Closing Down Your School Year

The end of the school year is here, and I’m sure that summer relaxation is on your mind. But wait! Let’s first think about how you can close down this year in a way that will set you up for success for the next one.

This process all starts with reflection. Reflection in itself is an act of self-care. It allows you to assess the effectiveness of your current systems and routines, identify areas for improvement, and shift from busyness to productivity. 

In today’s episode I’m going to walk you through exactly what to reflect on, and offer suggestions on possible changes that you can put in place. What you do today can drive you towards where you want to be tomorrow. I promise, your future self will thank you if you take some time to do these things before completely closing the door on your year. 

Topics Covered:

  • The benefits of creating end-of-year reports, and what to include in them
  • What to do if you didn’t formally collect data during the school year
  • The real purpose of giving a staff survey (it might not be what you think!)
  • How data can be an incredibly powerful tool for us as counselors
  • Tips for cleaning up your inbox and organizing your files
  • Specific questions to ask yourself as you reflect on your program

Links Mentioned:

Transcript

[00:02] You're listening to the Counselor Tap 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 gauge 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.

[00:45] Thank you for joining me for another episode of Counselor Chat. Before we dive into this episode, I just want to read a little review that I've got for this podcast, and it's from Hay Bay Bay Eleven. And it says, so good. Thank you for the great content so far. I am new to the schools as a counselor and love having podcasts to listen to, for helpful strategies and to normalize some of my feelings when I have tough days. I am confident that some of these strategies will be helpful each day in my school. Thanks again. I want to say thank you for that. It just means so much. I love reading your reviews for the podcast, and I do read each one. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right, let's go on. Let's dive in. So this week we are really going to be talking about closing down our school year. And it doesn't matter if your school has school year has two more weeks a month, or maybe you've already closed out and you're off for the summer, but you still have to wind down and wrap up your school year. So before we grab our suntan lotion and head towards the sun, we need to spend some time thinking about the new beginnings and the fresh starts and the revive vacations that we want for our next school year. And if you have data, this is also a really good time to start to analyze what information was collected. And if you didn't collect data, well, think about what data you can collect next year to help really measure your success and your program success. The one thing that I really want you to know is that reflection is self care. That's right. Reflection is self care. And I think one of the biggest parts of closing down our school year is to really reflect. We need to think about what systems work for us, what do we need to work on and improve, and we also need to think about how we can shift our lives from being busy to productive. The first steps I think that we can do in terms of reflection is to really create an end of year report. If you don't know what an end of year report is, it's just kind of a summary, a one page summary or maybe a two page summary of the things that you've done over the course of the year. Really? It's just a page to show the numbers, right? So how many classroom lessons did you have or how many individual counseling sessions did you have over the course of the year? Your counseling groups, your home visits, how many community referrals did you make? Did you do any IEP counseling? If so, what was your caseload? If you're at the high school level, maybe it includes PSAT, Sat, Act, AP information. Maybe it's about how many annual student reviews or the career tech or college applications that you processed. And also what responsive services did you offer, and how many times were you called? These are good numbers, and for our stakeholders, there's nothing more eye opening than saying, hey, in the course of the year, I did 512 classroom lessons, or whatever the numbers may be, or I was called 432 times for responsive services or for a crisis call. That is great information. So having an end of year report is beautiful, and if you think, wow, that's really nice to have, but I did not collect any data over the course of the school year. If you have a calendar, my friends, and you are faithful about writing the things that you did in your calendar, especially when it was like, lessons or counseling groups that you had, well, you can use your calendar and just go back through and count. It's a great way to figure out how many sessions that you had or how many lessons that you had over the course of the school year. If you need a template for an end of year report, I will link one in the show notes. I have one. It's a freebie on my website, so I will link that for you. And it really is it's a great little one pager. We use them in my school and in my district, and we actually will put that together for our advisory council as well. It's just so great for people to see what exactly we've done over the course of the year. The end of the year is also a really great time for a staff survey. Now it's really important, too, to make sure that when you're doing a survey that you are surveying your program results and not about you. As a school counselor. I see this so often in the Facebook groups. People say, oh, I just received the survey back from our staff, and it was just hard to read all the negative comments that they had about me in the survey. Well, that's because they're not your evaluator. They shouldn't be evaluating you as a person. But what you want to know from them is, are the services that you provided, did they meet the needs of the students? So if you were delivering classroom lessons, were the content that you had, was it what your students needed, or is there other specific content that they really thought would be helpful that their kids didn't have. Especially if you have like a canned curriculum, if you then you can't really stray off of it knowing that, hey, we covered all these units. But really what I needed was a lesson on this, that's helpful information. Also knowing whether or not they want to have weekly lessons or monthly lessons or somewhere in between, that's helpful information too. If they know what type of counseling groups that you run, if they can identify students, that would be helpful or that would really need those groups, that's all good information to know about. So having a staff survey and a program survey can be fantastic information for the next year. Now, my friends, data is so important. And I know people don't like the word data, it's kind of like the dirty word. But data is important because it helps us to improve or modify or really change our services. It helps us to eliminate programs that really aren't meeting their intended needs. It helps us to create new programs that are needed and it helps us to evaluate existing programs. It can also demonstrate our effectiveness or our programs effect. So data is an awesome thing if we're using it in the right way. So collecting data is just a part of winding down your school year. The other part is really clean up. That means cleaning out your emails. You don't need an inbox of 25,000 emails, you just don't. So I know what I do each year is I go through and there'll be some things that I can look up really quickly. It might be Will books or I'm trying to think of some others that I get off the top of my head. There's always one person from the district office that emails all this new stuff and I usually save it for some reason until the end of the year. And then I just do a search for WEU is what it comes out as. It's like a newsletter and I type that in and I'll have 300 or so of those little emails and so I just hit delete all. And it's a really good way to get rid of the mass quantities of stuff that we really don't need and maybe are taking up space. And if there's things that you really do need, create some folders in your email to house them. So maybe there's certain ones on training that, oh, this would be nice to go to in the future and throw them in there. Or I know I have one that says Niska at the New York State School Counselor Association because I'm a member. And so I put all my NISCA emails in another. I have one that's all about elementary counselors and I have one that's pertaining to each grade level. So if there's information about a particular grade level or a student, I put it in there at the end of the year, I decide, do I need that or do I not need that? But clean out your emails and while you're at it, go through your files. And it doesn't matter if it's a computer file or the pieces of paper in your desk files, go through them all. I am really guilty of this. I have saved things more so on my computer, and I give it this fancy name and then I'll go to look for it later on, especially like a lesson. And I think I don't know what I named that. And then I have a really hard time trying to figure out where I saved this lesson to. So now I have a little bit easier of a system. I have one main folder that says lessons and then I have it broken down by grade level. So kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, all the way up to six. And then I do another subfolder in each of those grade levels for our unit topics. So it's empathy or if it's bullying or conflict resolution or safety. I have different subfolders in each, and that has made finding things a whole lot easier. And then I might have another folder for events. So if there's a big event or if we do like a school wide project, like each year, we are tending to do a big school wide project, which is kind of like a combination of a book and art project that we do with all grades. And then we create something for our school building. The last two years, we've kind of made these murals. This past year was one where every kid got a handprint and was how they can be really helpful to their school community. It was sweet. But go through your files and clean them up. Give them some sense of organization. You also really want to look at your room decor. You want to take a look around and say, is it dingy? Is it faded? Is it kind of not up to date? Is it old? I have some lesson plans that I look at too, and I think, wow, I was really into Chevron. I don't think I'd put Chevron on my stuff now. And so I know I have to change that. The room decor is the same way you can't have things that look so old that kids can't relate to. I mean, you want your place to be warm and inviting in a place where they come to and they're like, yeah, I feel good being here. It feels like my home away from home, or maybe it's even nicer than my home. This is just really comforting. So you want to really take a look at your room decor and make sure that it looks inviting, it looks good. And I know sometimes I have 30 years in, so I can be sentimental to some things, but it's not so much about me, it's about them. It's about the kids and making it a nice spot for them. So look at your room decor. You also want to throw away any broken fidgets or toys or games, because, let's face it, if it's broken, they're probably not going to play with it, and you're not either. So just get rid of it and go through your markers and pens. I always think this is a good task for kiddos, and so I will have kids come in, and I usually have this huge metal bin that I put all my markers in, and I have like tons of markers in there, all different colors and thicknesses and things like that. And so I will put the bucket on the table and give them some blank sheets of paper, and then I'll have them just scribble to see if they're still writing or not. And if they're kind of questionable, we get rid of them. And then I try to take notes of what colors I need because I like all different colors, the bold and the pastels and the regular classic colors. So I try to have this variety, and I just try to take note of what I need versus what I'm good with. The same with pens, there's nothing worse than grabbing a pen or two or three or four, and none of them write because they're all out of ink. So go through your markers and pens and take an inventory of supplies. You also want to look at your books. It doesn't help if you have this bookshelf full of lots and lots of books, but there's no rhyme or reason to where you have them on the shelf. So it makes finding a book difficult. It could take you an hour to find the exact book that you need. So go through and try to organize your books. I know I've seen some counselors, I personally haven't done this, but I think it's brilliant. They've gone and got paint sticks from, like, Lowe's or Home Depot or one of those places, and they put those in their book case so that they stuck out. And then they labeled them like, this is empathy and this is feelings and this is for books for kids going through family stuff and just kind of labeled them. And I always thought that was a great way to kind of separate your books. I actually have these old library bins, like Shelving units that kind of separate and help my books to stand up. So that's what I use. But I can't really find those anymore. They're really hard to find. Mine were gifted to me. But you need some way to kind of separate out your books a little bit. Now, after you've gone through all your stuff, your inventory, you've checked out your decor, you have your data, you really need to do a little bit of reflection. Now, at the very beginning, I said reflection is self care, and it really, really is, because when we reflect back, we can have a deeper understanding of what we did really, really well, where we want to be. So it's really important to thinking about reflection as a really essential piece to becoming organized. It gives us kind of a starting point for where we want to be and helps us guide us into a direction of where we want to go. It helps us identify our strengths and what areas really need improvement. So in addition to looking at maybe the program data from before or the data that we collected, we also have to say if we never collected any data or if we did collect data, was it good data? Did it measure what I wanted to learn? It's reflecting back to that. Again, as we are going through, we want to really say is what we're doing or what we did today, is it getting us closer to where we want to be tomorrow? So this whole reflection piece is really once again driving us towards having a better understanding of the goals that we have and really helping us to paint a picture of how we can get there. So that reflection part is so, so important. So, as you are reflecting on your program, here are some of the questions that I really want you to think about. So the first one is what are the things that I felt really good about in my program? What did I do well, what made me feel fantastic? And then what are some of the things I need to improve, what didn't work so well? And what are some of the things I wanted to try but I just didn't get around to it? Now, if you are in the beginning years of your counseling program, in your counseling career I know my first year I had all these things that I wanted to do. I was gung ho. I was like hitting the ground running trying to make sure I did it all. But then I realized I couldn't do it all and I had to sit back and relax and look around and really observe what was going on around me. And I then focused on one or two things. I just wanted to make sure that I could get the basics of the job done. And maybe in your first year that's all that you can do and that is fine. But there might have been some things that you really wanted to try that you just weren't able to get to do. So think about those because maybe you can incorporate one of those things into your program next year. Because if you reflect and are doing the reflection of what worked really well this year and you have a system for it, incorporating one more thing may not be that hard to do at all. And when we do the things that we really want to do, it makes us feel a little bit more fulfilled and satisfied with the job that we are doing. You also need to reflect on what are some skills that I still need to work on. And this doesn't matter whether you're in year one or year 30. There are still skills that I know that I need to work on. So what skills do I need to work on? This is important because there might be some trainings that you want to advocate for. And if you really think about what it is that you need to work on, you can then advocate to your administrators, hey, look, I really need to know more about this to do a better job. I thought a lot about this, of what I can do really well and what I still need a little bit of work on. And this is one of the things that if I had this training, I think it would be really helpful. And here's the reason why. You also need to start thinking about what systems do I need to put into place if you are a hot mess with your email, what email systems do you need to put into place? Do you need to limit the amount of time that you're on your email? Do you need to set up a schedule to walk around the building and to get out of your office a little bit so that you're more visible to people? Do you need a better way to organize your group materials? So what systems do you need to put into place and what new habits do you need to establish? And then you also need to say, what time this summer am I going to spend working on my plan? Now, before you get all upset and say, but Carol, I am not working this summer. I am off. I am turning off the school counselor life. There is no way I am doing anything this summer and working on any plan for next year. Before you go into saying that you have to do what's best for you, for some people, it is turning everything off, but for other people, it makes them more anxious. So you have to find what makes you feel comfortable. I am the anxious person. If I don't have something done before a certain deadline, I get very anxious about it. And my husband knows me pretty well. For years I spent working in either high school or middle school, and I worked extra time in the summer. I worked 20 days some years, I worked 30 extra days in the summer. And when you're the alone counselor for a building of 480 students, especially in a high school, and you're responsible for getting all those schedules out and you don't start scheduling until graduation is over, there's not a lot of time. 30 days, it's not a lot of time to get that all done. So there were always things for me to do. And I would sometimes think, I need to get this one thing done before school starts, and then I can remember saying to my husband, I'm not going to. I'm done. That's it. This is my time. This is me time. And my husband would always remind me, listen, you need to do for you what's going to make you feel relaxed and are you going to feel better stressing out about it and being miserable in your time at home because you're thinking about work. And if you only had that one more hour or two more hours that it would be all done and you'd be feel like you can put this to rest, what is going to make you more comfortable do that. So if it's putting in a free hour or two at school so that you feel like you head into the year without the added stress of more stuff at the beginning of the school year to do or are? You good under pressure. And having that extra thing at the beginning of the year is okay. Figure out you. But what time the summer am I going to spend working on my plan? And then how will working on my plan now help my school year? And last but not least, if you are doing all this stuff to wind down your year and get yourself prepared for next year, how are you going to reward yourself? Because let's face it, we all like rewards. We like to feel like, hey, I got something for doing such a job. Well done. So if you are putting in this little extra effort to get yourself ready for next year, give yourself a reward. Do it for you. All right, friends, that's all I have for you for today. I hope that this was helpful in some things to help you do to wind down your school year and get yourself ready for next year. As always, if you have any questions or there's something that you want to know more about, feel free to get in touch with me. You can always send me an email at carol@counselingessentials.org or leave me a DM on Facebook or Instagram. I'll be there to answer your questions. All right?

[24:05] Until next time.

[24:07] Have a great week.

[24:17] 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@counselingsentials.org Podcasts.

[24:29] Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe.

[24:31] On your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

[24:34] To leave, leave a review. I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

[24:38] Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials.

[24:42] Until next time.

[24:43] Can't wait till we chat.

[24:45] Bye for now.