Interview with Jeannie Maddox

Counseling Blog Author

School Counselor, Author of Exploring School Counseling

About Jeannie: Jeannie Maddox is a 30 year school counseling veteran. As a graduate of Stetson University, she holds a Master of Education in school counseling and was awarded National Board certification in 2006. In 2014, she was named Elementary School Counselor of the Year by the Florida School Counselor Association (FSCA) and in 2017 represented Florida at the American School Counselor Association Awards in Washington, DC. Jeannie has presented sessions at FSCA for the past three years, at the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference in Athens, Georgia and in her district on creating a data-informed school counseling program. She teaches at Stetson University as an adjunct in their graduate school counseling program and has served as a supervisor for practicum and internship students. Jeannie is president of the Volusia School Counselor Association and actively involved in the Florida School Counselor Association where she serves as a board member, co-chair of the Professional Recognition Committee, and is a member of the Legislative Advocacy Committee. Her blog and Facebook page, Exploring School Counseling, are sites where she shares her experiences, information, lessons, and ideas relevant to school counselors.

[] When did you originally launch Exploring School Counseling?

[Jeannie Maddox] June 2014.

[] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining your blog?

[Jeannie Maddox] My hope is to continue to share my experiences and resources. If it had not been for the generosity of my school counselor mentor and the experienced school counselors I met when I was first starting out, I would have wasted a great deal of time re-inventing the wheel and making many avoidable mistakes. I want to continue share whatever wisdom and resources I’ve gathered along my personal school counseling journey.

[] You’ve been a school counselor for over three decades. How have you seen the field change since you began?

[Jeannie Maddox] There have been so many changes in 3 decades: testing, mental health, and technology come immediately to my mind. However, I think technology and its accompanying blessings and unintended consequences have had the most significant impact in my productivity, creativity, interactions with my colleagues and on the lives of my students. Productivity comes first to mind because when I began, I didn’t have a phone, computer, or the internet. There was no email or Google, and the one Xerox machine was down in the office. I was walking to the office to make or receive calls, using the infamous purple mimeograph machine and the old-fashioned typewriter to create resources, hunting in “clip art” books for art for my newsletters and awards programs. Literally, cutting and pasting little pieces of clipart to sheets of paper I then took down to the office to copy for our assembly programs. Now I have all these things at my fingertips! Literally within 4 square feet of my desk. The upside is creativity is unleashed, my time is used more efficiently, and any resource I could possibly want is available 24/7.

However, the unintended consequences are less faculty and student face-to-face interaction. It is too easy to sit at my desk and send an email. The drop-in visits and chats with faculty and students about family and life are less frequent. Students fill out online requests to see the counselor rather than dropping by or stopping me in the hallway. Students and adults both have become less social in real life in exchange for a social presence online. I have seen a decline in the social skills of students, and some adults, because of their excessive, unmonitored time online. And don’t even get me started on the cyber issues that get brought to school, the inappropriate content being viewed and shared and the safety issues to which students and their parents give little consideration. Technology is wonderful and I am thankful for the way it has enriched my life and my career, however it has created a whole world of problems that did not exist and we could not imagine 30 years ago. Thank goodness for resources like Common Sense Media and Netsmartz. As I write this I wonder, what will today’s school counselors say the biggest changes have been 30 years from now?

[] In your opinion, what is the biggest disconnect, challenge, or underutilized opportunity in school counseling today?

[Jeannie Maddox] The biggest disconnect, challenge, and underutilized opportunity in school counseling today is how school counselors are being used in their schools. Although the ASCA clearly leads the way for school counselors, defining their role and the comprehensive school counseling program, there is no consistent national understanding among our school leadership of who school counselors are and the academic and social/emotional support they can provide for students. The role of school counselors looks different from state to state and even from school to school in the same district. For many school counselors, this looks nothing like the job for which they were trained. We have school counselors who have 4-5 schools, 1500+ students, and duties that seldom, if ever, allow them to deliver a comprehensive school counseling program. There are school counselors who are doing jobs for which a Master’s degree is not required. Do you really need a master’s degree in counseling to coordinate state testing, supervise the cafeteria, handle student records, create the master schedule, or supervise teachers’ use of RTI?

Are our school districts really being good stewards of their human and financial resources when school counselors are employed in these ways? Each day our schools encounter students and families faced with abuse, neglect, homelessness, mental health issues, addictions of every description, and trauma. Yet, the very person who is trained and most qualified to support the student, family, and faculty mental health needs surrounding these situations is often assigned to tasks that prevent them from being available to use their unique skill set. Yes, there are duties and responsibilities we must all share at our schools and “fair share” duties are something I wholeheartedly support. However, when the school counselor becomes so encumbered with duties unrelated to their role and prevented from providing a comprehensive school counseling program to all students, there is a disconnect with our school administration from the top down. The challenge school counselors face is connecting the quantifiable value of our skill set to student academic and social/emotional success for our administrators and school districts.

[] What practical steps do you think school counselors can take to address that issue?

[Jeannie Maddox] Advocacy. School counselors must advocate for themselves and the profession. Start small with your students, staff, parents, and administration. Never assume anyone “knows what we do.” Teach them who we are and what we do. Most are hanging on to some old memory of their “guidance counselor.” Challenge that memory, introduce new learning about school counselors in the 21st century. Students, families, faculty, and administrators will not always be with you, they move and get transferred. They take with them the ideas you have taught them about who school counselors are and what they can be. With that, your influence spreads. Get involved with your local, state, and national school counselor associations for support and advocacy ideas. Talk to School Board members and legislators about the role of the school counselor, it’s not as scary as you think. The only way to correct erroneous views about school counselors and how they are utilized in schools is to share how our profession is challenging students to meet the academic, behavioral, and social/emotional goals they need for success. Whether you have the ideal school counseling situation or the worst, advocating for the profession is important. Challenging misinformation and misperceptions through advocacy is how we make school counseling a service available to all students in all schools, all across America.

[] What is one thing you learned in graduate school that you’ve found to still be helpful for you today?

[Jeannie Maddox] That graduate school and the diploma are not the end of learning. Wherever you are in your career, year 1 or year 30, there is still much to learn, Personal and professional growth are an essential component of a successful career. The world and the field of school counseling are constantly changing. We must learn and adapt while staying true to the core components of the ASCA model. If we don’t stay current, we are in danger of becoming irrelevant.

[] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Jeannie Maddox] School counselors are dream makers. We see hope and light where others may see only despair and darkness. It is up to each of us to educate those in power of the value we offer to students, families, and our schools. We must strive to advocate for our students in every way we can. To tell their stories. To provide for them the services they need and deserve. For those school counselors who are in trying situations, I want to say, take courage. Keep advocating for your students and for yourself. Change takes time, sometimes years. In the meantime, try just one small thing that can make a difference at your school. Look for support from your school counselor colleagues and in your local, state, and national school counselor Associations. Educate your faculty, your staff, administration, school board, and legislators about who school counselors are and what we do. Help others catch the 21st century vision of what school counseling and school counselors can be for all students.

Thank you, Jeannie! Learn more about Exploring School Counseling on our Counseling Blogs list.

Last updated: April 2020