Search This Blog

Sunday, October 16, 2016

First Weeks As A School Counselor

I started my first job as a school counselor this past August only a few months after graduating from Lehigh with my Master's in School Counseling. Not only was the job new for me, but a school counselor designated to my building was also new for my school. Previously the school counselor in my building was shared with another building. My position is part-time, as the principal needs to prove that the position needs to be full-time. The principal and teachers didn't know much about what a school counselor could bring to their school, so it was my job to educate them about what I could do for them. This is a continuous process. As new things come up that I can assist with and be part of, I educate staff to let them know that it is part of what I do. I also did a few other things in my first few weeks that I think helped me as a professional.

Introduction to Teachers
During the in-service week, I emailed all the teachers to tell them that I would be around to introduce myself to them and get to know them. I had interned during undergrad with a school counselor who told me that she made an effort to walk around and introduce herself to the staff when she started at her school. I thought this was a great idea to show the teachers that I was approachable and willing to help them. Some teachers were very welcoming and I felt like this opened the door to them. These teachers were the same teachers who did not hesitate to ask me to speak to their students during the first few weeks of school, when separation anxiety was a key issue. I'm hoping over time, staff will start to see that I am an important part of the school team. School counselors know the important role they play in the school, but it may be possible that you will meet staff members who are not welcoming and easy to work with, especially in a school with a new school counseling program. The best advice I have, is just keep trying-- show them what you have to offer and hopefully they will come around. 

Introduction to Students
During the first week or two of school, I went to each classroom and introduced myself to students. For kindergarten, I just told them my name and what I do in very simple terms. For first grade, I used a "book" the previous school counselor gave to me called Minions Meet the School Counselor. It is just printed off from the computer. For second and third grade, I read Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High Fives by Eraianna Winnett. This book does a great job of explaining the role of the school counselor. It helped me to introduce myself to students so they would know who I am and what I do. In addition to the books I read, I had each student tell me something about themselves. I have a caseload of 600 students. I will not know each student personally, but I wanted to hear something about each student so I started to establish connections with my students. I also gave each teacher 10 copies of a school counselor visit request sheet. So far, this slip has not been utilized and teachers rarely refer their students to me. However, I come into their classrooms once per month, so I hope that students will ask their teachers to see me as needed. 

Needs Assessment
During the in-service week, I also sent out a Needs Assessment to staff using a Google Form. I gave teachers a deadline for having the Needs Assessment returned to me. A little less than 80% of the teachers responded to my survey. I asked them about services they thought their students would benefit from and how I could help the teachers. I also asked what lesson, group, and individual counseling topics students would benefit from. The responses I received helped me to see where to focus my efforts to help students and teachers. Hopefully next year, I can get a 100% response rate. 

Connections with Other Counselors
I checked in with the other counselor about questions I had almost daily. She set up a meeting with the high school counselors so I could meet them. Meeting with all of the counselors helped me to get to know them and to establish a support system. As a new counselor, it is important to have other counselors to ask questions. I also kept in touch with my internship supervisor. Anytime I have questions, I ask her for advice. 

Lesson Planning
Before things got crazy with students coming in, I spent some time during the in-service planning my introducing the school counselor lessons and my lessons for the month of September. I emailed teachers to ask what they would like their first lesson on and got started on planning. 

Group Planning
According to the needs assessment results, teachers thought friendship skills would be most beneficial. My internship supervisor always started the school year off with friendship group. I used the packets she used for groups so I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel right now. All I had to do was make a group packet for kindergarten students. 

Counselor Weekly Newsletter
At the end of September, I started to notice that teachers rarely used the Google forms I created to sign students up fro groups. They didn't always sign themselves up for class lessons. I was sending out emails daily between group and lesson sign-ups, planning for Unity Day and College Day, etc. I decided that I was going to send out a weekly email with everything that I have going on in the counseling world. I included links to the Google Forms to sign students up for groups and my spreadsheet for signing up for class lessons. I also included the days and times for the groups I'm currently running and a section for due dates. Some teachers have approached me and told me they love the newsletter because I put everything they need to know it my newsletter. Other teachers email me to ask me questions that they would know the answers to if they read my newsletter. 

Overall, I would say that many of the things that I did in the first few weeks of the school year helped to get my first year off to a good start. Not everyone will read my weekly newsletter, but if some people find it useful and it shows my principal all of the things that I am doing, then I would consider it successful. Not everyone will be welcoming or respond to a needs assessment, but if most people are receptive, then I would say you're on the right track. I hope this helps you in your first weeks as a school counselor! Good luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment