Tamika Smith, 28, is a sixth-grade school counselor at Tanglewood Middle School. Smith has been working at Tanglewood for all five years of her counseling career thus far. She works with students both in the Greenville County Schools virtual program and in-person school. In honor of last week’s School Counselor week, here’s a glimpse of her work.
Why did you become a school counselor?
I became a school counselor because I felt that it was very important that students had someone that they could go to, for things that weren’t necessarily academic or career-focused. I didn’t realize that there was someone in the school building who could provide that kind of support for students until I was in ninth grade in high school. But it was the first time ever, I recall, where I went [to a school counselor] to get a schedule changed. I was just about to leave after I told her what the issue was and she resolved it. She said, “Wait a minute, how are you doing?” I was like, “Oh, I’m fine.” And she said, “No, how are you doing?” And I remember going, “Oh!,” and having this big epiphany: People are here who want to talk to us about how we’re doing and if we’re struggling with anything.
What’s a usual day as a school counselor like?
I think the average day for a school counselor is pretty unpredictable. We come in with an idea and plan for the day of what we want to do. For example, the day might consist of being in the halls in the morning with the students to greet them when they come in, working with a student in homeroom, then talking to parents. And pulling students to support them with whatever concern they have or to listen to them about what they’re going through. But that could rapidly change depending on a student coming in or if students are having social conflicts.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your position?
One of the major challenges, especially with the virtual students, is ensuring that we can be there to give them that support. If they were in the school building, it’s very simple. I know that I can go to that kid, pull that kid, do a suicide risk assessment or listen to them about whatever it might be that was happening — I can get to them.
What do you enjoy most about working with students?
Before even becoming a school counselor, I felt like I really wanted to be in a middle school because that was a tough time for me. There’s a lot of changes — we’re growing, we’re developmentally and physically growing at a rapid rate. Our hormones are going; there’s friendship issues, drama, a lot of things about identity in middle school. I enjoy being there for them through all of those struggles, especially in sixth grade, when they’re going from elementary school to middle school, and having that huge jump. There’s just all these changes for them to navigate.
A Day in the Life is an occasional series profiling the people in our community doing the ordinary – and extraordinary – jobs that need doing.
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