TBT Recollections of a High School Counselor: Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

Did you ever have to make up your mind?                                                                                                                                                                                      Say yes to one and let the other one ride.                                                                                                                                                                                            It’s not often easy it’s not often kind.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Did you ever have to finally decide?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Lovin’ Spoonful                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                       

decision_ahead_sign_0-221x300One day last week I was faced with a difficult decision involving a student. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say it was serious enough. I don’t deal with discipline problems very often. Normally my boss, the Assistant Principal of Guidance handles all discipline. If she is overwhelmed their are two other AP’s to assist her. If they are not available the counselors are called on to assist. This was not one of those times. In fact the young lady, one of my counselee’s, was sitting outside of my bosses office when I spotted her with a referral in hand. Now I’ve known this girl for nearly four years and know her parents quite well. Her two older brothers are graduates of AHS and I was their counselor as well, so I invited her to my office so we could talk.

I was a little surprised by what the teacher had written on the referral, it didn’t sound like anything this particular young lady would even think about doing! I asked her if what the teacher had written was true and she looked down and away from me, began crying and shook her head yes. I handed her a box of tissues and softly asked her what had happened. A moment or two later she tearfully began telling me her story.

When she had finished I sat back in my chair trying to decide how to handle things. My first thought, which was the easiest solution, was to simply admonish her a bit and pass the situation back to my boss,taking myself cleanly out of the loop. But what she had done was serious and depending on the mood of my boss would result in parents being called and at least a one day class suspension or even a school suspension. Her parents would be mortified. They were old school strict and this would definitely not go well for my young friend. I remembered how tough they had been on her brothers and could only imagine, with her being the only daughter, they would really come down hard on her. And with graduation only two and a half months away! Believe me, I knew her parents would be upset about this much longer than that.

So there I sat faced with this dilemma, what to do?  I liked the kid. She was usually a real sweetheart, and always been respectful to me. I could hardly believe that she had actually done such a thing. Not that she was little miss innocent, by no means, she’d been in trouble before  usually for tardiness, but there had been a few minor problems with some other girls, but never anything as serious as this. What is it they say, “lose lips sink ships.” 

Yeah sometimes making decisions is really tough. We all find ourselves in this situation on occasion, sometimes more often than we like. Oh the circumstances vary, but the process is the same, sorting through facts, weighing the consequences, reviewing possible outcomes, then making a decision we hope we can live with. Do we always make the right decisions? Hell no! That’s how we learn, how we grow. Learning from our mistakes is part of our journey, it makes us wiser, assuming we do learn something that is. For there  are a few of us who seem to go on making the same old mistake ridden decisions over and over again. We just don’t learn.

Now don’t go confusing decisions with choices. We make choices all the time. A choice is usually based on a clear fact and there is usually no emotional involvement. If we make a choice today that we become uncomfortable with, we can change it anytime. To make a good choice all we need to know is what it is we need, desire or believe we are deserving of. A choice satisfies a desire. I’m not going to work today because I’ve been working hard and I deserve a day off. I’m going to the movies Saturday afternoon because I want to see a new movie. These are choices.

Decision are much more complex. They can change the course of events in our lives and can be very emotional. If we make a decision without knowing all the facts or under stress the end result may be unproductive or even disastrous. They are not as easy to change as choices, Once a decision has been made and put into action, one has to go to great lengths to change it. That is why it is so important to take our time when making a decision, we need to really think it out, sort through all the facts again and again, imagine all the possible outcomes and then make a clear, well informed decision. It sounds easier than it is.

I’ve made some poor choices in my life and some bad decisions as well. Those choices only hurt me short term while the effects of my poor decisions or what I would call snap decisions stuck around for years. Snap decisions are those we make under pressure or emotional stress, without thinking them all the way through. Thankfully in time I was able to learn from those snap decisions from my past and move on.

After listening to my students story I could have made a simple choice and chosen not to deal with the student, after all it was already two o’clock in the afternoon and I didn’t want to get involved in a suspension or because I don’t have the authority to suspend students and she would have wound up back with the AP anyway. Instead I chose to handle the situation in my own way. I made the decision to counsel the student work things out right there, no AP, no parents,  just her and I. We talked for about thirty minutes or so and I believe we reached an amicable agreement which included detention and a written letter of apology to the teacher.

Yes, when it was all said and done, I came away feeling especially good about my decision. It was a decision I can easily life with.

Just a Thought…

 

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