14. School Counselors: Level Up Your Game – Why Conferences Matter

Do you attend conferences or professional development trainings during the summers? Attending national and state conferences can open up a world of opportunities for learning and networking with other educators and counselors.

In this episode, we are chatting about the benefits of attending conferences and other professional development trainings. I am also announcing details about the 2023 Summer Counselor Conference I am hosting in August! You won’t want to miss the amazing keynote speakers and presenters I have lined up!  

Topics Covered: 

  • Why it is important to attend professional development trainings for school counselors
  • How to keep up with the changing educational landscape and aligning counseling approaches with evolving needs
  • How to create networking and collaboration opportunities with colleagues from different schools and districts
  • Announcement of the 2023 Summer Counselor Conference! ????

Links Mentioned:

Questions about the conference or anything you heard on this episode? 

Send me an email: carol@counselingessentials.org



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, and welcome back to another episode of Counselor Chat. Today we're going to be talking about leveling up our game by attending a school counselor conference. There are lots of conferences that are happening this summer, whether it's your state conference, there's a lot of state conferences going on, or mini conferences or aska or even some virtual conferences, like we're hosting a virtual summer counselor conference. Whatever you have available to you, I would really try to take advantage. Summer is a great time to attend these professional events. I know it's our sacred time, our time that we have off, but sometimes we need to find time to really invest in ourselves and our future and our profession. So stick around with me and listen.

To some of the reasons that I.

Have for why we should spend our summers or some of our free time.

Going to conferences and how we can make the most of them.

So stick around and join me.

Hi, everyone, it's Carol, and thank you for joining me for another edition of Counselor Chat. I am so, so glad that you're here with me today. But before we start, I just wanted to share a review that I received from a listener. It is from multi five with the title of Anxiety Activities. And they write, Love the ideas for the activities from the anxiety episode. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent issues that I see with my students, and having lots of activities on hand is helpful. One of my favorite suggestions was the musical chairs idea. So thank you for sharing. Oh, I'm so glad that that was helpful. I'm glad that you liked it. And if for those of you that are listening and thinking, I want to hear that musical chair idea, I will link in the show notes that episode so that you don't miss out. I think it was episode three or four, actually. I didn't look it up, but I will link that in the show notes. But are you guys ready? Let's dive in. So today I just wanted to talk to you a few minutes about why I think it's so important for school counselors to attend professional development trainings. I have been a school counselor. I just completed my 31st year, 31, and I still sometimes feel like I don't know everything that there is to know. And I have to admit, when I first became a counselor, I was like, I don't have any money. The only thing that I'm going to go to is our local counselor association, and I'll listen to what they have to say. But the more I went to those and I tried to really go to every single one of those just to meet people and other counselors and learn about as much as I could, they really didn't have a lot of really hands on training, like things that I could use every day. I mean, sure, they talked to us about what services were available in our area or different things that people that we could call if we needed help with something, but most of them were really central to, like, CPS in the area or a particular community organization. In New York, we have BOCES programs, which are Career Tech, and so they would talk to us about career tech that our kids could go to and different programs. But in terms of real professional development trainings, I didn't go to any. I'm part of NISCA now. I'm a part of NISCA, but back then I wasn't, and I really didn't spend any money because I felt like I didn't have a lot of money to spend. And it wasn't until probably about ten years in that I actually went to my first state association conference. And that's it. That's all it took one time. And I was like, wow. The opportunities and the amount of information that I'm learning was incredible. But it's really important for counselors to attend professional development training for several reasons. First of all, it's to enhance your skills and your knowledge, because these PD trainings really provide counselors with opportunities to enhance your skills and your knowledge and various areas related to counseling, but also for organization or building systems or having an MTSS program or any programmatic type of stuff. They can also talk to us about career development strategies or student assessment methods or legal and ethical issues in counseling today. And let's face it, there's a lot of those as well. And by staying updated on the latest research and best practices and even emerging trends in our field, we as counselors can better serve our students and provide really effective support. That's what it's all about. Not only do we want to do our job, but we want to do it with effectiveness. And so going through these trainings and learning all that we can, especially for areas that we feel like we have deficits in, is really important. But it's also important to keep up with the changing educational landscape. Like I said, I have been a counselor for 31 years, and that educational landscape has changed 31 times. I think every year that I've worked there is just something new, because the field of education, it's constantly evolving with new challenges and demands, and they arise regularly. So by attending professional development, whether it's a conference or some other sort of training. It really allows you to stay current with changes in policies and educational practices and academic standards. And it also allows our counseling approaches to align with the evolving needs of students, their families, and the educational system as a whole. But they also provide much needed networking and collaboration because we aren't meant to work in a bubble by ourselves, even if we are the sole counselor. And trust me, I was the sole counselor for most about 25 of my 31 years, so it was a lot. But networking and collaboration is so important. And PD trainings allow opportunities for counselors to network and collaborate with colleagues from different schools and districts. And these interactions really allow you to share ideas, exchange your experiences, and build not only relationships, but foundations of how to do things better. And let's face it, we're all looking to do things more efficiently and better. So it's really nice to have that connection, those people who kind of get us. And when you go to a conference in person, you definitely feel that. You feel the energy, you feel the excitement, you feel like it's almost like going home to another family. I know every year when I go back to Niska, I feel like I'm connecting with my family, with my friends, and even at Ask. I know I missed last year Aska and I'm actually missing this summer as well. But I will be back next year. I can't wait for it to be in Missouri. I have been planning this one out for like a while now, and I'm so excited to go because I know I am going to meet up with friends and colleagues that even though I haven't seen in a couple of years, as soon as we get together, it's going to be like we have never been apart. And these are just counselors that I met at a prior conference. But they have become some of my best friends. In fact, I think about my best friends and who they are for all counselors. But this networking is so important, it's also having continued professional growth. Education is a lifelong process, and professional development trainings, they play a crucial role in the ongoing development and growth of us as school counselors. So we need to really participate in trainings and we need to demonstrate our commitment to continuous learning and improvement. Because after all, as counselors, that's what we're helping our students obtain themselves. We want them to be lifelong learners. We want them to have continuous growth, we want them to make improvements in areas of their lives. And we, I think, need to be a role model for that. We have to show that we are learning and growing along with them. And also by going to PD and conferences and things like that, it also can help with our own career advancement, such as promotions or leadership roles within our school or our district. There's also the opportunity to meet certifications or license requirements. Or maybe you need a certain number of professional development hours each year. I love when trainings also have the ability to earn graduate credit because what a great way to move up on the scale. In my district and in many in New York and many around the country, you have this pay scale. And this pay scale goes by the number of graduate credits you have on one way on this scale and your years that you have in on the other and where they cross paths is your salary for the year. So you definitely want to try to have as many graduate credits as you possibly can. And finding those credits sometimes in a related field can be difficult. I know for the conference that we are throwing ourselves for the summer, the summer Counselor conference, we are actually able to have, we are going to give counselors that attend a certificate of attendance for 45 hours of time, which they can then use that certificate to go and register with the University of the Pacific. And they'll register for a class and they can get up to three graduate credits for that pretty amazing. And those credits are $99 apiece, so it is super cheap. So for basically $350, you are getting the equivalent of a graduate class. I know there's nowhere in New York that I can get a graduate class for $350, so I am definitely taking advantage of that myself. But in addition to moving up on the pay scale, if that's an option, I know it is for AFSA as well. You can enroll in credits, university credits there as well, and move up on your pay scale. And some state conferences have that option as well. Some conferences will grant CEU credits or other credits that you can use. Or there's maybe trainings. Like if you're a social worker, you might need special training to keep your license. So these PD opportunities, you have to look for them, you have to be a part of them, you have to really engage in them. But ultimately, I think PD is helpful because it helps us enhance student outcomes. Ultimately, the primary goal of school counseling is to support students academic, social, emotional, and career development. And by attending trainings, we can acquire new tools, strategies, and interventions that can positively impact student outcomes. We can learn evidencebased practices that address specific student needs that also lead to student well being, academic success, and well, their overall development. So if you aren't looking this summer, I would really strongly suggest, my friends, that you don't wait the 1012 years that it took me to really get involved and to start taking advantage of PD, you have to start doing it now. Now I can tell you from my years of experience and now going to conferences, if you're going to the Ask A conference and this is your first time, yay, you are going to love it. I mean, there are going to be 4000 other counselors there and the excitement that you're going to feel walking in is unlike any other conference I have been to. And I'm talking about in person conferences. You don't feel that energy and excitement I don't think anywhere else. And like I said, you need to go and experience that and interact with people and you're going to have to maybe get outside of your comfort zone a little. But my friends, it is so worth it. Now one of the best ways to really get the most out of your school counseling conferences is to plan ahead. Review the conference agenda and the program well in advance and identify the sessions, the workshops, and the keynote speakers that align with your goals and your interests and plan your schedule accordingly. I know when I'm going to ask. I have it mapped out like I'm going to here and then I'm going there and then I'm doing this and then I look around. Especially because there always seems to be like two things that I want to be at the same time. I try to find a buddy who's going to go to who likes the same things and maybe they will go to one and I'll go to the other and then we'll meet up afterwards and we'll kind of review our notes and share our notes. But the other thing is I've also been to some that I was really excited for and then I got into the session and I was like, I don't really like this. You know what? That's okay too. And when you're spending $400 for a conference or $369 for a conference, you have to get your money's worth. So if you're sitting in a session and you don't like it, leave. Go to a different one. Go down the hall a little bit because you're there for you, for your well being, for your education, for your training. And you have to make the most of it. So don't be afraid to pick up and leave and go to a different session. Once you get into it, you think, this isn't what I expected. You also really want to kind of set some specific goals like look at your program and think, what do I really need more training in? What do I need to get insight in? Do I need to understand and gain insights into specific student populations? Or do I want to enhance my leadership skills? Do I want to learn about new programs or techniques or how to put together a better lesson plan? But set some goals for yourself as to what you want to learn. And then make sure, my friends, that you really engage, actively engage in the conference sessions. If you have a question, go up to the presenter at the end and ask questions. Take notes. It's really important to take notes. And when it's over, talk to the person sitting next to you. Hey, what do you think? What did you get the most from this? And network with your peers. Take that information too. And when you get home, share it with the other counselors that you work with, because by you getting information, you're able to share that. And that's just better for kids, right? Sharing that information? So just share it with people. Another thing I like to do when I actually go to an in person conference is to visit exhibitor booth. I like to see the people that are there, whether they're organizations or publishers or if they have counseling resources. I like to visit the different booths and interact with people and see are there any new things that I could buy or get or take. And I'll tell you, I probably hit up every single pen that they have and I go back with all these pens, but I also get squishy balls. And I love the little they come in these little plastic boxes, but it's like a stationary set in a box. It has like a little mini stapler and rubber bands and let's see what else is in there. Usually paper clips and all kinds of stuff. It's like perfect. But there's that. But I also like to see what books are out there, because when you buy a counseling book online, you don't really know what it looks like. And here you can touch them, you can flip through the pages. You can actually see if this is something that you will be useful. So I really love and appreciate all those booths that have resources. I just love to look through them. The other thing to do is to, once the conference is over, to really follow up on connections that you've made. Send a little, hey, it was really great meeting you to someone, or implement this is a big one, too. Implement what you've learned. Because you really want to share not only share your information or follow up on the connections that you made, but you really want to think about how you can use the information that you gained and put it into your own practice. And then you actually have to do it. You have to really utilize the materials and the information that you learned. I think those are really helpful. Now, sometimes the cost of going to these conferences is really expensive, but there are other options. There's a lot of online things. In fact, attending PD is so important to me that I have put together a summer counselor conference with 35 amazing presenters and two really awesome keynote speakers. We have the Julia Cook, school counselor turned author who has written a gazillion books, who's going to share all about joy. And joy is an inside job. And we have Lyndon Kudlits, who is an expert on LGBTQIA issues, and how we as school counselors can really support kids that are maybe questioning or want to change their pronouns and are just hitting walls with who they are and people maybe accepting them. So I'm really excited to hear from London, but we have so many other awesome sessions as well, from MTSS to Anxiety to English Language Learners and how we can best help them. And my session is on engaging lesson plans, because lesson planning for me is like, oh, I just love it. But these are the things that I hope that you will come. And like I said earlier, you will get 45 hours of professional development, and you could use that to earn some graduate credit. You just have to register for the graduate credit once you're done. But pretty amazing. And ours is pretty cheap right now. It's only $49. Regular price is 59. And if you upgrade to the VIP ticket, which comes with oh, my gosh, even more, some private podcasts are thrown in there. So additional trainings as well as all these awesome resources that you can use right away in your counseling program. So, my friends, I hope that you will attend, if not our conference, that you start thinking about how important conferences are to you as a school counselor and what they could really do to impact your counseling program, because they really do. They can really make big impacts on the program that we have for kids. So if you have any questions, feel free to connect with me. You can just send me an email at carol@counselingsentials.org and I'll answer any questions that you have. But I look forward to seeing you, hopefully next week on the podcast, but also at our counseling conference. All right, until next time. Bye for now.

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. Be sure to hit, follow, or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

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Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.