assigned mentor to help guide them in transitioning to the workplace. When novice counselor needs are not met, for example, through quality mentoring, they felt lost and often used metaphors such as "sink or swim" and finding a "last line of defense" to describe their experience. In regard to mentorship, all the participants in this study had to seek a mentor and the mentors were not trained to provide structured feedback and formal reflection opportunities. These activities, according to Stickel and Trimmer (1994), are necessary to promote problem solving and decision-making skills for novice counselors and for giving them opportunities to apply various strategies in the context of their particular school, meeting their professional and personal needs. Both Matthes and Stickel and Trimmer recommended formal mentoring, as did all of the novice counselors in this study.
Formal and informal interactions with the principal also are essential to feelings of mattering for novice educators, as noted in the teacher induction literature (Allensworth et al., 2009: Bickmore, S.T. & Bickmore, 2010; Scherff, 2009). Principals are positioned to provide a sense of attention mattering by acknowledging the work of novice counselors, importance mattering by investing in their personal and professional development, and dependence mattering by relying on their expertise to meet the needs of students and stakeholders. In this investigation, novice counselors detailed how principals supported feelings of mattering through informal interactions, yet principals missed opportunities to enhance novice counselors' personal and professional needs through formal structures that could enhance a sense of mattering. As noted by Johnson, Berg, and Donaldson (2005), principals play a critical role in developing structures that lead to positive working conditions that support novices, such as orientation, formal mentoring, and collaboration. In this study, novice counselors highlighted that principals did not develop these formal induction structures that would have further provided a sense of mattering.
Because of the limited existing research on school counselor induction, this research is highly exploratory and much of this study was flamed on prior research in teacher induction. Like all qualitative research, the findings of this study cannot be generalized beyond novice school counselors in similar settings. The sample size was limited and further studies should include a wider range of school and community contexts, and include participants from a greater diversity of training institutions.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
Although the findings of this study cannot be generalized much beyond the sample, they may offer salient considerations for principals, counselor educators, school counselors, and district level school counseling coordinators. For instance, the results indicate that formal and informal principal interaction are important for these beginning school counselors, particularly in regard to the sense of mattering and for meeting their personal and professional needs. Principals can work to create a welcoming environment and establish structures to orient novice school counselors to the particulars of their school such as the nuts and bolts, logistics, and protocol of day-to-day functioning of the school. They can also work to ensure that counselors have relevant in-service activities and coordination and planning time for the services they will deliver (such as classroom guidance and small group counseling) as they acclimate to the school and the population served. Principals can also systematically offer informal feedback and develop formal structures that provide novice school counselors access to needed information and decision-making processes.
In conjunction with the principal, district counseling coordinators can ensure that mentors are formally assigned to novices within the same school or across schools. Mentors should be trained to develop mentoring relationships, provide effective Icedback, organize collaborative planning and coordination, and be given time for reflection. District coordinators should also provide meaningful professional development opportunities.
Counselor educators can teach preservice school counselors to recognize the types of personal and professional needs they will have in their novice years, and can work to assist district coordinators in developing mentorship training and professional development that is both quality and additive. Through their counselor training program, preservice school counselors can learn how best to garner support of administrators by requesting time to meet, seeking mentorship from experienced school counselors, and requesting training and professional development from district coordinators. In addition, novice counselors may find support through the larger school counseling community by joining state school counseling organizations and ASCA, where they will have access to discussion boards and multiple resources including the Professional School Counseling journal, podcasts on various topics, ASCA Scene, and ASCA School Counselor magazine. The discussion boards are especially helpful in that novice counselors can ask questions and get answers from counselors all over the country.
Finally, this article illuminates the paucity of research related to school counselor induction and underscores the need for a greater depth and breadth of understanding of novices' experiences. Future research should include a variety of methods (quantitative, qualitative, mixed), contexts, and participant diversity. Studies should also address file antecedents of school counselors' needs, the mediators of effective induction, and the impact of induction on school counselor retention, career satisfaction, burnout, stress, impairment, and student outcomes. So little literature has focused on this topic that the research possibilities are vast.
The teacher literature indicates the importance of planned induction for novice teachers and induction elements for teachers have been widely implemented with success (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). However, little is known about novice school counselor induction processes; specifically, how planned induction elements may contribute to novices' feelings of mattering and perception that personal and professional needs are met. Conversely, the literature gives minimal information about how a lack of planned induction activities may detract from these same feelings for novices.
For participants in this study, administrator interactions, student connections/student success, and relationships with stakeholders all contributed to meeting personal and professional needs through a sense of mattering. However, novices in the study indicated that these induction elements were random and unplanned. This lack of planned induction suggests that little has changed in the induction of novice school counselors since Matthes's 1992 study. Induction could more effectively contribute to meeting novice school counselors' personal and professional needs and enhance feelings of mattering if it included: having an assigned, formal mentor; structured formal interaction with the principal; relevant orientation and meaningful professional development; and structured collaboration and planning time. This was particularly important when the novice school counselor was the only counselor in the building and had no daily access to an experienced counseling colleague.
This study highlights some potentially effective practices for promoting mattering and for using mattering as a framework for understanding how novice school counselors' personal and professional needs might be met. As novices face the risks imposed by global and systemic stressors, compassion fatigue, burnout, and impairment, equipping them with support and structures that promote their success is important. Feelings of mattering and how they are supported through induction processes hold promise for more resilience and effective practice among novice school counselors. Future research on the interplay between induction, personal and professional needs, and mattering of novices, as framed here, holds potential to encourage career satisfaction, commitment, and the longterm vitality of school counseling professionals.
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Yes, we have our regular Monday, 8:00 morning meetings, it's crucial that we're there and we're there on time ... Our meetings entail mostly our efforts and accomplishments as well as our location as to where we are when it comes to the [project] timeline.
... there was a situation last year where a parent made me really upset, and I held myself together in the meeting and I walked out and started to cry and the principal ... he came and talked to me, you know; trying to give me some perspective ...
... I can tell that I'm valued because [students] come in asking for me and coming to tell me they got a D or whatever. So, I think that it makes a difference that I'm here.
It's when you see a student who maybe was tailing and you worked with them and then you see how proud they are because they have really good grades now or whatever ... It's kind of those little successes that makes you feel like "Hey, what I do matters!"
Little successes with kids. One had an outburst in class the other day ... I talked to him, calmed him down, set up a plan with the teachers of him having a signal, when he's getting upset, that he needs to leave the classroom. He came in today because he was upset, gave his signal, walked out, and he calmed down; and he didn't get in trouble.
... we do a good job of affirming each other ... we all have that kind of personality ... So we're constantly either being goofy or envying something good that the other persons doing. We'll say, "Man, I wish I was good at [pause] you're so good at that!"
She's like our unofficial counseling-guru department head ... But she does a really good job of ... saying, "Theresa, you're doing this really well, but we've got to work on this" and then working with me on that in a constructive way. She does hold me accountable ... we're willing to ask for help and she's willing to help us.
I definitely feel valued ... some of the teachers who have needed my help with a student have expressed their gratitude when I have been able to help with the student they have concerns about or little things like that.
Last year, as a first year counselor, I got a lot of positive feedback from teachers and administrators. They flat out told me when I was doing a good job and so that was helpful in knowing "I'm on the right track. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing." It was a very welcoming environment; it was the kind of school where everybody's nice.
I have received numerous compliments from parents and e-mails from the district office because they have seen a parent in Wal-Mart or somewhere and they are very happy that I have come on board. [This] gives me a sense of assurance to know that I am appreciated.
People ask mc for nay opinion and nay input on situations ... parents ... So, that really makes mc feel like, okay ... that what I say and do matters; when they ask nay opinion.
This is where I'm going to get really negative so let mc apologize. But the training really consisted of all of the elementary school counselors in the parish, which is a lot, in one big room, and a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on what 504 is and a packet. So I really don't feel like I was actually trained. Like I said, it's really more of a trial by fire thing. They gave mc the information and kind of sent mc on my way.
"... make sure you're checking attendance" and things like that, which of course don't apply to us. And grade issues or grade books and things like that ... don't necessarily affect our day-today job.
It wasn't geared towards counseling. It just was an orientation for every person in the district as far as teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff, custodial staff, lawn people--everybody was there. It was just a huge in-service day and they had a nationally known speaker to kind of motivate us to get pumped for the upcoming school year.
Yeah, well I felt like I was asking questions all day every day to the point where I was annoying people and so maybe if there had been set aside, ask question time, it would have been a little different than having me every five minutes going to ask.
Initially, one thing they could have done is not put all those brand new things right on us right when we came in, because that was a lot, because that was just a lot, a lot, a lot, ... it was just a lot of pressure ... Our responsibilities were not laid out for us so we were like fumbling through ... You couldn't really plan things out, you couldn't really know what was coming up next, so they would hit you with, ok, so you are in charge of AP.
As far as an orientation, as far as the district saying let's train you or let's hook you up with somebody, there hasn't been anything. I would really say none ... well, I contacted Nancy [a counselor at another elementary school] over the summer because I wanted to just get with her and say "what can you tell me; what can you give me; what do you have that will help me as an elementary school counselor?" ... I was like help, help me.
Last year, we had a weekly meeting with the principal, disciplinarian, the assistant principal and the two counselors. That was very helpful. This year, the new principal didn't want to do that ... I just have to go find him when I need his help ... Sometimes I felt like I couldn't go and ask him about something, depending on what it was ... Because I went and asked him if we were going to have that weekly meeting like we did last year, and he was like "NO." After that, I was like, "Well, does he even want [me here]?"
... I would have felt better and more confident in my position if I would have known who I was supposed to go to and if I knew that person really was the person who could make decisions ... I would go to [the head counselor] for most things but at some point it was like she couldn't make the decision so we would have to go to [the assistant principal].
Table 1. Participant Demographic Data Participant Name School Amber Compton, Applegate Elementary School: urban; public; White female 528 students; 91% F/r lunch; 89% Black, 4% Asian, in her 20s 6% White; no other school counselor in building Natalie Stevens, Buchanan Elementary School: urban; public; White female 625 students; 91% F/r lunch; 5% Asian, 77% Black, in her 20s 14% White, 2.5% Hispanic, 2.5% Multiethnicity; one other counselor Bernecia Bledsoe, Zenith High School: suburban; public; 1355 Black female students; 35.9% F/r lunch; 53% White, 44% Black, in her 30s 1.5% Hispanic, 1% Asian, .5% Multiethnicity; 3 other counselors Teresa Monet, Zenith High School: suburban; public; 1355 White female students; 35.9% F/r lunch; 53% White, 44% Black, in her 20s 1.5% Hispanic, 1% Asian, .5% Multiethnicity; 3 other counselors Melissa Richards, Zenith High School: suburban; public; 1355 White female students; 35.9% F/r lunch; 53% White, 44% Black, in her 20s 1.5% Hispanic, 1% Asian, .5% Multiethnicity; 3 other counselors Robin Yeager, Holy Trinity School: urban; private; 339 students; White female 30% F/r lunch; 54% African American, 41% White, in her 20s 3% Asian, 2% Multiethnicity; 62% Catholic, 38% non-Catholic; no other school counselor in building Jessica Minger, Simpsonville High School: rural; public; 1664 White female students; 32% F/r lunch; 12% Black, 3% Hispanic, in her 30s 85% White, 1% Multiethnicity; 3 other school counselors Employment Participant Name Experience Amber Compton, Taught four years, White female 1st year as a school in her 20s counselor Natalie Stevens, No teaching White female experience, 2nd year in her 20s as a school counselor Bernecia Bledsoe, Taught two years, Black female school counselor in in her 30s another state for three years, 1st year as a counselor at Zenith Teresa Monet, No teaching White female experience, 1st year in her 20s as a school counselor Melissa Richards, Taught two years, White female 1st year as a school in her 20s counselor Robin Yeager, No teaching, 2nd year White female as a school counselor in her 20s Jessica Minger, Four years teaching White female experience, 2nd year in her 30s as school counselor Note. All participants and school names are fictitious to protect the identities of participants; F/r = free and reduced lunch.
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