I’ve been reading a lot of posts asking what what things need to do to get ready for back to school. I know many counselors have been asking this on the Facebook Groups, Caught In The Middle School Counselors and Elementary School Counselor Exchange.
I’ve been a school counselor for so long, going back to school is routine, but when I thought to write about this routine, I actually had to stop and think about what are the most important things to do.
1. Make sure schedules are set. You can’t start school if students don’t know where they need to go. Run a scheduling check to make sure that classes have all been added and that there aren’t missing periods. Also check over room assignments and classroom capacity sizes to make sure there aren’t mistakes. Also make sure that you don’t have teachers in two different locations at the same time (I have actually done this before.)
2. Make a list of new students and those who have left the building for another school. Our school has a registrar for the district but we still are responsible for requesting and sending records to other schools. Keep track of materials in and out. I also call all our new students and have them in to tour the building and try their lockers. I also try to find out some information about them that I can share with our teachers. This can include–Johnny likes soccer and is good at math, maybe in class we can pair him up with Sam who likes the same things. Or, Tina is from California and has never experienced snow before. She is very excited for the new experiences but is shy and really misses all her friends. Or, we may need to further evaluate Devin’s reading abilities. We haven’t received all of his records yet, but mom has indicated that he struggles.
3. Clean your office. This includes cleaning your files. I sometimes struggle with this as I have the “I might need this someday” disorder. I have gotten better and if I haven’t used something in over a year, I get rid of it–recycle, shred, or trash. I will also rearrange furniture or this year I reupholstered with the help of my friend, Laura, the little couch in my office. In addition, hang posters, decorate, get some fun fidgets, etc.
4. Clean up your inboxes. Whether it’s your answering machine or your email, make sure you go through and make return calls or emails from earlier this summer. After you have caught up answering questions or getting back to people, make sure you check your voicemail greeting to make sure if doesn’t need to be changed for any reason, and make sure to create folders for emails. Once again get rid of those that you won’t need anymore, and create folders to sort and file incoming messages easier. I keep email folders for each grade level team, attendance, CSE/504, medical/health office info, weekly reports for students, and outside program information/applications. This has been helpful and keeps me organized. In addition, I created email lists for special situations–advisory committee members, new students, mental health team members, etc. This makes it easier so when I need to send emails to a group, I don’t have to spend extra time thinking if I included everyone or looking for emails.
5. Set your yearly calendar. This is important. Do you have a plan for your year? Even if you are a first year counselor, you need to have a general understanding of how the school year will go. I always start with a yearly calendar and then fill in school vacations, marking periods, and PD days. I also look at the district calendar to see if there are any special events that I should include. From there I look at my biggest projects and write those in–grade 8 scheduling, NYS testing, and the Giving Tree Program are a few examples. Then I look at a calendar of special days to see if there are other days I want to incorporate into my program–Mix It Up Day, World Food Day, Red Ribbon Week, etc. ASCA has a link of National Educational and World Health Dates.