Sunday, January 27, 2013

Building Leadership Capacity the Professional School Counselor Way

Today's School Counselor has a tough job for a multitude of reasons, but we also have the skills & ability to be courageous change agents for ourselves & those we serve. We must build leadership capacity in order to effectively meet our programmatic goals.

Now is a pivotal time for us to support one another in educating the world about all of the possibilities that can be realized if all school counselor's stick to their craft.

We need:
  • Comprehensive Programs in all schools
  • More RAMP Programs in rural areas
  • More professional development support for school counselor's
  • Improved education for school administrators on how to utilize the services of professional school counselor's
  • Reduced counselor:student ratios (1:250 or less)
In order for school counselor's to build leadership capacity, our role in the schools must first be better understood.

Take some time during National School Counseling week (Feb. 4-8, 2013) to share information with your administration, faculty, staff, parents and students about what school counselor's can do.

Here are some great resources:

The Role of the Professional (ASCA)
What Does a School Counselor Do? (School Tube)
What School Counselors Do (USF)
Why You Should Celebrate National School Counseling Week (Patrick O'Connor)
The Column to Pass Along to Your Principal (Patrick O'Connor Ph.D)

As you work towards strengthening that collaborative dialogue you can also continue to build your leadership capacity.

There are many ways to build leadership capacity, see page 13 of the ASCA National Model (3rd Ed.), but there is one aspect of this process that is essential in every school in America.

Professional School Counselor's must use data as a guide to tell the story about student needs.

As you gather and analyze your school data, also contemplate this reflective statement:

"When I encounter barriers that might impede student success, I..."

See page 13 of the ASCA National (3rd Ed.) for more details on this process.

Creating and polishing our professional identity as School Counselor's can be daunting, especially when we are faced with the past (the "G" word) and our current reality, but being courageous change agents is part of what we do, and building our own leadership capacity is necessary as we make progress in our profession.

So what do you do when you encounter barriers that might empede student success? Please leave your comments below to help others grow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

School Counselors & Scheduling-Create a Process around the Task

Spring semester, the term that most high school counselor's loathe. While we love winter break and the great quality time we get to spend with our family (translate into eat too many cookies, sleep in late, and read a book for fun), we also know that upon returning to school we must begin the process of registering for the next school year.

Every school around the world approaches "scheduling" differently, but as School Counselor's there is a common language, or terms to live by, that we should remember as we execute our duties related to scheduling.

+Individual Learning Plan (ILP)- [aka 4-year plan] is a document that establishes a set of learning goals and objectives for an individual student. Those who have experimented with this tool have found that it helps students value and actively engage in the learning process. For many students, it can make the difference between failure and success. (Definition courtesy of

+Individual Student Planning- ongoing, systemic activities designed to help students establish personal goals & develop future plans, such as ILP's and graduation plans. (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 85).

+Appraisal- the analyzation & evaluation of a students abilities, interests, skills, achievements (utilizing test data). (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 86).

+Advisement- assisting students in making decisions for future plans based on academic, career and personal/social data. (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 86).

These four terms should not only drive our involvement in the scheduling process, but also be integrated into the cornerstone of our School Counseling Curriculum.

As a high school counselor I have had the opportunity to completely develop a Career Development Program that begins the Scheduling/Advisement process during the 8th grade year, and includes a College & Career Day Event for upperclassmen. I took what once was a chaotic day for the entire school population (Explore/Plan Testing Day) & turned it into a day focused on planning for the future for all students. I then incorporated test interpretation sessions into classroom lessons in collaboration with our English department & fused 4-year plans into the lesson. 8th grade parents in our district now attend an 8th grade parent night, with their student to receive their Explore test scores, attend an interpretation session and learn how the assessment results can be used in the career development process; four year plans are also discussed during this event. An example of what our Career Development Program looks like for each grade is below.

Grade 8- Administer Explore test, return results (interpretation session) during an 8th grade parent night, during the scheduling/registration period. Provide resources to deepen their understanding of college/career planning. We provide a Freshman Curriculum Guide, blank ILP, college access handouts, and "My Future, My Way: First Steps Toward College—A Workbook for Middle and Junior High School Students," a Federal Student Aid publication.

Grades 9 & 10- Administer Explore/Plan test during College & Career Day, return results (interpretation session) during a classroom lesson, incorporating ILP creation. Some students may need more individualized time following this lesson to complete their ILP. Our ILP's are now electronic so we complete the exercises provided by ACT and follow up with ILP completion during PE class.

Grades 11-12- Attend Individual Student Planning meetings with the School Counselor in September/October. Attend College & Career Day Events: Keynote speaker about planning for the future, breakout sessions based on financial aid, careers etc, and a mini college fair with representatives from colleges the students are interested in.

Note: the College & Career Day event happens on one day from 8-11, and involves our whole school staff. We also provide a full range of additional classroom lessons in conjunction with the Illinois Student Assistance Corporation that focus on preparing for college/career success & high school planning.

What we have found as a result of this process is that students are more prepared to complete their registration form each Spring, have a better idea of what their long-term plans are, and experience more academic success. As the only counselor in a school of 350+ students, this process has kept me busy, but also saved me a lot of time by being proactive.

What is your process?
How do you maintain your identity as a School Counselor and still accomplish "scheduling"?
What tips or inspiration can you share to help other School Counselors through this process?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


As we begin our journey to becoming School Counselor's we are excited for the journey through the program & what lies ahead in our altruistic career. Well, until we take group, learn about Yalom, authenticity & get confused trying to determine what it means to be in the here-and-now. [Feel free to laugh now, its safe here & you're not alone]. Eventually we find ourselves, in the here-and-now, reduce our utterances during sessions, master those basic skills, survive practicum & internship & discover what our personal theory of counseling is and how it will define us as we venture towards our next beginning, a school counseling job.

This new beginning might be the scariest of all, despite the wealth of knowledge & training that has lead us to the point. Perhaps it's the scariest of all because of the unknown, not knowing how our role as School Counselor will be defined, or how we will be defined (hopefully not by the"G" word). Here too, we eventually find our way and put to use all of those tools in our tool belt, build confidence & continue to grow.

As time progresses and the "big" new beginnings fade, we learn that as School Counselor's we will always have the opportunity for "beginnings" with every student we see, every concern they share & with the start of each new school year.

We will always be tasked with advocating, not just for others, but also for ourselves, and how our role is defined. Throughout our careers we will experience excitement, fear, accomplishment and sometimes loneliness; but at the end of each day we have the opportunity to reflect (and we should), and at the beginning of each day we have the opportunity to reboot & begin again.

Our journey is long, and sometimes an immense opportunity for self acceptance, growth & development, but also a time to appreciate our great opportunity to always begin again.

Take some time this week to reflect on how you reflect at the end of each day and reboot & begin again each school day.

Our ability to allow time & space for ourselves determines our ability to live & to love in our own space.

Welcome to School Counselor Space. Please comment below on how you end & begin each day & the pros and cons associated with your methods. This is our space, this is our time.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome to School Counselor Space

...It's January 2013, and an idea is born. I am a high School Counselor and an Illinois Licensed & National Certified Counselor. I serve roughly 350 students each day and always strive to remain goal oriented.

School Counselor Space is being created thanks to the ever inspiring Danielle Schultz ( This Blog space will be a place for us to LEARN, GROW, INSPIRE and SHARE.

Help me create more space for School Counselors...Blast Off!

Follow me on Twitter @FSabens.