Saturday, May 3, 2014

ISCA 2014 in Review

April always brings great things, showers, flowers, warmer weather & the annual Illinois School Counseling Conferences (Springfield & Skokie). 

This year I got the chance to present two sessions (IL Developmental Model updates Review Session & IL School Counselor and IL Student Assistance Commission Partnership) so my experience was a little different than last year. In this post I will share my top 5 highlights from ISCA 2014 and how they will change my professional school counseling practice.
1. To present or not to present, that is not the question. To present more than one session or to do one & done-that is the question! Presenting 2 sessions really turned out to be overwhelming for me. Both were fun & well received, but I felt like I was so worried about making sure the technology was going to work out & getting set up on time, I couldn't focus on learning. I get very few chances to absorb ideas & connect with other school counselors in person so I have decided that I will never present more than one session in a day-just to keep myself balanced & ensure that my needs are met too.

2. Advocacy through your yearly school counseling calendar is beyond a possibility. Byron High School has always been a model for me, I visit their website often & try to incorporate many of their tools into my program, but I had never seems their program calendar until this conference. Let me tell you, they take advocacy to a whole new height--this team needs to be nominated for an award for sure!

I emailed Jennifer Wygant and asked for a copy of the calendar so we could include it in the nearly completed update to the IL Model, and I am so happy they said yes! I am excited that it will not only be a document for the public to admire, but also a document for other school counselors to incorporate into their school counseling practice.

Take a look at this beauty & tell me how many ways they advocate for their time! Simply genious right! Imagine how fulfilling it would be to walk into your evaluation meeting with a tool like that. While your principal may still say testing is one of those things you have to do, they'll be saying it knowing it doesn't meet one professional school counseling competency & by assigning the task to you they are keeping you from using your time to assist student with meeting specific competencies. 

I am forever grateful to the Byron counseling staff, they shared very useful information & their session was beyond enjoyable & energetic!

3. B.I.O.N.I.C (Believe it or not I care)- unfortunately I walked into this session late because I was preparing the technology for my session-huge bummer. I know I could have taken so much back to my school had I been there to hear everything that was shared. Thankfully I had a friend that sat in on the whole thing.

In short, BIONIC is a peer mentor program; juniors & seniors mentor the incoming freshman. Some of the elements of the program are:

  • Application process (at least 10 letters of recommendation)
  • Mentors become a huge part of their mentee's life (lunch meetings, grade checks etc.)
  • Leadership skills are taught, learned & practiced
  • A true sense of community is fostered
What stuck out to me most about this program was that is got results: reduced absenteeism, reduced tardies, reduced freshman discipline instances, increased course passing rate etc.

Since I returned from ISCA we have briefly discussed how we might be able to adapt BIONIC to work it into our existing Freshman Academy Program to build leadership skills for our upperclassmen, further ease the transition into high school for our freshman & really foster a more caring environment among our student body.

Read more about BIONIC here.

4. VT=VoiceThread & the beginning of a new opportunity for me to connect with parents & students who are absent during my school counseling lessons. 

It's always a joy to learn from Dr. Erin Mason & this session was no exception. Her website SCOPE has so many great tech applications to make life easier for school counselors, check it out here.

5. I was honored with the Illinois High School Counselor of the Year 2014 distinction! I am honored to be recognized by the association & grateful to those who nominated me. Being awarded this honor only fuels my passion for what I do & pushes me to work even harder to do better tomorrow & every day after that's for those I serve. 

ISCA 2014 was a fast paced, but meaningful experience. I am excited to update my test interpretation session powerpoints with VoiceThread & create an updated yearly program calendar that educates & advocates all at the same time. I am also working with our Freshman Academy coordinator to implement a version of B.I.O.N.I.C. That will fit in with our current structure & provide leadership skill building for upperclassmen & mentoring for freshman.

Next up, ASCA 2014! 

Please share your experience with VoiceThread or how you use your program calendar to advocate for the school counseling profession. Have you implemented BIONIC or another leadership development and/or freshman mentoring program? Share your experiences to help other school Counselors plan for next year.

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