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.

1 comment:

  1. Another great resource: