Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Hatching Results" Giveaway

A couple of weeks ago I announced that I would be giving away one copy of Trish Hatch's latest book, "The use of Data in School Counseling-Haching Results for Students, Programs and the Profession," and today the fun is set to begin.

As a professional school counselor I pride myself on erasing the "G" Counselor title and stigma, so I am using that mission, in conjunction with a pivotal question from the intro of the book, to drive this giveaway. 

To enter the giveaway I would love for contestants to answer the pivotal question in the comment section below and enter the official contest, powered by Rafflecopter. The contest will open January 1, 2014 and close at midnight, January 31, 2014. The winner will be selected at random, notified via email and announced here.

The Pivotal Question
(adapted from page 11 of Hatching Results, reprinted & depicted with permission)

How might school counselors overcome their historical struggle with professional illegitimacy and become vital imperative leaders, advocates, and systems-change agents in schools? 

Feel free to use the solution focused questions from the photo above to guide your answer. If you're not sure how to answer the Pivotol Question, just leave a general comment below, all entries will be considered.

There is no right or wrong answer to the Pivotal Question, as all of our paths, districts, students and approaches to addressing systemic change are different; the goal here is to create dialogue, promote professional growth and inspire one another to begin to address this necessary task.

**IMPORTANT...you must leave a comment below in order for your entry to count.**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 31 at midnight CST. Open to Legal Residents (18 years of age or older) of the US only. Winner will be selected at random and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product provided for this giveaway (Sweepstakes)was free of charge from the author. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information for this giveaway, you are providing your information to me and me alone. I do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner. Void where prohibited.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Promoting your School Counseling Program

On January 7 (7pm CST/ 8PM EST) Chris Wood and I will host a School Counselor Twitter Chat on the topic of PR Tips & Tools for School Counselors that will help school counselors at any stage in their career build or improve community & stakeholder relationships.

Together we will discover an operational definition for "public relations," as it relates to school counseling, share tips & tricks to enhance any school counseling program, discuss what has worked for us, and release our official "Top 10 Tips for Promoting your School Counseling Program."

Check out our official event flyer here and share with those in your PLN.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Keep Calm & Drink Hot Cocoa: Celebrating with those who Support Your Mission & Vision

The end of the semester is nearing, and many school counselors are scrambling to figure out how to afford to say 'thank you' and show appreciation to those who support the school counseling mission and vision and collaborate to make reaching comprehensive school counseling goals that much more of a reality.

Over the last couple of years I have made an effort to say 'thank you' in many different ways. I've caught the Bed Bath & Beyond soap, lotion & candle sales-put stickers on the candles that say "Wise Wo(men) follow the light," made baked goods (cookies, brownies etc.), made "We Wisk you a Merry Kissmas, with hugs & kisses" gifts and many others that I cannot recall at the moment. None of those come close, in my opinion to the latest & greatest idea I picked up from Danielle Schultz at the school counselor blog.

This year I will be handing out small gifts to the cooks and some teachers I collaborate with extensively, but every teacher & staff member will be invited to the "Student Services Office 1st Annual Finals Week Hot Cocoa Bar." Our goal...to keep everyone calm and drink some delicious homemade hot cocoa.

To pull this idea off I searched the web for free printables (see photo to the left) to put on the cups, next year I might work with my amazing graphic design friend to create an actual logo for the festivities. Next I did a little research on what to add to the bar. I narrowed my list down to peppermint sticks, peppermint pieces, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, praline cookies, donuts, donut holes, and peppermint Hershey's kisses.

I picked up a less expensive table cloth at the Dollar Store, a nice glass jar to put the peppermint sticks in, a bucket with a lid for donut holes and cups.

I have a touch of Martha Stuart envy so I decided to make homemade hot cocoa versus buying the packets so I went back to Pinterest to find a great recipe. Once I had a plan, I secured all of the ingredients and I sprung for a percolator since I plan to make this an annual event.

I learned the hard way a long time ago to never try a recipe for the first time when serving the masses, so I tested my recipe out on my family first and oh my goodness was it great; the Vanilla Cinnamon Baileys Irish Cream came after the true taste test. Highly recommend the after thought--after work.

Today I sent out the invitation above and set the table up (see pictures below) with my table top Christmas tree from the attic, teacher gifts & cards and all of the fixings. I made 40 cups of hot cocoa tonight and I will let it sit in the percolator on warm all night so the chocolate doesn't harden over night and I can leave by 6:00 am (I have about a 1 hour commute), to get to work a little early to plug the percolator in to reheat the cocoa for all to enjoy.

I can't wait to share a little holiday cheer with my colleagues...I will post pictures from the event in a follow up post soon.

Let's change the idea of talking at the water cooler and encourage our colleagues to visit their school counseling offices to 'Keep Calm and Drink Hot Cocoa" this and every holiday season because we are appreciative of all they do each day and all they do to help us serve our students.

How do you show your appreciation for teacher collaboration and support each year? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Paying it forward with Hatching Results

I was blessed to review and provide feedback on this excellent school counseling resource written by Trish Hatch, and as a result, I now have several copies.

I don't think it does me, or anyone else, any good to keep them all on a shelf & stare at them, so now its time to spread the word about what school counselors are doing all over the country, why they are doing it and why it's so important that all school counselors start using data, hatch results and share how we can, as a profession, make a difference in every students' life.

So what do I have planned?

Paying it forward...Stay tuned for a School Counselor Space Blog giveaway
I've never done a giveaway on the blog before so I am not sure how I am going to pull it all together, but you can bet it will have something to do with sharing your results or sharing a comprehensive plan reflecting how you will share your results in the future when you land a school counseling position.

Have ideas on what the giveaway should entail? Please leave a comment below.

Want to learn more about the great work of Trish Hatch? Check out The Center for Excellence in School Counseling & Leadership and accelerate your school counseling program today!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Give Back this November: Support the Mission Scholarship

If you have the financial means, please consider donating to the Mission Scholarship, sponsored by The Counseling Geek, to send a newer school counselor or graduate student to ASCA 2014.

I have been in the field for 6 years and I have not had the opportunity to attend a national school counseling conference. 2014 is the year for me to finally experience an ASCA Conference and I am happy to be able to help support two additional school counselors in making the trip to Florida.

Click here to go directly to the donation page, give what you can. As little as $1 or $10 will help secure a strong base for the honorees.

Thank you for offering this opportunity Jeff, I look forward to meeting you in person and the honorees!

Have questions about the scholarship or want to read about last year's winner? Please contact Jeff or visit his blog for updates: www.thecounselinggeek.com.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Career Development Month: Advocate for your Program Month

Six years ago I began my career at a small school (350 students) in southwestern Illinois. One of the first things that stood out to me was almost none of the seniors, or other students, had any direction or plan for their future. As a result I created a comprehensive career development program with all of the free resources I could find to assist the seniors in discovering their calling and creating a solid career plan and developed an annual College & Career Day event. The purpose of the event is for CHS students to devote time to exploring their interests, assessing their strengths, and planning for their futures.

The following year I launched electronic student portfolios, but made them optional. Today those free electronic student portfolios are mandatory for all students and the foundation of my school counseling curriculum, as they support all 3 ASCA domains and provide parents with the opportunity to monitor their students academic growth, personal/social development and career development.

Today, College & Career Day is a staple at CHS, we host a keynote speaker and colleges, our career center & local employers set up information tables & share information, our students also work on their career portfolios and do testing. Currently, almost 100% of my seniors go into their senior year with a clear direction for their future, I do still have some that have a tough time deciding, or listen to the negativity from faculty members that don't believe in my vision-yes there are major obstacles.

A lot has changed for the better as a result of our comprehensive school counseling program and systematic career development program, the results don't lie. Almost 100% of our students graduate with college credit and almost 90% go on to college, trade school or enlist with the armed forces.

When the new IL School Report Cards were released recently I was disappointed that my school chose not to highlight our great and ever improving program. Here is how I chose to advocate for more exposure and support:

An email to my administration (including my superintendent)

"This article is exactly why I always highlight our Career Development program. We have been above the curve for 6 years & running and we didn't buy our program. I created it based on current job market trends and the needs of our students, and customize and update it each year with free, electronic resources from the state  and other sources.

I implemented electronic student portfolios 6 years ago for struggling seniors and made them mainstream 5 years ago. Last year they became mandatory for all students and are now the foundation of our school counseling curriculum.

Through the career development process students can better see the connection between the classroom and a career and begin to appreciate education more. The possibilities are endless.

We need to highlight our program on our school report card and continue to strengthen it with more teacher buy-in, participation from the grade school in career development efforts and create a systematic job shadowing program within our own community.

I am committed to growing & strengthening the program. How can you all help to make sure we stay above this curve and ensure success for all of our students?"


November is National Career Development Month, read the article above and create an opportunity to dialogue with your administration about the unique contribution school counselors bring to schools and why we must be given the opportunity to do what we do best for the sake of our schools, students, communities and the future of our nation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Victory for humanity are you Striving for?

As I reflect on my life and my career journey, one moment, repeated over and over again, sticks out to me.

Each day that I had class on the far end of the SIUC campus, I would walk through the Education building and see this quote by Horace Mann engraved on the wall, "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

Each time I saw it I would reflect on what it meant.

Most people who know me well, know that I am a goal setter. I thrive on setting and working towards accomplishing goals.

This quote is always ingrained in the fabric of every goal I set because I firmly believe we have to do something for others to truly preserve our legacy as human beings and improve our species for the sake of those that come after us.

Being a school counselor aligns with this moral obligation, and in hindsight, maybe that quote led me to where I am today in terms of a career and current job.

Every once in a while I feel like I have chipped a little piece away as I work towards winning a victory for humanity. I recently learned that another colleague of mine decided to go back to college to pursue a degree in school counseling as a result of our interactions, she is the third person, that I know of, that I have influenced in this way in 6 years.

I know they will all do justice for our career and for those they serve.

My work is not done, but this small victory makes me proud.

What quotes inspire you? What victories have you won for humanity? Please share your thoughts and stories to inspire others as we push through the end of another productive semester as school counselors.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

School Counseling Advocacy 101: Writing Press Releases

I have been so busy implementing programming, preparing for upcoming testing and seeing students that I have not had much time to blog, but I have been writing press releases to let the local community know what types of services and celebrations are being implemented in the school through the school counseling program.

At the beginning of the year I did a parent survey to get feedback about the school counseling program and one thing that stood out to me was that many parents did not know about all of the programs and services that I provided to the students throughout the year. As a result, I set a goal to do a better job at not only communicating with parents to let them know what we're doing, but also getting word out to the community and surveying parents more for feedback.

An easy and free way to get the word out about your school counseling program is through a press release. In the last couple of months I have coordinated programming for National Suicide Awareness Month, National Bully Prevention Month and Red Ribbon Week. You can find a manual to help shape your events and many times craft your press releases for most monthly celebrations.

What does a Press Release Look Like?

Word also has a nice Press Release template that I like to use. The most important thing about a press release is making sure you have all of the appropriate parts, the red arrows above identify those parts.

This webpage also has great tips for writing press releases.

Top 5 ways to Advocate for the School Counseling Profession in your Press Release
  1. Write a catchy title to draw in readers
  2. Identify yourself as a "School Counselor"
  3. Include information about your webpage, blog or email to create opportunities for the public to learn more about what you do
  4. Let the public know how they can get involved with what you are doing-connect with the community
  5. Mention the American School Counseling Association or your state association website if applicable 
Where to Publish your Press Release

Not sure what papers are in your area? Click here to do a general search, or just Google, "[your city, state] newspapers" and you will be able to identify many resources.

Click here to see an example of one of my press releases from this month.

Have you written a Press Release for your program events? Please comment below with tips that have helped you successfully use this tool to advocate for your program and the school counseling profession.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reverse Advocacy

True story and too tragic not to share...

A former coworker, who is now the Assistant Regional Superintendent somewhere in Illinois sent me an email yesterday titled "School Counselor Story." 

He always has something to share that inspires growth so I was eager to read this one for sure. Here is what it said:

"Last night I ran into a young lady who was in graduate school and had a two minute conversation. She told me she planned to be a Guidance Counselor. I said, "Aren't they referred to as School Counselors now?" She sheepishly said, "Yes, but most people just know them as Guidance Counselors." I told her I had a School Counselor friend that would strangle her and she better start educating people."

He was delighted to have that opportunity to remind her to advocate for her profession, and I am grateful that he seized the opportunity. I am also grateful that the one thing he took away from our interactions was how he identifies counselors in the school setting.

Beware School Counselors in training, if you don't know how you should identify yourself, one of the last people you want to educate you on what title is appropriate is the Assistant Regional Superintendent.

Our advocacy efforts are working on those outside of our profession, but maybe we should be focusing more within our profession.

Please share your thoughts on this topic.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Free School Counseling Resources for Individual Student Planning

If you work at a school similar to mine, you are in a budget crunch. I work very hard to keep my program current, relevant and low cost. When it comes to helping students prepare and plan for college this can be tough if you want to send them home with something tangible that will actual help them stay on track and informed.

My solution...Free US Department of Education Publications and the College Board's My Big Future resources. I also use the What's Next Illinois portal, but it is only open to IL schools.

The US Dept. of Education publications have College Prep Checklists in English, Spanish and even Braille! How awesome is that!

My favorite College Prep Checklist recently got an update! Each year my juniors and seniors get a copy of the checklist during their ISP meetings. I also put them out during every parent event that I host. I can't wait to get to school tomorrow to place my new order for the year-all at no cost to my district.

I give this publication to every student during 8th Grade Parent Night, an event where I discuss 8th grade Explore scores with parents to help them understand and use the data as they assist their student in planning a freshman year schedule and four-year plan.

Visit the US Education Publications website to register for an account and order your materials before you begin your individual student planning meetings. Have a tech minded, visual learner on your caseload? Steer them to My Big Future for an interactive & comprehensive approach to post-secondary planning.

What free tools do you use in your program to build and maintain a college going culture?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Illinois School Counselors do more with the Corp

Between budget cuts, difficult to manage case loads, and being responsible for activities considered inappropriate for a school counselor (e.g. teaching classes when teachers are absent or coordinating testing programs), school counselors must become more and more efficient at weathering the storm and doing more with less year after year.

According to ASCA, a professional school counselor’s primary role is to address the developmental needs of all students through a comprehensive school counseling program that supports each student’s unique academic, career and personal/social development.

In Illinois, the Developmental Counseling Model for Illinois Schools was published to supplement the ASCA Model, support the SEL standards, and provide structure and consistent practices and procedures throughout the State. According to the State Code (105 ILCS 5/10-22.24b), school counseling services include, but are not limited to:
  1. educational planning (4-6 year plans)
  2. career development and counseling
  3. college counseling
  4. developing and facilitating anti-violence education or conflict resolution programs, or both
  5. providing crisis intervention programs within the school setting
  6. making appropriate referrals to outside agencies
  7. interpreting achievement, career, and vocational test information
  8. developing individual career plans for all students
  9. providing individual and small group counseling
  10. addressing the developmental needs of students by designing curricula for classroom counseling and guidance
  11. consulting and counseling with parents for the academic, career, and personal success of their children
  12. facilitating school to work transition programs, and
  13. supervising school counseling interns
So, how do we provide school counseling programs that are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in nature, and demonstrate accountability when resources are lacking, caseloads are well over the recommended ratio of 1:250, and we are overburdened with responsibilities beyond the scope of our formal training and the legislative definition of the services school counselors may provide? 

Many Illinois school counselors call in the Corp and map out a plan for success.

The ISAC Corp is responsible for assisting students with career exploration, college selection, test preparation, scholarship searches, application completion, and the financial aid process. Each college district has one to four ISACorps members assigned within their community. The best attributes about this group of individuals is they are well trained by ISAC, will assist your school district in building a college going culture and enhance your school counseling program’s delivery system for FREE! Click here to find contact information for your ISACorp representative. One phone call may be all it takes to expand and more appropriately align your school counseling efforts, maximize your time and demonstrate increased accountability this year.

So exactly how can the ISACorp members help you? 

According to ISAC, last year, the Corps conducted over 4,200 outreach events, including more than 700 FAFSA completion workshops and 600 financial aid presentations. This year ISACorp members are eager to connect with schools in all regions of the state to offer educational planning support for all students via the whatsnextillinois.org portal, a free electronic student educational and career development planning portfolio, and deliver presentations on a variety of topics. Contact your school’s ISACorp representative today to make plans to incorporate their services into your delivery system, before you finalize your 2013-2014 program goals. If your an intern this is a perfect opportunity for you to make contact with the representative in your area and pitch an idea to your supervisor!

Each year before the students come back, I meet with our ISACorp representative, Krystin Baker, to discuss how we can integrate her presentations into our school counseling program and determine how much time she can devote to assisting our students with updating their WNI portfolios,which are now mandatory for our entire student body, and a vital part of ourschool counseling core curriculum. After our meeting I finalize my program goals, meet with my principal for approval, and together we execute an Annual Agreement. Sometimes securing a meeting with the principal is tough due to scheduling conflicts etc., but persistence pays. Advocate for your program and the students you serve, don’t give up. 

Krystin & I at last year's Financial Aid Process Event
By partnering with Krystin I am able to address 7 of the 13 defined school counseling services at no extra cost to my district every year. This year we also expanded our collaborative efforts with ISAC by registering for an Illinois College Application Month event. Doing more with less can feel like you’re driving full speed through a downpour; but if you efficiently utilize your resources, build resilient relationships with other stakeholders in your school, district and community, and collaborate with a purpose, you will find you have a steadfast umbrella that will see you through this educational tempest. 

No matter how you manage to do more with less, don’t forget to share the results of your efforts, despite the results of each lesson or activity. The PR you do for your program could be the PR that saves your position and your program. As you wade through the troubled waters, remember that you’re not alone, be your own professional advocate, keep your program goals in mind, expect obstacles and resistance, but always remember what drew you to the profession because even though you’re doing more with less, someone out there is just glad you showed up to do what you do.

How do you  utilize your resources, build resilient relationships, and collaborate with a purpose? Share your methods below.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

YouTube meets PowerPoint 2010: Techie Mediation

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to (finally) really get involved with Freshman Academy after 5 years of assisting, but always standing on the sidelines for the actual event.

For the last 2 years I helped devise the curriculum, but couldn't actually be a part of the delivery due to scheduling conflicts & my cancer recovery last year.

This year I made sure I would have the opportunity to get involved first hand so I could really measure the results of our efforts & share the great work our homeroom advisors & the Coordinator do throughout the program.

This is where things got out of hand between YouTube & PowerPoint. On the first day of Freshman Academy the students take an Anti-Bullying pre-test and a diagnostic exam so we can measure how much they learn from the presentations spread throughout the week, and specifically measure our anti-bullying curriculum.

At the end of Day 1 I took the pre-test home to grade & run data analysis. Once I was done gathering the data I decided to create a PowerPoint outlining the results so I could make handouts for the students to study from before their post-test on the last day.

Everything went smooth, copying data tables, statistics & facts until the last slide was before me-waiting patiently for this embedded YouTube video.

I cannot tell you how many times I got this message:

I think at one point I actually almost cried! Seriously, this presentation was that important to me.

I mean really, it brings real data, an important topic & music together-what School Counselor wouldn't love this combination?

I pretty much tried everything. I went through the help topics, no help. Then I searched the web for what seemed like an eternity & finally found an article about using Windows Media Player to embed the video into PowerPoint. Finally, my prayers were answered.

I started reading the article and just before I could really get down to business my husband came home & it was time for dinner. After family dinner I went back to the computer to start reading again & just before I could really make sense of how the process worked my 2 year old demanded his bath. Really, this is my world!

And as fate would have it, as I am bathing my son, my husband sits down at the computer & navigates away from the article and when I attempt to intervene, he closes the window! @&$/$&@ I could not make this chaos up. **Sigh**

I regroup and try to find the article again. I didn't have any luck, but I did stumble across an even easier way to complete the job--A YouTube Plug In for PowerPoint.

So simple. Download the Plug-In, import it into PowerPoint & follow the simple directions to add a the video to your presentation (Happy dance!). As a disclaimer I did encounter a couple of issues with this method:

1. You must start the presentation from the menu across the top of the program. If you try to use the shortcut icon at the bottom of the page the video won't work, weird, I know.
2. Once you play the video it does not rewind it-you must do it yourself before you exit the presentation view.
3. The annoying adds come up during the video, but you can just X out of them.
4. The plug in puts lots of extras on your computer. I went to my Control Panel and deleted them all, but I was very annoyed with this.

Other than those minor issues it worked like a charm & I was very pleased with the result. Once I got the two programs talking, let them clear the air & learn how to communicate better all was right in my world again.

I will share my final product below.

You will need to download it to view the show and "Enable Content" and "Enable Editing " before you launch the show.

 If you click the image of the fingers crossed on the next to last slide it will take you directly to the video also (my back up plan). The last slide where I embedded the video is also there.

Check out my final product.

Do you use a different method? I would love to know if there is an easier way to do this. Please comment & share your tips below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Building your School Counseling Program-One Step at a Time

Recently, through Twitter & Facebook, I've come across a lot of new school counseling graduates looking for tips, tools & advice as they begin their school counseling journey. I can remember when that was me & how little there really was out there, so here are a couple of really simple tips, mostly applicable to middle & high school, to get you started.

1. Meet with your principal before the teachers get back, if possible, to discuss how you would like to structure your program, results of needs assessments, surveys and/or data from previous interventions & the current reality in your building (State report card, grades, testing & discipline data etc.). Complete an Annual Agreement  (pg 64-64 of the ASCA Model, 3rd ed.) & ask that it be shared with the school board (raise awareness about your program). In addition to the Annual Agreement this tool from NOSCA is a great resource to build a collaborative relationship with your principal.

2. Don't forget to introduce your program & yourself & Solicit ideas & information

If you're new to the District try to secure an opportunity to speak at the first faculty meeting to introduce yourself, your program, events for the year and ask for feedback from the teachers (maybe make a simple GoogleDoc asking them questions to help drive and shape your program) and schedule short classroom visits at the beginning of the school year to make contact with all students.

My first year I put together a packet explaining my background (1st career, education, teaching experience etc.) and my vision for the school counseling program & solicited feedback from everyone to help me create a program that would meet the needs of all stakeholders. I included a survey and a copy of my referral form. I also let teachers know that they could pick up additional referral forms from my mailbox any time. This year I am hoping to be allowed to create a GoogleDoc Referral Form so they can complete the form electronically & print it out. If you have been able to implement electronic referrals into your program I would love to hear about your method.

3. Share your knowledge, you are an expert

The first day is always a tough one for many teachers since schedules are often modified, they anticipate that the kids won't be ready to learn just yet and they have to spend some time going over housekeeping items, what they plan to cover & expectations. Why not provide them all with a simple lesson focused on study skills that they can tweak to help students learn to successfully navigate their course materials and prepare for academic success, or a lesson focused on teaching students how they might use that subject in the future.

If you have a common Advisory or homeroom period, this lesson is a great one to have the teachers deliver. You can use the data collected on each student to build a pool of students for a small group focused on Study Skills.

4. Plan to implement 3 groups right away: Study Skills Boot Camp (pre-identify these students with testing data, grades etc. & solicit teacher referrals), Get A Life (goal setting: academic, career, personal/social), G.I.R.L.S (this one will take longer to populate, but is applicable to most any school population); adjust the curriculum of each group to meet the needs of your population. I also use parts of Owning Up with my students. [The key word here is PLAN]

5. Use your State's mandated curriculum as a guide to drive the rest of your program & seek out as many free resources as you can.

Here are a couple of sweet spots: (there are soooooo many more)

IL DCFS Mandated Reporter Training
Internet Safety Lessons & tools for students & parents and here
Mental Health & Wellness Curriculum
Missouri School Counseling site (one of my favorites by far)
Suicide Prevention Resources
What's Next Illinois (Course specific study skills lessons)

Please share sites that you frequent often

Keeping your focus on creating a program that compliments the total educational package, while meeting the needs of your student population, is essential, in many State's the school counseling program must support the Common Core.

Taking things one step at a time & building relationships along the way will help you develop a sound program that meets the needs of the population you serve and evolves as your population changes.

Enjoy the journey and remember to always stop and smell the roses.

Best wishes for a positive & productive school year from School Counselor Space!

Would you like to share additional tips or have plans for something that is not listed here? Share your ideas below.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Back to School-Back to Connecting

It's just about time for many of us to head back to school, so...why not have a party to get us all in the spirit! A Blog Linky Party that is!

This is my first attempt at something this sophisticated so let's hope all goes well and we all go home with great gifts (knowledge).

How do you participate?
  1. Create a blog post titled: "Back to School-Back to Connecting" and answer the questions below
  2. Paste the Linky Party logo from above at the beginning of your blog post
  3. Submit your blog post link below (please be sure to link your actual blog post, not your blog homepage)

I am on an extended contract, I work 10 days before the students come back and 10 days after their last day. My first day of work this year will be Monday, July 29. I am heading back a little early this year (our students won't come back until August 16) so I can help out with Freshman Academy and I will have a couple of days off in between to ease into the transition.

This year I plan to finally organize my program Advisory Council. Last year I spent a lot of time learning about the value of this element of a comprehensive school counseling program and soliciting interest from community members, parents and administrators-this is the year I will finally get things moving!

  1. My Assistant- she's not really a "tool" per se, but it would be difficult to accomplish as much as I do without her there to keep me in check!
  2. Technology in general. I use technology in every aspect of my job, without it I would be lost.
  3. FORMS! As a high school counselor forms are essential to helping me deliver a consistent message to all of my students. My "Academic Review Form" has received rave reviews from parents and helps my student to not only see where they are in terms of graduation, but also helps them appreciate how much they have accomplished.

At the beginning of each year I usually visit every English class to introduce my program and hand out my program brochure. Recently the administration has asked that I utilize our homeroom/advisory period to deliver the majority of my curriculum, so this year I will visit each homeroom instead. Since I am the only counselor I will combine homerooms, up to 30 students, and give them a brief overview of my role this year as their school counselor.

Over the last 5 years I have published a newsletter, on and off, and also used our school website. I have found that the combination of these two approaches reaches the majority of our stakeholders. Other methods that have worked for us have included One Call Now, an automated phone system, and publishing everything possible in our daily announcements, which also are posted on our school website.

  1. Build relationships with teachers fast. Let them know what your goals are and ask how you can work together to ease their burden and reach your goals.
  2. Execute a Management Agreement with the administration that recognizes how, when and where your school counseling curriculum will be delivered.
  3. Publish your schedule, share your lesson plans and results
I have been blessed to work with super flexible teachers that will bend over backwards to help me deliver my curriculum. The health teacher and I realized that many of our lessons were similar (I-messages, Decision Making) so we co-teach them now instead of doing double duty and boring the students. Learning Styles assessments are done through our Freshman Academy curriculum and administered by homeroom teachers for grades 10-12. I was also lucky enough to get my own classroom last year, really just a classroom that is never used. I asked for 30 desks and a computer to complete the space and now I have a room that is always available for school counseling purposes.

A collaborative approach is key.

Staying organized is sometimes a huge task for me since I am often on the run or working on a million things at once. But, in my moments of sanity, I use lots of filing bins boxes, and accessories. I also adopted a rolling cart last year that I use when I am working on a specific school counseling lesson over a couple of days. I just leave all of my materials organized on the cart and roll it from room to room.

I also use outlook to keep all of my appointments and classroom visits organized. I set reminders for myself and check the calendar each day before I leave the office so I am prepared for the next day and upcoming weeks.

Now it's your turn to connect with other school counselors! Feel free to use my question images on your blog post. Welcome back to school & welcome to the party!

New Linky Party blog posts will be listed below. You may also email your blog post link to me if you have trouble joining the party.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meditation Minute in the Midst of Madness

Sometimes all we have to quiet our minds and reset are quiet seconds, and we generally use them to hurry in & out after we sneak to the restroom dressed in our invisible cloak to finally relieve ourselves after holding it for three hours. In the event that you have a minute (after you take that much needed & deserved restroom break), give this new technique a chance to help you melt away the madness.

The idea of Meditation Minute came to me after a conversation with my assistant this week. Sometimes our jobs can be pure chaos as we work hard for the students & contend with the political forces within our school. Sometimes reciting our Positive Pledge over & over again 100 times just doesn't work-and let's face it, if we can squeeze it in once a day we are lucky.

The purpose of Meditation Minute  is to step in right in the midst of the madness & transform you back to the level-headed, positive & energetic counselor you can be on any given day.

The best things about MM:
  1. You can do it anywhere, even in a staff meeting
  2. It only takes a minute
  3. It's totally acceptable for a School Counselor to be seen talking to themselves quietly
  4. It re-centers you so you can do your best work
  5. It's free
  6. It only takes a minute (just driving the point home here)
So how do you do it?

It's pretty simple- do it however you choose, just do it! There are tons of websites with tips-just Google "meditation at work" and you will find something that works for you.

When you feel a little overwhelmed, frustrated, beaten, ______________ (you fill in the blank) use these MM tips to renew yourself:
  1. Go to your quiet space in your mind & just be still for a moment
  2. Use visual imagery-consciously try to reduce the physiological effects of stress
  3. Breathe deeply & evenly
  4. Relax the tension throughout your whole body
  5. Find your center, your root, your true self
  6. Return to your work activities with a renewed spirit
As I was fully conceptualizing this idea I came across this great website. It is a great resource if you are looking for inspiration as you begin your MM practice.

How do you recharge in the middle of all of the madness? Please share your tips in the Comment space below.

Best wishes for creating moments of peace as you begin your school year. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

School Counselor Office Tour 2013

Thanks to Carol, the author of The Middle School Counselor Blog, School Counselors all over the world will be opening the doors of their offices and sharing how they decorate & use their spaces to help veteran School Counselors generate new ideas & new School Counselors prepare their new spaces for students.

I remember when I landed my first job out of grad school and the many web queries I typed to try to find the best ways to decorate my office. There wasn't much out there, but I did find the School Counselor Blog as a result, which has helped me grow so much as a counselor. Hopefully this Linky venture will become a great new resource as we all prepare our spaces for the upcoming school year.

I've shared some photos of my office on Twitter (follow me @FSabens) in the past, but here is the full disclosure on my space and how I use it.
Welcome to the CHS Student Services Office
I am the only School Counselor at CHS; I have an assistant, and together we serve roughly 350 students. To the right of the Students Services Office door is a small bulletin board that we use to advertise our Mission etc. I also post a monthly calendar with all of my school counseling activities, information relevant to the activities and ASCA Position Statements that support the activities.

Student Services Office Bulletin Board

We share a two room space with a main office & a separate counseling office; we also have a small closet for storage. The main room is where the Student Services Assistant sits. Most of the information students would drop in to pick up is in this part of the office. We also have a large table for group meetings and 6 computers for student use.

As you enter the Student Services Office you will find a huge storage unit to your left with many slots full of organized information about Career & Technical programs, the Armed Forces, ACT, our Student Portfolio system, AP programs, school forms, College information, financial aid information etc. To your right is a bulletin board with Daily announcements etc. Directly in front of you is a sign up sheet for visiting with college representatives and School Counseling Groups.
Our Vision

Inspirational Quotes
Sign up here

My inner office is (to the left) in the back of the main room. Once I was officially hired my room was painted the color of my choice. I chose orange, it is one of our school colors. On my door I have my "Where is Mrs. Sabens?" sign, my office hours and our district PLC poster. To the right of my door I have another "Welcome" sign and a dry erase board where students can write a note for me-they really like tagging the dry erase board with inside jokes and words for me to remember them by.
Where is Mrs. Sabens?

My inner office has a desk for an intern or practicum student, my desk, multiple filing cabinets for all of the student files and comfy chairs for parents & students. One entire wall is bookshelves where I keep information for students, my credentials & a few family photos are posted in the middle and the last section is where I keep Academic Review binders, my books and things I am working on (out of student reach). 

My pillows were purchased from Cafe Press.

Private Bookshelf section

I taped wrapping paper to the front of my desk

The area rug gives the office a touch of home

Own the Turf Pledge hangs on my wall for all to see
The walls of my office are decorated with black & white photos of landmarks, inspirational posters, photos of former students, newspaper clippings about events I've held and student successes, ACT information etc.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour of my space and it helps you as you create a space where you can practice your craft and grow as a School Counselor.