The Professional School Counselor’s Role in Understanding Cultural Diversity and Sexual Minority Youth
A professional school counselor is holding an evening parenting series at her school on the role of parents in supporting academic success as part of the collective literacy initiatives of her school system. At the fi rst session, the professional school counselor emphasizes the importance of creating a separate, undisturbed quiet space for elementary school students to do their homework at night. She tells parents they should take their children to the library once a week and should read books to them in English each night. At the end of the session, each parent is asked to sign a “Parent Contract for Academic Success” as a personal commitment to their agreement to create supportive learning conditions in their home. A number of parents leave before signing the document and never return: One mother feels embarrassed, unable to imagine how a separate homework space could be arranged in her family’s overcrowded apartment, which is shared by three generations in her extended family (nine people). Another father feels embarrassed and ashamed because he never learned to read in his native language and is just beginning to learn English. Another parent has to juggle two part-time jobs to make a living and has to rely on public transportation, which is time consuming. The school counselor is disappointed that attendance is dwindling and feels frustrated that some parents weren’t even willing to sign the agreement. (Adapted from Olsen, Bhattacharya, & Scharf, 2006, p. 1. Adapted and reprinted with permission.)
This vignette is a typical example of the kinds of cultural challenges and misunderstandings counselors, teachers, and administrators encounter when working with children and families whose cultural backgrounds differ from their own without fi rst acknowledging their own insensitivity to those with whom they are serving. Sometimes these situations cause discomfort; occasionally, they are explosive. Sometimes they are viewed mistakenly as merely a lack of connection between cultures. In any case, they often result in disappointing outcomes.