I realize that while some of you may have already started back to school. I still have a week and a half left of summer vacation. Let me rephrase that. . . ONLY A WEEK AND A HALF LEFT. . .am I ready for the new school year to start? This is my 20th year as a School Counselor, and as you may know, I spent most of those years as a high school counselor. Last year I made the big switch to the middle school, and while I am very comfortable in my role as a counselor, I had a lot to learn last year as a middle school counselor. Fortunately, I had enough experience, that I was familiar with what needed to happen when in the school year (testing, 8th-9th grade scheduling, our Giving Tree Program, etc) but I did not know the ins and outs of the middle school program. I was not familiar with what the teachers taught and when they taught it in their curriculum, I did not know the personalities of the staff I terms of who would be easy to work with and let me into their classes, nor did I know what I needed to focus on besides student mediation, crisis counseling, and whatever problem came through my door. In other words, I did not start my school year with a plan. At the high school, I had a counseling calendar of what my school year looked like. Going into this year, I knew I needed one at the middle school. All school year, I took notes of when I did things, how long it took, and changes and modifications I needed to plan for this year. If you are a new counselor, it is OK not to have everything planned out, but you should have a year map. You need to know when certain things are so you can plan around them. Think of like the 7 Habits and bucket filling. You need to pit your big rocks in the bucket first and then fill in around them with the smaller stuff. It is this planning that makes it a Comprehensive Counseling Program. We are after all, teachers of our own profession, and can you imagine any good teacher on your staff,not planning put their year? Core Curriculum, standards, accountability. . . This means something to us who are counselors too.
OK. . .so what does my calendar look like? What are my big rocks?
My biggest rocks are Thursday Lunch Bunch groups and Wednesday Team Meetings,
Other big rocks include student scheduling meetings. ( I meet with each 8th grade student and their parent for 30 minutes to help plan high school. This takes a month.) report cards, summer school planning, and Mix It Up Days.
Smaller rocks include my college spotlight program, the Giving Tree, and some staff morale boosters.
I then filled it in with sand. The things I wanted to accomplish to round out my program, career units, a book group for students, and study skills/time management lessons. As I put my months together, I also tried hard to make sure that I had something planned for faculty and parents, as well as my students.
But having a monthly calendar, still doesn’t complete your program, you also need to set up a weekly calendar and a daily calendar as well. For this you may need appointments that you will need to schedule. What are your individual counseling needs, your CSE obligations, local counseling organization meetings, department meetings? Staying organized is key, and by planning, you will find you have MORE time, not less. If you are a new counselor this year, fill in a daily calendar as you end your day and save it. You will be planning your year a little backwards, and will be working on next year’s comprehensive plan.
Here is what my weekly calendar looks like. Although this one is blank, it fills up quickly with everything I do.
I hope this helps you plan out your year. I am excited for my year to begin. As you can see, I have a lot of things planned. I may tweak a few things here or there; add more group counseling, professional development, planning meetings with other faculty, RTI meetings, etc. But, I have a plan and I know what to expect as my year unfolds.
The last thing I want to show you is another form in my Counselor Binder. This gets used everyday and is my message and notes page. It keeps tracks of who called (and whom I need to call) and students I need to see because a parent, an administrator or faculty member asked me to.