Ms. Cahill Explains the Pandemic’s Effects on Counselors

Sungwon Chung '22

As a result of COVID-19, many things have turned upside-down for schools all across the world. The pandemic has restricted schools from reopening, forcing both adults and students to adapt to the new method of online learning. Many people understand how students and teachers have been impacted, but in order to understand the impact on school counselors and how they are overcoming the pandemic, getting perspective from a real school counselor is crucial. To accomplish this, Sungwon Chung ’22, a Ridge Devil’s Advocate representative, interviewed Ms. Cahill, a counselor at Ridge High School, to see how she, as well as other counselors, have adapted.


The Role of a Counselor:

According to Ms. Cahill, the role of a counselor is “to be a constant in the student’s life throughout their experience at Ridge. It is our job to help each student find their path, to foster any successes, and to assist in navigating stumbling blocks.” In addition, she states that the relationship grows over the four year progression, and counselors and their students get to know each other better.


The Volume of Student Meetings:

Ms. Cahill says that overall, the number of student meetings remains roughly the same as previous years, at least for technical purposes– such as meeting with seniors for college choices and the typical meetings for schedule and class level changes. However, she notes that there is a difference in the number of casual conversations, as students no longer have the luxury of meeting with their counselors by just popping into their office. Still, people can schedule meetings through Gmail to meet and chat with their counselors and hold the same casual conversations they normally would have during fully in-person schooling.


How students should talk about sensitive topics that they might not want others in the house to hear:

Ideally, students may have a safe zone in their home where they can have their own uninterrupted personal space. However if they cannot do this, Ms. Cahill has a couple suggestions. Some options include stepping outside and joining a Zoom call from there, granted that the temperature and weather conditions allow for it. If this too, is not an option, or the questions are simple and can be answered by email, students may simply email their counselors; though the ideal form of communication would be by Zoom or an in-person meeting.


The shift in communication due to the virtual setting:

Ms. Cahill states that though the virtual setting does not limit communication between her and the students she meets with, there are changes to what is being communicated. For example, she can understand the personality of her students better from the things she sees in their background that catch her eye, such as colorful pictures, stuffed animals, and other similar things. This helps her get to know people better by helping her understand who they are beyond a school setting. Ms. Cahill notes that having Zoom meetings from home may also help students realize that “everyone is human” and that their teachers and counselors have unique personal lives outside of the confines of the school building.


The changes to a virtual work environment:

The shift to an at-home and online work environment requires Ms. Cahill to be more cognizant of the need for balance between her work and her home life.. One of the benefits, however, that was unavailable while she was in school is the fact that she can help her family with quick things if they need her. Although, she acknowledges that there is definitely a greater workload and “it is important for educators to set some boundaries to ensure that their home can also be a place where they can relax and spend time with their family, since their work can easily take over that time.”


Ms. Cahill and the other counselors wish to emphasize that in addition to reaching out to them and to the Student Assistance counselors there are resources for students to handle mental health stressors, particularly during the pandemic. These resources can be found at: It is critical that everyone gets the relaxation and self care that they need. It is especially important right now, that everyone gets the care they need, while dealing with this pandemic.