A High School Counselor's Back-to-School Essentials

Wednesday, June 10, 2020
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I have curated a list for you of things that I have purchased and gathered especially for back-to-school or related to a school counseling office that have helped my school counseling practice. Of course, you can do your job without ANY of these things... but having them may make your job more fun, more creative, happier, or easier! Save this post, come back to shop later, or favorite this page for when you're ready to jump in!

I've divided my recommendations into THREE PARTS: 1- office ideas, 2- things to use with TpT resources, and 3- books for your own professional development. 


First up: OFFICE IDEAS!

New counselors are always wondering how to decorate their offices! First bit of advice: just keep adding little by little. Make it inviting, personalize it to your style, and fill it with things you will actually use!

I use fun magnets like these emoji faces or these pretty rainbow squares on the side of my filing cabinet to hang up papers that I need to reference quickly. I also use Scotch washi tape to hang important papers on my wall.

In a high school or middle school office, a charging station is AWESOME. Students are incentivized to plug their phones in, not be distracted by social media or texts, and talk to you face-to-face. Win-win for everyone!

My top left drawer is filled with little office supplies I need like refills of staples, paperclips, or bigger paper clamps like these pastel clamps or these clamps with smiley faces on them. I'm not sure if I should be proud of or ashamed by how many sticky notes I have plastered all over my desk at all times. I mean, I really do use digital lists like Trello to keep me organized most of the time... but an old-fashioned sticky note does a lot for my organization. I really feel like I check things off the list when I can clear the stickies off of my desk. I also keep a few different kinds of thank you notes in my desk. I use these for colleagues in my department, administrators, teachers, guest speakers, and even students. I think hand-written notes are SO powerful. (I also love receiving them, so I know others probably do, too!) You could get this little pack of push pins, paper clips, and binder clips all in one, but I also keep a handful of push pins for my own little bulletin boards/putting things in my walls/bulletin boards in my lobby.


Now let's talk things ON my desk. I always have a giant hand sanitizer and a giant lotion. These have both lasted me FOREVER, and I don't think I've ever bought a new one. Students love them, and I love them for myself! I buy one big box of smaller tissue boxes that will usually last me the year. Tissues on your desk are (unfortunately) a must-have if you're a school counselor. I have a basket of fidgets that students LOVE playing with while they're sitting at my desk. (It's so funny when they are polite and ask permission. I usually just assume they're going to lean in and play without asking.) My fidget baskets (okay fine, I have 2!) are filled with: sphere toys (also great for teaching breathing and mindfulness), stretchy strings, play-doh, a rubik's cube (and they're always surprised to find out that I can actually SOLVE IT!), a magic 8 ball (so fun), and more. I always keep my eyes peeled in the Target Dollar Spot, and I'm constantly looking for little things to add to my fidget buckets like stress balls, brain teasers, koosh balls, and other little trinkets.



For office supplies on my desk, I have a couple things that just make my life a bit easier... starting with a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard. If you get to have the option of using two computer screens at your desk, ALWAYS say YES! You will not regret that! I'm sure your site will provide you with a stapler and some tape, but I found that I was happier with less staple jams when I invested in a weighty and nice Swingline stapler. Here's a pretty blue one, but the one on my desk is red! My absolute favorite pens are Pilot G2 07 fine retractable gel. Totally a personal preference, but I will argue that until I'm blue in the face... they're just the best! For fun doodles and making my to-do list prettier, I have to have my rainbow assortment of flair felt tip pens. I keep a few extra thin Expo markers in my pen cup on my desk, too, in case my marker board markers grow legs and walk away.


In terms of office decor, I always have big aspirations of changing it up every year... but it's rare that I do. I always have a rug or two in my office to add some color. More recently, I hung these paper tassels on my wall to show some personality! Grab a small white board set to let students leave you notes outside your office. I keep one outside my office door, and one on the magnetic side of my filing cabinet. These stay in our conference room... and they're actually LESS on the decor side and more on the very practical side... but we use this rolly marker board more than you could ever imagine. We roll it to our lobby, right outside our office (lots of foot traffic here), and into the cafeteria for special announcements from our school counseling department! It's definitely an investment, but it's something our whole department shares and uses a lot. We also use these disposable giant sticky notes for small group norms, schedule change announcements, and brainstorming sessions.

I have a few baskets on my shelves with things that won't fit on my desk. I've GOT to have candy to refill my candy dish. Totally dependent on your preferences, but I usually keep something chocolate like this big assortment pack and also Starburst! I always have a big assortment of snack foods for students. These don't stay on my desk, but I always have hungry students... so having these on hand goes SO far in relationship building. I keep a basket of crafty-type things in a bucket on my shelf, too... like markers and adult coloring books. I also have mini girls and guys deodorants for those awkward hygiene issue conversations. I also can NEVER have too many Chlorox wipes. I wipe my desk down with these, door handles, and basically anything else that people touch in my office!

This is just a personal FAVORITE find, but I LOVE my Herschel bag for transporting my computer back and forth to home when I need to. The Herschel City Backpack is what I have, and it's the perfect size for my laptop or file folders. I was sick of my shoulder hurting from lugging things in my everyday purse! I have it in black, so it goes with everything!

Next up: things to use with TpT RESOURCES!

I'm a big fan of Astrobrights paper. You can use a black and white printer plus some Astrobrights paper to make anything more fun! You can buy it in regular paper or cardstock, but cardstock is great for cutting out letters on bulletin boards. Check out my bulletin board category on TpT for some examples of bulletin boards to use Astrobrights paper with!


I use these little brass fasteners in my Stress Management Small Group with this Coping Skills Spinner that you can download for FREE! I've also been in a pinch and used a paperclip instead of the brass fastener before, and I rigged it to work just fine!

I use these popsicle sticks to back my College Application Day Photobooth Props!


These album rings can be used for storage of little things that you may want to flip through or things you want to be able to grab and go to a classroom with quickly! I use them with: Job Interview Fan and Pick Cards, College Interview Fan and Pick Cards, and Communicating Feelings and Interacting with Others- Classroom Lesson. These album rings seriously make my life so much easier, and they have a million uses!


I use these building blocks for my Career Building Blocks Game and my Social Skills Building Blocks Game. These just sit on my shelf until I'm ready to pick them up and bring them right to a classroom or small group.

This book, One by Kathryn Otoshi, is great for building an inclusive classroom community, and I love when teachers invite me in to do this lesson. And it's always fun to start off a classroom lesson with a fun ice breaker using a beach ball... or check out this long list of ice breakers that many of which don't even require materials!

Lastly: check out some books for your own professional development!

Here is my storefront for all of the books I've read that I thought would be helpful to recommend to you! Some are more PD related, some are more self-awareness or leadership driven, and some are related to self-care and self exploration! I'm not a huge reader, so just know that these are quick, easy, and helpful reads!

I've also loved ASCA U's specialist trainings for very relevant professional development. If you're looking for a way to get continuing education credits or just develop yourself with something meaningful to our profession, I highly recommend this online courses!

Hopefully, some of these resources can help you get excited as you start your school counseling journey or as you just refresh yourself or your office for a new school year!

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