What I do

What I do: Desiree Sandoval, guidance counselor

Desiree SandovalMiller Photography In her third year as a counselor, Sandoval currently works at the East New York Middle School of Excellence in Brooklyn.

What’s your caseload like?

I have 25 students as a mandated counselor, meaning my focus is to make sure they get their IEP services. That includes individual counseling for students who need a safe, quiet place. It also includes group counseling for kids who are overcoming shyness or ones who lack certain skills that can lead to frustration and then to acting out around others.

It sounds like there’s a major “but” lingering at the end of your sentence.

But guidance counselors do so much more! Can you imagine a school where a counselor just worked with the mandated students, whether it’s 25 or 100? We need to build a rapport with all students, and staff as well, since we work with them, too — whether helping teachers with classroom management or helping any of the building personnel in identifying and reporting child abuse, for example.

Is there such a thing as a typical day for a guidance counselor?

That’s a topic we counselors always bring up when we’re together! How can we put a schedule together when we don’t know what to expect when we walk in the door in the morning? You have to deal with putting out fires — a lot of crisis intervention.

What are some of the curve balls coming at you?

A student comes in with a bruised face and won’t talk and keeps his head down on the desk. A parent knocks on my door and says, “Ms. Sandoval, I’m going to be evicted and there’s no money to feed my children. What should I do?”

So how do you help people in crises like that?

You get the child to open up. You refer the parent to a good family support agency.

Is knowing what help there is outside the school building part of your job?

Absolutely. It is good practice to know of all outside providers. It is good practice to know what outside services students and their families are getting. It is good practice for us to be very connected within the community.

The challenges are evident. What are some of the rewards?

When a teacher comes to you and says that the shy child stood up and solved a math problem on the board in front of the class. When that student with anger management issues tells you that she was cursed at and she counted to 10 and took deep breaths and walked away. When that parent comes back and says thanks for the referrals, I’m back on my feet now and providing for my children. Those are huge rewards.

Anything else we should know about what guidance counselors do?

In middle schools, we help kids with working papers, with high school applications, and we’re involved with just about every school committee, working into the evenings.

When do you sleep?


Seriously, how do you unwind?

Every single day when I come home, I turn on the shower and the sink and close the bathroom door and just sit there and listen for 15 minutes. That’s my meditation, my reprieve; the sound of running water soothes me.

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