Guidance counselors participate in “Student for a Day” project

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Throughout the month of January, guidance counselors took part in the “Student for a Day” project, where they experienced the day-to-day life of a Townsend Harris student by following them through their classes.

Assistant Principal of Guidance Veronica York executed this project when she worked as a guidance counselor at LaGuardia High School and eventually transferred it to Townsend Harris. Her reason for this was to “be empathetic humans who understood what [a student’s] day is like.” Although Ms. York did not actively follow a student, she will continue to facilitate and organize the project. “It’s hard to truly understand what a day is like in your shoes if we never spend a day in your shoes,” she explained.

Guidance counselors selected the students they would follow in different ways. Guidance counselors Kathleen Blakeley and Sara Skoda said they “chose a student who [they] may have had a relationship with already.” On the other hand, counselor Jessica Graf selected her students at random. She said, “I used Google to randomize a number between 1 and 335— my total counseling caseload— and then I ran down my list of students to select the name.”

After the guidance counselors chose their students and received permission, a day was selected that best corroborated with the schedules of the student and their counselor. For example, when students had multiple tests on one day, a regular occurrence, the date was rescheduled. After setting an ideal date, the counselor took a copy of their student’s program and followed it accordingly from class to class. From there, the counselors attempted to live the life of the student as realistically as possible. The counselors even physically moved up and down the stairs instead of using the elevators, a privilege for staff members.

Although counselors followed the program for eight full periods, they did not follow the students. Class periods like lunch or frees were unpredictable, meaning both students and counselors ran on their own schedule for that period, whether they decided to go to the library or cafeteria. When it came to gym, counselors did not fully engage in the workouts. Rather, they sat in the bleachers and observed the class.  

In the end, this activity served as a significant learning experience for the guidance department. When Ms. York first created this project, she said, “Whenever we are discussing a student or a problem we try to see it from all perspectives and the student perspective is an important one in the guidance world.” This experience shed a new light on the workload given to students. Ms. Graf, a new counselor to the school, said, “I have observed students in their classes at my past jobs, but usually for two to three periods at a time. [However], this was my first experience following students for a full day and it offered me more insight on the wide-ranging academic information that students manage.”

“It was nice to see the different side of things,” Ms. Skoda commented. “You guys have a lot going on. Your days are busy and I see that when I do this.”