School counselors are pulled in multiple directions throughout the school year. As the end of the year approaches, it can be very tempting to shove all of your unfiled notes and documents into the far reaches of your desk or in exchange for fun in the sun.
Yes, summer break is a perk (of the job) that I look forward to every year. But I’ve learned the hard way that an ounce of prevention is worth (far more) than a pound of cure.
Putting things off today to do tomorrow doesn’t work in the field of school counseling. The promise of a “tomorrow” that will allow you to get caught up is a myth. I’ve been a school counselor for almost a decade and I have yet to experience a day that doesn’t present its own set of challenges.
So what happens to job duties that tend to get pushed to the back burners? If you’re anything like me you have files for “to be filed” and files for “to read”. Those files tend to get buried by larger priorities and in the end we lose some of our effectiveness when we don’t stay on top of things.
So what kinds of things can you do now to get ahead of the game next year?
1. Do a quick brainstorm of what went well and what didn’t.
It doesn’t need to be fancy. Fold a sheet of paper in half and write what went well on one side and what can use some improvement. Comparing them side-by-side can help you see possible solutions for the not so hot areas by way of the things you did well.
What went well: I used Sign Up Genius to schedule classroom presentations. This saved me a ton of time!
What didn’t go well: A lot of teachers requested me to attend parent teacher conferences and I wasn’t able to fulfill all of the requests.
The connection: Use Sign Up Genius for teachers to request my presence at conferences. If the desired time slot isn’t available then they can either reschedule a time that I am free or I can schedule a follow-up meeting after conferences.
Be sure to review your goals! If you discover too many things are pulling you in too many directions, learn how to say “no” to the what doesn’t matter so can manage your time and have the energy to tackle the things that do matter.
2. Get Feedback to Drive Your School Counseling Program
Gotta love data! No seriously, data is actually a nice four-letter word and it should be an integral piece in determining the services you provide.
Counselors can provide services for emotional, behavioral, social, and academic issues…but we can’t do all of it all of the time. In order to be effective, our decisions must be data driven.
A lot of people have a lot of good ideas. However, just because a few stakeholders thinks something is a good idea it might not be the best choice for your time and resources.
Ideally, it would be nice to get feedback from all of the stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, and principals) but even a quick staff survey can provide a lot of insight into the needs of the classroom. (You can check out my staff survey here!)
Hopefully, you are in tune with the needs your administrator(s). If not, ask to schedule a time to meet to plan for next year.
While everyone in education is experiencing the end of the year time crunch, your admin will appreciate your proactive approach to addressing the needs of the school. Even if they can’t fit a meeting into their schedule, they may be able to share a few of their ideas informally.
Helpful Tip: Request the meeting with your principal by email. Your email request can serve as documentation that you are actively involved in the development of your program and they will be less likely to spring things on you at the last-minute.
3. Create a rough draft calendar of events for next year.
What events/activities need to happen next year? <- Schedule those first.
What events/activities would you like to do next year? <- Schedule those second.
Unfortunately, MEAP takes up 7 weeks out of my schedule every year. No ifs, ands, or buts. Those 7 weeks are reserved.
4. Think about your goals for next year.
Regardless of what type of goals your district requires, identifying possible goals before the year starts can give you a few months head start.
My goal for next year is to teach my students how to resolve conflicts independently. I haven’t worked out the exact wording to form it into a SMART goal yet, but I know it’s an area for improvement (based on my needs assessment). Since I know conflict resolution will be the central idea behind one of my goals, I can work on finding resources (pursue PD) to help me achieve success.
5. Plan PD in advance
I love good professional development and by good I mean learning new skills that will help me support my students.
All PD is not good PD. If you’re already working as a school counselor you know that not all PD is created equal.
Use the summer to pursue good PD! Besides the benefit of actually participating in PD that relates to our profession, you won’t have to rush to get your PD in when your license is up for renewal.
Helpful Tip: If you hold multiple certifications, double-check to make sure your PD that will count towards all of them. I’m pretty lucky when it comes to double dipping since my additional certifications are in special education/emotional impairment. 🙂
6. Create a list of students to follow-up with in the fall.
Maybe your caseload is more manageable than mine, but for me if it’s out of sight it’s out of mind. Following up on a simple list of high priority students can help us get ahead of the game (and boost the student/counselor relationship).
Recess and lunch time are great opportunities to touch base with students within the first few weeks. A quick, “Hey how was your summer?” can mean a lot to a student who feels invisible.
7. Send an invitation to parents to contact you in the fall.
I can only juggle so many balls at once and those balls are usually on fire. Most of the time, I have to operate under “no news is good news” but this can confuse parents and students about what kind of support they can expect next year.
I’ve cut down on a lot of the “Oh, I thought the counselor was going to do that.” by sending out generic cards that thanks the parents for allowing me the opportunity to work with them and their child and invites the them to contact me in the fall if they have any concerns.
8. Purge and file.
My elementary counseling intern mentor told me to keep a copy of everything that might be helpful because you never know when you will need it. This advice is good if you want to be buried in a heap of file folders that you don’t utilize.
When I use an activity/resource I put it in the front of the hanging folder for that category. This lets me determine how useful a resource is and if its worth hanging onto. Resources in the front are keepers and those in the back are possible candidates for the recycle bin.
Typically, if I haven’t used a resource in the past 2-3 years the chances are good that I won’t need it in the future.
File notes and resources AFTER you have purged your other files. It’s much easier to put something where it goes when you don’t have to maneuver around resources that are just taking up space.
9. Prep for September’s groups and class presentations.
I start every school year with my meet the counselor lessons and my new student groups. Prepping my lessons and group material in the spring gives me one less thing to worry about in the fall. 🙂
10. Develop Your Online Professional Learning Network.
There are a lot of groups on Facebook for counselors. A few of my favorites:
- Helpful Counselors (The Helpful Counselor’s Insiders Group)
- Play therapy and Counseling Activities
- Counselor Book Club
- New School Counselors
- Counselors covering more than one building
- Elementary School Counseling Exchange
Twitter is another great way to get answers to your school counseling challenges. Just tweet your question with the hashtags #schoolcounseling, #scchat or #ecchat (for elementary counseling related questions).
You can follow me on Twitter @helpfulcounsel.
Instagram is a fun way to get to know counselors in the blog-o-sphere on a more personal level.
Pinterest (I’m a total Pinterest addict!)
I find all sorts of helpful ideas for just about any topic imaginable (LOVE the search feature!!!). You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here or on the image below!
Whew! That was a lot…here’s a quick recap:
A few other posts that will help set you up for success for the following school year:
Hopefully my list gives you a few ideas to help create a smooth transition when you return next year! Do you have any tips or tricks you use when finishing out the school year? I would love to hear them in the comments below!
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