Dear New School Counselor

Dear New School Counselor,

Do you have a job yet? (The question everyone is asking you.) Don't worry if you don't. You might be going from interview to interview wondering where you'll end up. You have so much passion in your heart, but you don't have a lot on your resume. You're beginning to wonder if someone will ever hire you. Your time will come, and you'll find the right fit. Maybe your first job won't even be the right fit... but you'll gain some experience, and you'll better know what you're looking for as time goes on.

Build your support network. Keep in touch with your professors and your grad school friends. They'll be a strong reference point for you -- especially in those first few years when you don't know who else to call. Join some Facebook groups (like the High School Counselor ConnectionCaught in the Middle School Counselors, or the Elementary School Counselor Exchange) to bounce ideas off of other professionals. Reach out to others but know that the best experience will come with time in your own real world experience. Lean in to others who have some experience to offer. You will never know everything there is to know. Keep asking all the questions.

Dear New School Counselor: you are nervous you aren't going to know what to say or what to do. You've been trained for this! You've seen case studies, and you've discussed how to handle situations... but how will you react when it's you on the other side of the desk? You are ready. You'll consult when you need to, but you'll handed the crises as they come. Every day will be different, and you'll adapt... but that's what you'll love about this job! Your daily challenges will not allow you to easily categorize your responses in black and white. It will be unpredictable. You will live in the gray.

You want to save the world, but- take my advice- don't try to do it all at once. You have visions, dreams, and goals for your students and your school. Take inventory of what systems are already in place. Notice what is going well and what needs improvements. Give yourself time to build your model school counseling program. It won't happen overnight. Get the right stakeholders on board, and slowly build your credibility.

Take care of yourself. Some of us personally share our students' burdens more than others... but we all do feel for our students in different ways. You will certainly deal with the harder things like death, grief, and abuse-- it's just a matter of when. You will see students cry regularly, and you will probably cry yourself. Set up your personal boundaries, and care for yourself emotionally and physically. If you don't, you won't last long in this field. It's a long distance race... not a sprint. Do you like to exercise, paint, or read? Find what brings you joy, and pursue that outside of work. Establish these habits early, and chase after them hard.

Dear New School Counselor: pursue your career with confidence and passion. This job never quits. There's always a new problem to be solved and a growing to-do list to be conquered. Your work is so meaningful, and your energy and commitment to students is what is needed in schools. Welcome to the best profession in the world. You're going to love it!

Sincerely,
A School Counselor Who's Still Trying to Figure It Out





4

A High School Counselor's Year in Review

I blinked and this year flew by! I took a minute to exhale as I was reviewing what we accomplished this year in order to present it at our end-of-the-year School Counseling Advisory Council meeting. Though it felt like we, as school counselors, did a lot of the talking at this meeting, I realize it's because we have to be such vocal advocates for our role and the good things we do. (You can find more about why I'm a big fan of advisory councils HERE.)

We were able to take a few minutes and summarize our programming and data for our stakeholders. We will also send it out in an email for those who are a part of our council who were just unable to make it to the meeting. 



I'm going to use this blog post to highlight a couple of things we did this year and link back to past posts. Many of the things we did can also be found highlighted on my Instagram throughout this school year. 

We had our quarterly "Coffee with the Counselors" this year where we hosted 4 different topical social/emotional-type sessions for parents. Sometimes we are the ones speaking, and, other times, we bring in guest speakers. Our goal for this time is to be equipping for their parenting or for their families in general. We offer it in the morning time just to hit a different crowd than our evening sessions focused on academics. We don't have huge, earth shattering attendance, but we do always find it valuable for those who choose to attend. You can read more about the different topics we've covered and "Why I Love Coffee with the Counselors" at our school on a past blog post.

Our "Mindful Generals Day" was our response to an overwhelming student need for more mental health awareness, education, and resources. In our beginning-of-the-year needs assessment, 71% of students responded asking for some sort of help with stress management or self-care. Last year's end-of-year department survey asked for more mental health services. I think it's a topic students are realizing they need more psycho-educational training with, and I think we found a creative and fun way to step into that gap this year with our first ever Mindfulness Day. Check out how we put together a Mindfuless Day at our high school this year! We even put up a new bulletin board for the occasion, and teachers and students loved it: Mindfulness Bulletin Board.



Our small groups are something I'm really proud of. It seems really daunting to be in a high school setting and run small groups. I remember in grad school feeling like high school counselors brushed off small groups... even when I needed it as a part of my experience. I can use the usual excuses like "it's too hard to coordinate," "students don't care about doing that," "teachers won't let me borrow their students" ... OR I can change my mindset and make the time on my calendar to fit a need that the school has and just make it happen. My favorite small group for the last two years has been my First Generation Small Group. It is extremely rewarding for the students AND me. I'm working on getting together some other curriculum for our few other groups. It's been to keep adding to our toolkit over the past few years. It's a huge part of what gives me life as a school counselor! I've seen teachers shift their mindset as they've seen students positively grow and change, and I've seen data compel our administrators to continue affirming our role as school counselors. They want MORE of what we're now doing and less of the menial tasks that I'm not supposed to do anyways!  


For our "Decision Day" this year, I shared an interactive Google Map with our stakeholders. I posted this on our school's Facebook page, sent it out in a Naviance email, broadcasted it on Twitter and Instagram. We celebrate whatever our students' post-secondary plans may be: college, military, or work. College Application Day in the fall and Decision Day in the spring are events mandated by our Commission of Higher Ed, but we have the freedom to do whatever we want programming-wise to celebrate these.

I'm also really proud of the 72 classroom lessons we facilitated this school year. Our caseloads are by alphabet which feels scattered sometimes... but in the category of core curriculum classroom lessons, it feels like you really can multiply yourself as a school counselor without getting burnt out on one thing. One of my favorite lessons is the Soft Skills Lesson we do for seniors teaching them some career etiquette and professionalism. We pen thank you notes and write professional emails. 


As the year comes to a close, I am extremely encouraged when I reflect on the work my school counseling team has done over the past year. We endured the growing pains of shifting to alphabet caseloads, but I think our families are better served because of it. I am confident our programming is student-centered, and we have students at the forefront of our mind as we continue to tweak our services and grow our programming. 






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