While most might think they know what school guidance counselors do, Matt Wehrman’s job at McNick covers many responsibilities. While the main “paying” part of his position is as a school counselor, his life also includes broadcasting, softball, among others.
“I usually get here around 6:45. During that time, I’m preparing for the day. If it’s Friday I could be getting ready for video announcements, but for a normal day it’s seeing what I need to do, catching up on emails and phone calls, and all of that stuff. I’ll eat breakfast here because I don’t eat at home during that time, but from there it’s not usually just a ‘typical day’; I don’t just sit and do the same thing every day; it can differ from day to day. In between bells I’ll typically meet with students, or be getting ready for AP tests or any other testing we might be doing. After lunch it’s sort of the same thing, meeting students and preparing other things,” Wehrman said.
Although his daily schedule is busy, Wehrman always makes sure he makes time to talk and interact with students.
“Depending on the day, I can get between 10-15 students to meet with every day…I talk with them about grades, college plans, social things, and anything else they might want to discuss,” Wehrman said.
Often coming along with the job of being a counselor is a multitude of misconceptions. This is no different in the case of Wehrman.
“I would say the biggest misconception is that we [counselors] don’t do anything in here. I would say that’s the biggest misconception, just like that all we do is sit in our offices on our computers, looking at e-mails, stuff like that. We try to meet with every student at least twice a year. We’re also preparing for all of the testing, getting students applied for college, sending transcripts and getting report cards, and then we have IEP meetings, and meetings with parents. We have tons and tons of meetings that we have to go to every week and every year,” Wehrman said.
“Another common misconception is that all we do is talk about feelings, which we do, but we also talk about grades, how things are at home, how things are in class, miscommunications with teachers, test scores, [and] college. I think for so long people have been pigeonholed into this idea that counselors are just here to get kids scheduled for classes,” Wehrman continued.
Most teachers are able to build a rapport with their students quickly, learning about each of their classes, and their individual interests, but with the challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that hasn’t necessarily been the case, according to Wehrman.
“In a normal year, yeah I would say it’s gotten very easy to balance our schedules, because we have very set times that things are happening. This year, though, has definitely been a struggle. Just because of so many other things we’re having to take care of like, who’s in the building, whether or not we have to do virtual or in-person meetings with students. We had to improvise this year with career day, we’ve had to deal with testing, and how that has changed due to COVID-19,” Wehrman said.
“Typically, our goal is to meet with students twice a year, and this year we just haven’t really had the opportunity to get through all of our students because of the vast amount of changes, with college applications and the college application season. Whether that has been things being extended or short[ened,] it has changed things up. Once we begin to filter back to normal, I think things will even back out and we’ll be able to get back to that normal schedule for ourselves,” Wehrman added.
Along with the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, there have also been some positives that have come out of this crazy time.
“I think COVID-19 has made AP testing a whole lot easier this year, for me anyways. I think they’ve put a lot of things in place that have made the planning and the process go much quicker. I think COVID-19 has really forced us to become much more creative in a lot of the things we’ve done. With career days, how we adjusted future focus days, and the virtual aspect of having zoom calls, and stuff like that, I think is just a really big testament to being resilient and being comfortable with that kind of thing. I also think it’s really made it easier to meet with people, to be honest. You have the ability to have a quick text-chat on TEAMS, [and] whether it’s a full video chat with students or parents, it’s made it much easier to communicate on different platforms, and be less time consuming, as well,” Wehrman said.
Wehrman acknowledged that being prepared for tough situations is a very important part of his job. “There’s never going to be a normal situation. Something is always going to come up. Some years you have really a easy time with testing, or students in general, and then other times it’s a constant battle, and you’re constantly trying to get things done. You have to go with the flow, and push yourself to know that nothing is ever going to be the same twice, and you just react to every situation, and you go about it the best way you can. Force yourself to realize that you’re not ever going to be perfect,” Wehrman said.