Saturday, July 23, 2016

School Counselor: Tips for Gearing Up for the New School Year

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes, this is me this week!!
Okay, I admit it...my heart sank when I saw the first back to school commercial the other day.  It is not because I don't like my job (I love it), but sometimes I just want to be a bum!!  




Well, there is no use in sulking about the end of summer...it is time to prepare for the new school year.




I wanted my first post for the 2016-17 school year to include gearing up for the school year as a school counselor.  Part of gearing up includes preparing your counseling office, communicating with students and parents, educating the school community about your role,  making plans for professional development and of course, sharpening your skills.  

Here are some tips to consider when getting ready for this year.



Each year, it is imperative that we educate our staff, students, and parents about our role as professional school counselors.  If you are like me and need some ideas on educating your school community, check out this wonderful resource from the American School Counseling Association.




In addition to informing your school community about your role, it is important to learn how to market your school counseling program.  Think about this question...why is it important that the school have a counselor and why should students and parents bother entering your office?   Unfortunately, we school counselors, are not always the best at promoting our profession.  Do you need help marketing your position?  I have a resource for you!!


Marketing is important as a school counselor
Check out this marketing guide from the Counseling Geek, Jeff Ream. 


Also, Jeff and Jeremy Goldman presented on branding your school counseling program at ASCA14 in Orlando.  Here is the link to their presentation. 
 
Another great way to promote your program is to create and distribute a counseling brochure.  Here is an example that you may find helpful as you prepare your own.

Brian McMahon High School Counseling Brochure
Another great resource is to use handouts.  My friend, Carole Miller, has some templates on her blog, The Middle School Counselor Blog.  
 
School Counselor Handouts by Carol Miller

Another friend, Franciene Sabens, has a blog post with a lot of fantastic ideas on how to promote your school counseling program to your school community.  

Check out her blog post called, Promoting Your School Counseling Program.  

Some additional resources that may be helpful to promote your role in the school includes:



It is important to create a yearly calendar of activities and events  for your students and parents.  I am always looking for ways to promote my program and organize myself.  Below are some calendar templates and ideas that I wanted to share with you.  

First, to be effective, make sure you take to the time to organize your time professionally and personally.  One way to do this is by using Trello.  

Second, create and share your department and individual counseling calendar.  Below are some examples from Carol Miller and Kriya Lendzion.





Counseling Theme Calendar by Kriya Lendzion





Okay, I can't say this enough...communicating with parents and students during the year is so important!!  However, what are the best methods of communicating?

I am sure there are other methods of communicating, but here are my top picks.

#1

Email

Nothing beats this oldie but goodie.  However, did you know you can trick out your email.  Yes, it is true!  One way to do this by creating canned responses when parents and students email you and you need to get out information right that moment. Check out Jeff Ream's (aka the Counseling Geek) video on how to set up canned responses for Google Mail.



#2

Remind 


Remind, a free messaging service, is usually thought of as a tool for teachers; however, it can be helpful for high school counselors. I believe I missed a large number of students by  ignoring this mode of communication. You can use Remind to send messages to students and parents regarding events, meetings, registration, class information, and so much more.  Need help? Check out this short tutorial!

 

#3

Video Conferencing

I often believe this is the most underutilized tool when it comes to  meetings with parents.  If you are looking for an inexpensive and easy tool, I have one for you...Zoom.

Here are the basics...

If you are like me and do not have a large budget, Zoom has a free option for conferencing. The free option includes:
  • Meeting with up to 50 participants.
  • Unlimited meetings
  • 40 minutes of conferencing.
  • Video recording and sharable links.
  • Ability to download and share documents and desktop.
  • Options to mute and hide participants.
  • Ability for participants to observe without participating in video conferencing.
  • Option to call in if participant cannot access the internet or a computer.
How can you use Zoom?  Here are some ideas...

1. The school counselor can use it for training students to fill out an application for college, completing scholarship applications, helping parents complete the FASFA, assisting students in calculating their grade point averages, and more.

2. The school counselor can set up small groups when face to face sessions are not available during the day.

3.  Pre-recorded sessions can be created when counselors need to share information with teachers, parents or students.

4.  Pre-recorded classroom guidance lessons can be created on specific topics (study skills, cyberbullying, etc.).

5.  The school counselor can organize and share advisement lessons using students from a remote location.

6.  Zoom is great for after hour conferences with parents and students.  This is a lifesaver for those parents who work late or have transportation issues.

7.  The school counselor can hold parent conferences remotely when attendees are unable to be at one location.

8.  The school counselor can collaborate and share ideas with other colleagues!

Here is a tutorial on how to sign for Zoom.  The Zoom site has lots of helpful videos!!







I know, I know you have heard it a million times.  So, here is a million and one...keep up with how you spend your time.  According to ASCA, school counselors should spend 80% of their day in counseling related activities.  How do you know if you are meeting this requirement?  Use a data tracking system.  One tool to analyze your time is EZAnalyze Time Tracker.  Here is an overview of how to use this tracker by Jeff Ream.



Want more options?  Here are are some free templates by Karl Liedtka from Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

  

In addition to keeping a calendar and tracking your time, it is a good idea to have a method for arranging and tracking your appointments.Yes, there are ways that you can keep up with meetings, conferences, consultations, and much more.   Some effective methods of keeping up with appointments include:

This calendar app connects with all your calendars and lets parents know when you are available. Use Calendly to assist you in scheduling your parent conferences or meetings in under a  minute!

A cloud based way to schedule appointments.

Another digital calendar you can use is called Schedule Once. Schedule Once has a free and a low cost version available for users.  The great thing about Schedule Once is that it allows you to set up the times that you are available and parents/students can pick several times they would like to see you.  Once the appointment is approved, the parent/student will receive a confirmation email.  Again, check out Jeff Ream's video blog about Schedule Once.


Need an example of scheduling appointments?  

Check out Hopewell School Counseling Department.

I would be remiss if I left out Google Forms.  Google Forms allows you to create a form for students and parents to complete for requesting information, scheduling appointments, requesting transcritps and so many other idea.  

Here is an example of a request to see the counselor by Ange Bee.

Google Forms - See this form by Ange Bee

Need more ideas.  I have it here!!

Check out this ultimate list of online calendar tools and other online calendar tools from Russ Sabella.




Every counselor wants an office that is inviting, comfortable, and interesting.  There are several ways to do this...

First, get ideas by exploring Pinterest (my favorite place to get ideas!!).  Here is a link to creative ideas for school counseling offices.  


Second,  get your office ready by putting up posters that send a message to your students. You can gets lots of posters from the School Counselor Blog Store for a minimal fee! Also, there are numerous stores on Face Book for you with great resources.  These stores include:


Third, create bulletin boards that will extend the counseling office into the school. Here is one example of an informational bulletin board!!
Bulletin board that gives information to students without them visiting the counseling office


Need ideas???  

Take a look at  bulletin boards we love  and bulletin board ideas on Pinterest.



Need swag???  Make sure you visit Jeff Ream's post on how to make it rain college swag.  Also, invest in some t-shirts!  There is no better way of promoting yourself than a t-shirt.  Both Carol Miller, The Middle School Counselor Blog, and Jeff Ream, The Counseling Geek,  have great offers on school counselor t-shirts. 

Great t-shirt!!



It is important to begin planning your professional development early.  Professional development includes training, conferences, workshops, online groups, online webinar, etc.  If you need a place to start, here are some suggestions.


My list of school counseling conferences for 2016-17.


Want to see what other counselors are doing?  Here is a link to 100 counseling websites


Also, find out who is the best of the best when it comes to school counselors (in my opinion).

 
Need resources?  Here are 66 resources for school counselors



Look for evidence based programs here for professional development ideas.


Also, consider joining other school counselors online for year round professional development.

Facebook


Twitter

#sccrowd
#scchat
#hscchat

Blogs

Here is my post on school counseling blogs to follow for great information and resources. 




Have you given your yearly needs assessment?  Not sure how or even where to start? Check out this post from the Helpful Counselor on how to conduct an effective needs assessment.  Also, Karl Liedtka has some examples of parent, faculty, and student needs assessments.

Now its your turn...

I would love to hear some of your ideas of  how  you prepare for the new year!!  Please feel free to give us your best tips!!

Here is to a great school year!!