Staff Interview: Mr. Curtis

Q&A about these unprecedented times with CB West guidance counselor Mr. Curtis.


Liam Price, Editor

In a typical year, Mr. Curtis’s schedule is packed (like the other guidance counselors at West) with Bucks students needing academic, emotional, and personal help always in his office. Now, it’s almost all through emails and other virtual means. But he takes it in stride. He doesn’t leave a single email, question, or concern unanswered, including the emails for the following Q&A.

For more on CB West guidance counselors, make sure to visit their website page here, and follow the new guidance instagram, (@cb_west_guidance).

LP: It is obvious that COVID-19 has upended all of our lives; how has it impacted your work as a guidance counselor?

MC: COVID has changed the world for everyone, and for those of us working in a High School, it is no different. The most dramatic change to my role at West has been what my day-to-day looks like. Having students drop by has been replaced by TEAMS calls or email, which is a stark contrast to what a normal visit looks like. Unfortunately, providing supports for struggling students is difficult through a virtual setting. Given how stressful this Pandemic has been, that is the most concerning part of our new reality.

In addition to that, I’m now spending many more hours responding to emails. Everyone is home at their computer, and daily conversation has been replaced by email. Especially during senior year, I miss being able to get into a classroom or hold a small assembly to check-in with everyone. The weekly TEAMS drop-in sessions have been nice, but only a few students participate each week, and so it just isn’t the same. Did I mention I get a lot of emails?!


LP: You mentioned a weekly Teams drop-in–that’s the first I’ve heard of it. What is it?

MC: So, we’ve posted a notice for a TEAMS meeting every Thursday in the Newsletter, the emails that we’ve sent out to the class, and the College App instruction/step page. The idea was since we weren’t really all getting together because of COVID, we wanted to give the students time each week when Ms. Dallam and I would be on TEAMS to field college related questions.

Pretty much every Thursday we’ve been on an open TEAMS video chat for about a half hour, and students use the same link to drop in and ask their questions. We’ve had a few students join us each week, but definitely more people just directly emailing us.


LP: With all the changes, what has been the biggest struggle for you as a guidance counselor?

MC: The Hybrid/Virtual split has completely changed the atmosphere of the building. Walking around the hallways and seeing one or two students is a much different vibe. Of course, we are all doing the best we can, but it is very different from what we’re used to. With that said, I do have a certain level of concern about COVID spreading, and I’m trying to be cautious about exposure.

So, when I do have a student come by on a Hybrid day, having to keep my distance, wear a mask, and all of the normal guidelines don’t exactly create a very welcoming atmosphere. That is not something I’m happy about, and so trying to balance being here in-person for support while also following the COVID related protocols has been a challenge.


LP: What has given you hope regarding your students in 2020? 

People, in general, are resilient. This is especially true for young people. I do believe our society will get back to some sense of normalcy that doesn’t involve wearing masks and avoiding social interaction. Ideally this will be soon! Knowing many of the students in the Class of 2021, I’m confident that our students will be able to move past the absolute insanity that has been 2020, and go on to live fulfilling, happy lives.


LP: Much of your job seems to be lining students up with resources needed to succeed in whatever they do. What are some resources that you believe C.B. West Students should be aware of to use for school, graduation and career plans, or for their mental health? 

MC: There are some key things you want to have in your toolbox for life and developing a way to take care of yourself is essential. Incorporating some form of daily exercise, consciously choosing to eat well, and scheduling in enough sleep are the foundations to mental fortitude. If someone is still struggling to be well even after establishing those 3 things, then being strong enough to ask for help is a must. There are plenty of ways to seek help, but the SAMHSA website is a confidential way to do so online.

As a High School Counselor, I feel very comfortable geeking out about a career resource like the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Simply put, it’s awesome! Students can access this online at any stage of life to learn how to get into whatever field they are interested in. I realize not many teenagers are interested in learning about what Supply Chain Management is, but the OOH is the place to do it!

One of the biggest resources available to students are teachers. It may sound obvious, but so many students who come by for help haven’t approached their teacher for help. Especially during freshman year of college, seek out help if you are struggling… before you fail a big exam!

Lastly, a major resource that 99.9% of High School Students do not access are parents. This may sound like blasphemy, but you should totally be talking to your parents. As a parent of a 6- and 4-year-old, there is nothing more important to me than the success and happiness of my children. Even though it may not seem like it at times, your parents want the best for you- talk to them!


LP: You, as a guidance counselor, are also a resource to help students. What things should students know they can talk to you (or their respective counselor) about and receive help for?
MC: Anything! Seriously, you should think of your High School Counselor as a real-world Google. If you aren’t sure who to talk to about something, you can see your counselor. Even if they aren’t the person who you can talk with about the thing, they can help you figure out who that person is. Plus, we’re usually pretty friendly people!