Since my first steps into the glass doors of Garneau’s Guidance office, I’ve been struck by the teachers’ relationship with students. It’s not uncommon to hear rude voices exchanging frantic words in annoyed tones between receptionists and students, and it’s no surprise to see students storming out of the office shaking their heads and swearing under their breath. From the ridiculous wait times just for a three-minute consult with my counselor over course selections to how I’d always end up being screeched at in an exasperated tone by the receptionists, my own relationship with Garneau’s Guidance department has been less than desirable. Of course, I don’t blame these counselors—they do an excellent job of addressing allof our student concerns, which in a school of nearly two thousand students, is no easy job. Still, it’s never pleasant to interact with cranky counselors, and it’s surprising how quickly (and often) a good day is ruined on account of this.

To this day, I’m unsure of what exactly it is that ticks them off. It is my shirt? Or perhaps my hair? Could it be the way I speak? My voice? My face? My…breath? It’s an incredibly distressing situation to be at arms with a guidance counselor. These are the people to whom you turn for recommendation letters, transcripts, scholarship opportunities, and the ever-important submission of your volunteer hours.


I was dismayed that my relationship with both the receptionists and counselor had such a rocky beginning, though I’m grateful to know that our relationship has much improved since then. Through strategic behavioral experiments by trial and error, I like to think that I’ve become to learn some of the secrets to getting along with guidance. To spare fellow students a similar agony, here are four tips to getting along with Garneau’s Guidance department.


1.       Smile.
The reason this is first is because it’s a little action that makes a lot of difference. If done properly, it’s taken as a universal sign of friendliness and approachability. As you enter the office, smile at the receptionists even if they don’t give you a (second) glance. If nothing else, smiling is going to put yourself in a better mood, which is important in case something irksome happens in the office. While you’re smiling, be patient—it’s not uncommon that the receptionists are handling the concerns of another student, so you’re going to have to wait before they get to handle yours.

2.       Watch your timing.
The guidance office tends to be most crowded in the first ten minutes after-school, and the last ten minutes before school. No one likes a crowded office with twenty students scrambling to have transcripts printed and volunteer hours processed in such a hectic environment, and the guidance department is no exception. It’s nice to time your appointments to avoid the peak hours (or minutes), both so that you can avoid the hectic rush and obnoxious noises of a busy office, and also to make life a little bit easier on the receptionists. If this means getting to school fifteen minutes earlier for a copy of some official papers, or perhaps waiting a little longer after school for some Volunteer hours to be processed, then so be it. Don’t forget that “proper timing” also means not visiting the office to ask for something during the counselor’s lunch hour. Not only would you probably not reach them, but even if you did it’s likely they’d be less-than-happy to be talking to you during their break time. Visit again after school ends, or go again the next morning. It’s surprising how quickly a good mood is ruined by someone screeching at you.

3.       Politeness
This one’s also a given, but it’s incredible how often we forget to be nice to the receptionists and counselors. Instead of firmly demanding a 3:15 appointment with a counselor, try integrating the phrase “May I please” before asking politely. It isn’t easy for the two receptionists to deal with Garneau’s two thousand students, and thanking them after receiving whatever attention you need doesn’t hurt. For the times you feel particularly appreciative and friendly, wish the counselors a nice day. It’s sure to leave a nice impression, and it’s not like you yourself don’t have the calories to burn.

4.       Volume
I’ll admit here and now that I myself struggle very much with this. It’s surprisingly difficult hearing what students have to say if you’re seated behind an elevated desk, especially with the omnipresent background noises of a head office not five meters away. Project what you’re saying, and enunciate while you’re at it to make sure the receptionists don’t become vexed that you’re mumbling. Nothing’s more annoying than repeatedly asking someone what they just said, and having it repeated at the same volume.

Through all your guidance department visits, don’t forget that the entities you’re interacting with are people, too. Sometimes a counselor or receptionist might be having a bad day. Watch their body language—if they seem too out of it on the afternoon you’ve chosen to make your appointment, ask them if there’s a better time to re-schedule. Smile, watch your timing, be polite and courteous, and don’t make too much noise either. The guidance department is such an incredible resource, and it’s only too crucial that you don’t screw up this relationship early on.