34. Advice To Counselors From Counselors

In this special episode of Counselor Chat, I am doing something different and sharing invaluable advice from experienced school counselors. this advice is not only for new counselors but also beneficial for seasoned professionals as they navigate the challenges of their roles throughout the school year.

Some of the advice you will here:

Be Visible and Communicative: a school counselor with 11 years of experience, emphasizes the importance of being visible in your school. 

Building Relationships and Eating Lunch with Students: a counselor with 30 years of experience, shares her wisdom. She recommends focusing on building relationships not only with students but also with cafeteria workers and custodians, who can be valuable allies in your work. 

Never Be Too Proud to Ask for Help: a 12-year counselor and the 2018 California School Counselor of the Year, offers essential advice for counselors, both new and experienced. He highlights the significance of being humble and admitting when you don’t have all the answers. 

Find Your Support System: an elementary school counselor from Arkansas, underscores the importance of finding a support network. 

Take Care of Yourself: a school counselor from Ohio, emphasizes self-care in a challenging profession. 

Remember It’s About Relationships: a counselor with 13 years of experience, highlights the central role of relationships in counseling. 

Have Fun in the Chaos: a counselor in her 7th year offers a piece of advice that encourages counselors to find moments of joy and fun amidst the chaos of their roles. Her advice reminds counselors not to forget to enjoy the journey and have fun while making a positive impact on their students’ lives.

Use Strategic Noticing: another counselor from Northwest Ohio introduces the concept of “strategic noticing.” 

I am so thankful for the experienced counselors who shared their wisdom and advice, and I encourage you to share your own insights and experiences, as this kind of collaboration helps elevate the counseling profession and support one another. Click the link below to submit your tip/advice!

We want to hear from you!  Have something to share with other counselors? Click Here!



You're listening to the Counselor Chat podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place, because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in. Hi, everyone. It's Carol. Thank you for joining me. Counselor Chat. Today I am doing something a little bit different. So a couple weeks ago, I sent a little all call out to the Facebook groups that I run, and I asked counselors to send to me in a recording their advice for some of our newer counselors. Because I have been receiving a lot of emails or DMs or just messages in general from newer counselors who are just looking for a little bit of advice as they start their year. And even though the school year has already started, I think this is some really good advice that they can use throughout the entire year. Because sometimes when we're brand spanking new and we just start our job and we're in the first couple of days or the first weeks, we are just so, I think, overwhelmed with just learning our new surroundings that we're not even thinking about advice or things that might be able to help us. Some tips to get us through the year. But now that the school year is a little bit underway, now is really the perfect time to really start thinking about, wow, what can I do? What do I need to do? What changes do I have to make in my program? Or what do I want to make in my program? Or, okay, now that I kind of have my feet wet, really, what am I supposed to be doing? Or what's going to really help me be the best version of a school counselor that I absolutely can be? So I want to say a big thank you to all the counselors that did respond and gave me some advice and tips for our newer counselors. But you know what? I listened to all their advice, and I have to say, it's not just for new counselors. It's for really, every counselor. So I hope you enjoy this episode, and that when you're listening to these tips from everyone, that maybe you find something that might help. So without any further ado, let's dive in.

Hello. My name is Keri Hughes. I am a school counselor from Missouri. I serve on the board of directors for Missouri School Counselors Association, and this is my 11th year as a school counselor. Just a few tips that I have. First off, be visible. Like, if you are in your office working, that is okay, but get out for a few minutes and walk the halls. Let the students, let your teachers, let your staff see you out in the halls. Most likely, they will say something to you. They will have a question for you. This is how they get to know you. So be visible. Also make sure to communicate with your staff, with your families, with your students. At the beginning of the year, I request to be put on the agenda so that I can share what my counseling program does for staff and share data with them. It's really important to let them understand what we do because most of the time they don't know if we don't tell them. So unless you're in their classroom teaching lessons, they really don't know the other stuff that we do. So it's really important to share that with your staff. I would love to start doing like a monthly data share with my staff. Haven't gotten there yet, but just anything you can share is really worthwhile and it will pay back in so much understanding of your role and appreciation for what you do for the school as a whole. The last one I have is something I did last year. If you're kind of wondering how to start with students, maybe you're new to the building. I highly recommend eating lunch with every student in the building. I scheduled this last year. One day a week, I would block off the conference room during all lunch shifts, and I would pick five to six students every week from each grade level, and I would eat lunch with them and we would go around, introduce ourselves to each other. We would usually say something that was going well for us and share what we want to be when we grow up. And then sometimes I have a little would you rather book. And I would ask them some would you rather questions. And at the end we would take our picture and just wish them well and to have a great week. And the kids absolutely love that. I only had one student who said no. He didn't want to come. And I said, well, you don't have to come the whole time. You can just come for a few minutes and then if you don't like it, you can leave. Would you at least try that? And he said yes. And he stayed the whole time. And he has since asked me, when am I going to eat lunch with you again? So the kids really enjoy this. It's a great opportunity to introduce them to some peers not in their own classroom, and just to offer up that space of how important they are to you. And it's a little bit more personal than your classroom lessons. So I got a whole lot of bang for the buck out of that one. Wanted to share. I think that's all for today. But just like be visible. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And let people know what you're doing because you're probably doing some amazing things.

Hello, everyone. This is Jeff Ream. I'm a school counselor in Northern California at a high school level. This is my 12th year in the industry. In the past, I was the 2018 California School Counselor of the Year. I also write a blog called The Counseling Geek. But I looked back at a blog post that I wrote about essentially writing a letter to myself when I was new that I feel like still rings true today. So I'm just going to quickly cover three main things that I think a new counselor might want to know. The first one, I think is probably the most important for a new counselor to understand, and that's to never, ever be too proud to ask for help. Being new, it can often seem, and many times students and families may expect you to be the expert. And we might not feel that way, and it can be kind of somewhat embarrassing or difficult to admit that you don't have an answer, but that's exactly what we need to do. It is okay to not have an answer for everything. Seek out people that you can turn to for consultation, and also don't be afraid to model when you don't know something. Students and families also need to see that professional people with a large amount of education may not have all the answers, but maybe we can figure out ways to find those answers. Being able to say things like, I don't have an answer to that question right now, but I'm going to use my research and do a little bit of connecting with my colleagues and connections, and I'm going to get that information to you, or I'm going to find someone who maybe has it and being able to defer to that. The second thing I think that took me a little bit to figure out as a newer counselor, but I think is also very important is that we in the helping profession want to make people happy and feel good and feel successful. And it took a little bit of time for me to really get into it. And I think as you get more seasoned, sometimes you also get a little more jaded or thick skinned. But us helping professions, we sometimes don't as much as others, but we cannot make people happy all the time. Their happiness cannot be contingent on our success or not. And so sometimes you're just going to have an upset student or an upset parent that's going to make you feel like you're a failure sometimes. And you have to start beginning to kind of like, take that with a little bit of a grain of salt and think about what are they coming through? What are the things that maybe they're struggling with that's maybe not even having to do with you or your position. Sometimes it is. And if it is, I think practicing these two words, I'm sorry, is a very good first step. Owning the mistakes and that we're human is an important thing. And being able to communicate that truthfully and clearly with students especially, but also their parents or coworkers is a very powerful thing. And then finally, I think similar to that idea of us in that helping profession, we oftentimes follow our hearts. And that means being that unwavering advocate for students and their process through school. But we also have to bring our brains along for the ride. When I was doing some research, one word that I found that kind of really defines our role as school counselors is that root word counsel. And one definition that stuck out to me was to stand between. And so we stand between students, we stand between their parents and them, their college and them. And our goal is to not stand between, but really to bridge that gap, right? Not to prevent those things from happening. Sometimes that might be the case, but to make those connections and support along the way. So look for all those opportunities to be that person. But we also have to realize, and this is where I think we as counselors, especially newer counselors, tend to kind of get stuck, is being that voice of reason within that at times. Sometimes we have students and or families that come in with very unrealistic expectations or goals, and we sometimes need to be a level of reality in being able to speak truth and speak hope in that truth, but not necessarily beating around the bush. So I would encourage you to think about those three things. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We can't make everyone happy all the time. And follow your heart, but take your brain with you as you navigate your first couple of years of being a school counselor. And it will help you develop into a great and growing and continually growing school counselor along the way. Best of luck to you.

My advice is to keep some copies of bulletin board letters in your room. And unlike paper and so I just make copies and the kids come in and they help me cut letters out. And I know it sounds silly, but it's really therapeutic and they love it. And even if we don't use them for anything, I can say that we are using it for a bulletin board or a sign that some teachers need in lower school or a project some teachers need. And it just gets them in my room and it gets them chatting and sort of like side by side, shoulder, shoulder work versus know, staring blankly at the wall. But anyhow just kind of opens up them to talk more and share more and feel more comfortable. Hello, my name is Robin Zorn, and I'm from Atlanta, Georgia, and I have been an elementary school counselor for 30 years. Well, this is my 30th year, so some tips that I would have. First and foremost, give yourself grace. This is a very hard profession at times, and know that when you put your head down at night that you did the very best that you can. But sometimes it's difficult get people in the boat with you because you don't want to be making tough decisions by yourself. So make sure that there's others that you're consulting with. Get to know the cafeteria workers and the custodians. They will be your best friends. And especially if you're in elementary school, I would suggest making sure you have a curriculum map because there's nothing better than when you know you need to teach next week and you just open it up and you see your topic and what your idea is and you're good to go. And lastly, wear tennis shoes as often as you can. You got this.

Hi. My name is Rebecca School. I'm in my 7th year of school counseling in the Greater Cleveland area of Ohio, and my tips for new school counselors include number one, even when you're not doing something that's on your curriculum, when you're just listening and being present and engaging with your students, you are going to be making a difference. The kids watch and listen and see everything that you're doing. So whether it's waving hi to them and smiling to them and telling them that you're happy to see them there or it's showing up at a game to cheer for them or a concert, you are building those relationships. That are going to be so important and so valuable and the smallest things that you didn't even realize will come back to you later. When a student tells me, you know, that day, that really helped me. My other idea is really for you to be able to understand that we can't take things personally. A lot of times we might be dealing with guardians who are under a lot of stress, but they're usually coming from a place of fear and love for the kids that they care about. And finally, my last thing would be to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. We can be exposed to a lot of trauma. Secondary trauma is real. One of my professors actually told me that when he would come home from counseling, before he even left the building, he would wash his hands. It was kind of a ritual to wash away some of what he had carried that day. I do that myself sometimes, and on hard days I go home and take a whole shower. So you are doing a wonderful thing for all of the students of today and tomorrow, and you're helping our world. Some days are going to be amazing and grab onto those moments of joy and celebration and share them with each other. But also find other counselors that you can turn to that you can consult with, that you can vent to without breaking any confidentiality.

My name is Christina Medrano. I'm from Idaho, and I have been a school counselor for eight years. My advice would be to just remember that it's all in the relationships and connections with students. Have a great year and just remember that. Thank you.

Hi. My name is Jordan Tatum. I work at Community High School in Unionville, Tennessee. I'm currently working my 13th year as a school counselor and my second year as a high school counselor. A word of advice that I have for new school counselors is to spend time getting to know your faculty and staff depending on the size of your school. It is easy to view ourselves as though we are on an island sometimes, and it is great having those relationships and connections with the other educators in our building.

Hi, my name is Amanda, and I am an elementary school counselor in Arkansas. This is year six for me, and my biggest tip for any new school counselor is to find your people. A lot of times we are on Counselor Island if you're the only counselor in the building. And so it is extremely important to find at least one person, hopefully a few that you can trust, that get you that you can go to when you're having a bad day profession, they understand you and your heart and can empathize with you. I have a wonderful facilitator here who kind of is a teacher coach, and she is my person, and I'm her person. And half the time, neither of us know what the other one's talking about, but we help each other get through the hard times. So that is my biggest tip, I would say. The second tip I have for a newbie is to document, well, whatever that may look like for you.

Hi, Carol. My name is Madison and I'm a counselor down in Comp, Pennsylvania. I'm in my third year currently, and I think this piece of advice can help not only new counselors, but I think any counselor who is feeling the struggle of just juggling all of the things that we do on a day to day basis. And I'm in an elementary setting, so anyone that is an elementary counselor, I think could benefit from this especially. But it's really hard to feel like we're doing our job well when we have so much going on. There are so many things that we have to do and get to while balancing just the daily crisis of the day. And I had a conversation with one of my teachers the other day, and I was feeling a little bit down on myself, and I just kind of said, I keep dropping the ball. And she gave me a really good piece of advice, and she said, we're all juggling balls every day, and we have to kind of decide which balls are rubber, and we could just kind of let go and let them bounce. And which balls are the glass ones, which would be the ones that we really want to try to keep up. So I think just remembering that we all have things that we're juggling and some things we could choose to let those be the rubber balls, and we could try to keep the glass ones in the air, and it's okay if a rubber one falls or gets dropped from time to time. No harm, no foul. And so that's a piece of advice that I've taken with me. And I think just giving ourselves grace every day, not being so hard on ourselves when we can't get to everything, because it's almost impossible for us to do. So I hope that that piece of advice helps other counselors. And thanks for listening.

My name is Holly McManus. I am in my 13th year as a counselor, my 9th year as an elementary counselor. I have a few pieces of advice. The first is find your squad or your tribe. The other counselors that you work with or that are in your district that you can lean on, that you can collaborate with, that you can gain support from, and that you can offer support to. Another thing is make sure you ask questions. If you have questions, a lot of times we feel like we should know all of the answers, and it can be really scary and a lot of pressure to not know what the answer is. Ask questions. Admit when you don't know the answer. Say something like, I'm not sure, but I'll find out, or I'll look into that. Let me ask my team things like that are okay to say. And then my third is, remind yourself, even when things are really hard, sometimes you're the only person standing up for that kid. That is your role. When it all comes down to it, you are an advocate, and you are the person that that child is going to rely on. And so sometimes you just have to suck it up and find some courage in these hard situations so that you can be there for the kid that needs you. Good luck, everyone.

Hello, my name is Rachel, and we're an aunt from Healthy. I have been a counselor. This is actually my 7th year as a counselor and my first year as a junior high or middle school counselor. The tip that I will provide for counselors is to have some fun in the midst of the chaos. Sometimes we forget to stop and just be and enjoy it, even in the midst of the chaos. So that is my tip.

Hello, this is Nikki from Northwest Ohio, and I am in year 19 as an elementary school counselor. I have a couple of tips to share for new counselors. The first one is strategic noticing. I learned it at the behavioral leadership training with Scott Irvin. The idea is ignoring the negative behaviors and noticing the positives. So if I'm in a classroom and we have a student who is tapping their pencil. I might notice the kids around that student who are doing what they're supposed to be doing. And it sounds like this. I notice Susie is writing quietly. I notice Johnny is working hard on his writing. You can also notice the kiddos who might exhibit more negative behaviors more frequently. Be sure to notice them very often when they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. It can be very reinforcing. The next one I use with whole group classroom lessons to regain attention. If kids start to get chatty or I want to rein them back in a little bit, I'll either do Simon says I'll just very quietly simon says raise your hand. Simon says reach up. Simon says reach down. Simon says touch your head. It'll pull them right back in immediately. And it's worked for different grade levels. Or you could also another strategy that teachers do is say if you can hear my voice. So very quietly if you can hear my voice, touch your nose. If you can hear my voice, touch your forehead. If you can hear my voice, touch your belly. If you can hear my voice lips closed. Something like that. And then the last tip is really helpful when just trying to engage kids in a lesson, especially younger kindergarten. 1st second. I really like it when if there's something I want them to remember, I have them listen and repeat. So I did a zones of regulation lesson and we were talking about how all feelings are normal, all feelings are okay. So I broke it down. I said listen and repeat all feelings are normal. And then they repeated it all feelings are normal. And then I said all feelings are okay. And they repeated it all feelings are okay. So anytime that you can pull them in, have them repeat with you. It's just another great way to help them retain what you taught them in the lesson. So those are my tips, my strategies. I hope you find them to be helpful. Thank you.

Well, I hope you guys found some of those tips helpful and the advice that was shared. Just some really great advice that we all could use. I know there was a couple of little tidbits in there that I thought yeah, that's so true. I can totally agree. Yes, I have to start doing that or I used to do that. Maybe I need to look at that a little bit more. But some really great advice. And I do want to thank everyone who shared their advice with you all because without them, we couldn't have made this episode anyway. Thank thank you you, thank you. For those of you that are listening, if you have some really great advice that you would love to share, we want to hear it. We need to get the voices out there about the great job that counselors do. So if there's something that you want to share, I would love to hear it. Whether it's a tip for a really great lesson, or a tip for surviving the year, or a tip for self care, or a tip for a good meal when you're short on time, I want to hear it. So I am going to drop in the Show Notes, a link to a little recording that you can go and leave your advice, your tips, your knowledge that you have with other counselors. So if you feel a little brave, no one sees your face, so all you have to do is press record. But if you're feeling a little brave and you want to share your tips, your advice, your knowledge, your awesome work that you're doing, we want to hear it. So once again, go to the Show Notes, click the link, and we would love to hear from you. Anyway, until next time, my friends. Have a great week. Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingessentials.org Forward Slash podcasts. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind to leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect? Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now. Bye.