Powered by Blogger.

Why I Love Coffee with the Counselors

Once a quarter, we host "Coffee with the Counselors" for our parents. Maybe we could have thought of a more creative name for this, but let's just call it what it is... We pick up coffee and doughnuts and have an interactive, conversational morning with parents of all grade levels.

We offer social/emotional topics that they're not going to find at an evening open house, parent info night, curriculum night, or a PTSA meeting. We've found that quarterly hosting doesn't wear us out too much, and we always have parents show up.

It's always a small setting. Usually 5-25 parents come to hear about the topics we or a guest speaker present on. Our main ways we advertise the event are email, text message, phone blast, and social media.

If I go back in the archives, I can share with you most all of the topics we've ever done. We are always open to suggestions from parents or staff, but we've found that most people "don't know what they don't know" and often have trouble pinpointing what specifically they'd like to hear about!

  • Teen Mental Health (a pretty general presentation by our school counselors)
  • Growing Independent Young Adults (presented by our school counselors)
  • Parents as Allies: Recognizing Early Onset Mental Health Illness in Children and Adolescents (presented by our local NAMI chapter)
  • Commerce 101: Navigating the College and Career Landscape (presented by a regional workforce advisor)
  • How to Communicate with Your Teen (presented by a local LPC, our school's former school mental health counselor)
  • Trends in School Safety and Q&A with the School Resource Officer

I love that parents feel supported here. I think every time we finish it up, parents feel like "hey, I'm not the only one" dealing with this issue or need help relating to my teenager in this way. Parents share anecdotes and experiences, connect with one another, chat informally with school counselors, and actually learn something they can take away. 

Do you host something like this at your school? What topics have been helpful or most popular for your parents?

3 Reasons You Need to Start a School Counseling Advisory Council

Each year, our 3 advisory councils prove to be one of my most favorite parts of our comprehensive school counseling program. It's definitely easier to make excuses than like "Doesn't my School Improvement Council or PTSA count as our advisory council, too?" NO! You want real input from real stakeholders who can help you actually make real improvements for your program. If I haven't convinced you yet, here are 3 reasons I think you should start a school counseling advisory council. 

1- People want to be a part of something that inspires change for the better.
I don't know how others do it, but, in my department, we are very strategic about who we invite to be a part of our advisory council. We try to double dip people's roles. For example: if there is a mom of a student, AND they work as a school counselor at our feeder middle school... BONUS POINTS! We want as many perspectives and voices in the room as possible while still keeping the crowd manageable. Some ideas for people you could probably think of off the top of your head-- someone who... you think already contributes to your program, you want more representation from in your program, does not understand the role of a school counselor, has great ideas worth sharing out... the list goes on. We believe all of these people have unique contributions because they view our program from different perspectives. It is worth being vulnerable and putting yourself and your program out there to hear feedback for better or for worse. I know they have felt their suggestions heard as we have directly implemented some of them. Every person we invited accepted our invitation. Before each meeting, we send an email invite.

Specifically, these are some examples of people we have had on our high school advisory council committee over the past few years:

  • a student from each grade level (uniquely picked for their background, school involvement, career center or Fine Arts Center interests... we want a diverse representation of our student body)
  • a few teachers from some different departments (ones who weren't over committed to committees already- we chose a Special Ed teacher, a teacher of seniors, and a brand new teacher)
  • our local two year college admissions representative
  • an administrator (who voiced being new to truly working with school counselors)
  • a parent from each grade level (one was a teacher at a feeder elementary school, one was a school counselor at a feeder middle school, one was a volunteer at the school, and one was simply a parent)
  • our school counselor from our connecting career center (she's also a school counselor there)
  • our district Director of School Counseling
  • a community member or business partner (we had a graduate who was out of college and now working for a non-profit in the community that works with teenagers) 
  • plus, of course, all of the school counselors in our department (that's 7 of us!) 

2- Stakeholders' perspectives of your program will change. 
Do you feel like a lot of your job is information management? How do we make sure people are hearing the information we're putting out? If you have the right stakeholders around your table, they are going to take your mission and spread it farther than even you can. I love the idea that people walk away more informed about your program than when they started. If you have an administrator who barely knows what you do all day, INVITE THEM. If you have a parent who thinks you don't offer something unique that their child needs, INVITE THEM. At an Advisory Council Meeting, you get to share all of the innovative things you are doing in your school setting. Data can be extremely compelling among this crowd. This is your chance to summarize what you plan to do or what you've been doing... and then show it off! 

3- Constructive criticism will challenge you to be empathetic. 
Feedback can be tough... but EMBRACE IT. Do the thing we're trying to teach our students- put yourself in someone else's shoes. Does the stakeholder not feel informed about what your program is doing? Well then... why is that? You will not improve without removing your blinders to see your own weak spots. Let others speak honestly without getting defensive for your actions. Be open to hear suggestions even if you've "always done it that way." 

7 Things You Need to Know About a Counselor Fly-In

I don't need a new job where I travel all the time. Since I've had a new baby this year, I find myself becoming more of a homebody. But y'all-- Counselor Fly-Ins are hidden treasures!

1- What is a Counselor Fly-In you ask? Basically, a school's admission team flies a group of high school counselors to their university's campus to sweet talk them about their school in hopes that the high school counselors would, in turn, sweet talk their students into applying or attending. It's a great ploy, really it is... especially when you visit somewhere warm and sunny like Florida just as cold winter rain begins in South Carolina.

2- How did you hear about this? I found it in one of those high school counselor Facebook groups. People were talking about it, and I was a ghost in the background just watching and taking notes. Apparently, these things are pretty common! Who knew! I Googled Counselor Fly-In and some schools I was interested in visiting and got my name on a list. (I think that's how most of these processes start.)

3- How did you get chosen? The college sent out an email, and I selected all of the dates I could attend given the opportunity. I was honestly pretty flexible since it was a few months out. I'm sure the admissions team is pretty strategic about who is coming on their trips and when. For example, there were not multiple counselors from my seven-counselor-department coming on this trip with me. I was also the only school counselor from my state on this weekend trip. I bet if you're a counselor from farther away or a place where the school is specifically trying to recruit students from, you might be a hotter commodity. I'm sure more goes into this part that I'm not aware of. I'll claim ignorance. This is just one school counselor's perspective.

4- How did you get there? An admissions rep (or student in the admissions office) called me one day and asked when I wanted to fly out and where I wanted to fly out of. She gave me a couple different options that would work with our visit's itinerary, and I said, "YES, YES, and YES," and the rest was history. Flight was booked in my name to and from and transportation was provided by a car service to and from the airport. They contacted me the night before both trips to confirm and give me direction, and I can't speak highly enough of how organized the travel and transportation was. I also got to count the airline miles on my account! What a treat!

5- Where did you stay? The admissions team booked a block of hotels near the university. I got to use my Marriott points here, too! If you wanted to extend your stay before or after the Fly-In, you were welcome to. I think if I were to do it again, I'd think about coming earlier in the weekend to spend some more time in a new city!

6- What activities did they have planned? We went on SUCH a fun boat tour on the evening of our arrival, AND they took us out to dinner. We got to really see the city and have dinner with an admissions rep (the one at my table was in grad school and had done her undergrad there as well). The next day was ACTION PACKED. We met at 7:20 in the morning and headed to campus and toured ALL DAY! Totally worth it to see the classrooms, meet professors, talk to students, eat in the dining hall, shop in the bookstore, and experience some unique traditions of the campus.

7- Who all was there? As I mentioned before, I was the ONLY one from my state which surprised me! There were high school counselors, independent college consultants, and college counselors from all over the country including California, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Minnesota, and more! I loved the adventure of meeting new people and hearing about their school setting, their student caseloads, and their school counseling programs.

The trip in it's entirety was about 36 hours. I left on a Sunday afternoon and got home on Monday night. I missed one day of work (professional development, duh!) but got to come back and share with my colleagues and students. It was a whirlwind, and (let's be real here) my suitcase sat with dirty clothes in it for a few more days before I could get to the laundry. It was SUCH a unique experience, I immediately came home and tried to get my name on a few more Counselor Fly-In lists. I'd encourage you to network around and see if anyone you know has been on any of these and can recommend specifics to you!

How to Make the "I Applied! Bulletin Board"

I am always trying to think ahead at what will go on our school counseling bulletin board right outside of our office. My strategy is, honestly, how can I use what I'm already doing to show off something our students would be interested in?

I recently wrote about All the Steps for Hosting a Successful College Application Day.

At my event this year, I had students write down where they applied on a little football. (I did black and white footballs because I don't feel as bad printing hundreds of those off.)

When I hang these on a bulletin board, I do it because:

  • we see how many students applied to schools
  • we see what schools they applied to
    • we learn about new colleges, universities, and cities
    • we see if there are trends
    • we notice 2 year and 4 year schools
  • we create a college going culture and awareness that seniors are applying to college
  • we create a space for students to identify with other students
  • we make goals like 2 or 4 year college attainable to underclassmen
  • we let students be proud that they applied-- sometimes the hardest part is getting started!

Download the pre-packaged bulletin board here! 

All the Steps for Hosting a Successful College Application Day

After I posted a picture of my College Application Day "exit ticket," I got numerous comments and direct messages about tips for holding such an event!

We've done this event for about the past 6 years (?) and figured a lot out along the way of what works for us and what doesn't... so, before you implement, know that your event will get better and better each year you do it.

I tried to break down my planning into big steps, but BE ADVISED... it's a big undertaking:
Back to Top