The Role of an Educational Consultant
Educational Consulting reflects a wide range of interests, skills, experience, and training. It is a complex field touching upon a range of skills including knowledge of adolescent children, and awareness of a wide range of family, religious, economic, social, and cultural understandings. No child is quite the same as another because of their genetic and biologic uniqueness and their exposures in life prior to and during adolescence. Each of them may require a different approach. There is no such thing as one size fits all.
Today, parents of adolescent children must attempt to guide and pilot their children with an abundance of information not known in earlier generations. Instant and far reaching communications, thanks to our electronic age, add measurably to the responsibilities of conscientious parents. While parents try to encourage their children and provide them with the best chances of success, they must also compete with very diverse value systems, peer pressures and image distorting factors from fashion to material advantages. It is a time of great turmoil for parents and their children.
Children are having less and less time to enjoy the play familiar to older generations. Safety for all of us is constantly threatened by happenings internationally, nationally, and in our own communities. Families are increasingly different in makeup from traditional situations and include married, widowed, adoptive, single, divorced, homosexual, and other arrangements. I make no judgment on families. My work is guided by the needs of children in a fast changing, sound bite world which makes prediction of outcomes an increasingly difficult task.
It is in this framework that I function to help parents and their children find their way, be it careers, college, boarding school, or increasingly in special education. The most common warning signs or red flags come to parents as declining grades, increasing anxiety, rising depression, awareness of phobias, development of genetic differences, intrusion of physical impediments, recognition of chronic illnesses, recognition of learning differences, and differing learning styles. Unfortunately, in our efforts to help children we see more and more labels and less and less attention to identifying solutions and action plans. I see very bright children struggling, others growing up feeling very insecure and reflecting very poor views of themselves. Too many students are self medicating with substances they find in their home medicine cabinet as well as other toxic offerings found on the street or passed on by peers.
It is clearly all of the above and more which makes an educational consultant helpful. Consultants are clearly not all the same and your job in selecting a consultant is difficult. There is no licensing system in the field. Each consultant must demonstrate their competence according to two key factors. First, they need to share their level of education, supervision, and focus of their academic record, along with their training in the field. It is critical to find out whether or not they work for you. Dual allegiance and conflict of interest are concerns in the industry. Secondly, it is important to look at a consultant's achievements in education, their degree of actual contact with children over the length of their practice and the range of children they are able to help. They should be up to date on schools which they use and well traveled to a wide range of schools which they have vetted for placement. The objective of the consultant is a match between the student's needs and offerings of a particular school or program. Meeting with students and following up with them after placement, need to be part of the process whenever possible. Monitoring student progress is important to avoid unnecessary additional placements. Places identified for students, in my practice of consulting, almost always are in places I have visited, places with which I have a track record of success, and people with whom I would trust with my own children or grandchildren.
In those cases when crisis exists, I make a short term placement. I usually visit the child to ensure evaluation is thorough and the student is in a calmer state. (Some exceptions can apply). Virtually all my students who are demonstrating issues which frustrate their trajectory of success are tested by an outside third party at the PhD, Clinical Psychologist level (separate fee according to their fee scales). I insist upon up to date, high quality testing and normally recommend experts who can do such testing properly. (I never have any fee arrangement with such referrals that benefit me). This provides a third party, independent practitioner with demonstrated experience to further strengthen the plans for your child.
I do not simply review records and provide a list of resources for you to pursue. Instead, after assessing the needs of your child including an interview with child and family sometimes together, sometimes separately, collecting a thorough history, reviewing existing testing, as described above, I develop a plan which reflects the child's needs. After this process, I match students with appropriate schools and programs. With my plan in mind, I contact each of the schools and programs I plan to present to determine their receptivity to the particular profile and the possibility of an opening for admission. After this screening, I have parents review my recommendations, consult with websites, and talk with schools and programs. They need to gain understanding in the match of school or program to their child's needs as well as interests. College planning is sometimes done with less direct contact. The consultant should not imply influence in a particular school. I am well known in the field, but believe the students win the day in admission and should do so on their merit. Having served in the admissions office of a competitive college, I understand the process and the importance that a college places on the student's initiative and presentation. Students need to stand on their own record and on their own personal achievement.
Having practiced as an educational consultant serving thousands of students over the years, teaching high school social studies, administering a large public high school as Principal, serving as a Head of School specializing in art, music, theatre, and dance, as well as emotional growth, working with inner city children in Boston, and serving in the admissions office of a competitive college and as Freshman Dean of Students, my resume fits my work. My consulting practice spans 39 years. I offer a top of the line personal service. I do not delegate my work to associates. I know my professional boundaries very well and when necessary, I will make referrals for specialized evaluation material in the best interest of each child. I practice the highest level of ethical behavior on behalf of your child and work with people who honor similar high standards. These are our children, the country's most precious resources. Kids are great!