0.1 - The Role of the Facilitator (You)
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
Counselor as Dropper of Keys
This is how I see the role of the facilitator in this process. I choose the word “facilitate” here because it means “to make easy” and I think that’s what we’re doing here: making things easier for our students.
Counselor as Shaman-Midwife
Another way I think of my work began as a sort of joke. Before a workshop at Malibu High School, I was asked to explain my role in a few words. On the drive there I came up with this:
On the one hand, I help guide students into a dream-like state where they’re able to communicate with their unconscious minds. In that state, I help them generate images and symbols that they capture on the page. Then, together, we make meaning out of those symbols that can be useful both in the personal statement writing process and in life. In this sense, the work isn’t unlike shamanic traditions--making meaning out of dream symbols that can be useful in waking life. So in some sense we might say this work is shamanic. But that’s a bit lofty.
On the other hand, as a counselor I am not actually necessary. When it comes time for the essay to be written, something will undoubtedly emerge, whether I am present or not. “This baby will be born with or without me," I like to say, "My job is to make the process as painless as possible.” In this sense, then, the work isn't unlike midwifery.
So you can call me a shaman-midwife.
What’s your metaphor?
I recommend claiming a metaphor as you begin this process, and by “claim” I mean to seize as your own in a psychological sense (not, of course, by claiming you invented it). I find the poem above and the joke below it serve to anchor me, and I often share the “Dropping Keys” poem at the start of my workshops with counselors. Feel free to use it with your students--it’s a good one--as you'll be asking them to access their own key-dropping potential, or find your own.
Counselor or Teacher or Facilitator?
I’ll be using all three of these terms in this guide. If you’re leading a workshop using the tools I describe, I believe you are all three.
College Essay or Personal Statement?
To me they’re the same thing, and I’ll use the terms interchangeably here.