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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections of 2017 and Hopes for 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, I decided to take some time to reflect on the past year. There were so many personal and professional lessons learned this year, I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to reflect. Habit 5- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood is usually about our ability to understand others before we speak. But in this case, I think it's important for me to understand myself and the lessons I learned through self-reflection before I begin a new year.

I started participating in Twitter Chats in 2017. I have some of the most amazing school counselors in my Professional Learning Network. These people inspire me to be the best school counselor I can be. I've learned so much from them in the last year. I love sharing ideas with them and growing as a professional. It's exciting to be part of a group of people who love school counseling as much as I do. I also learned to be careful what you post on social media. You never know who will be looking at your posts. I made sure to keep my posts professional, but some people can always find an issue with something you say. I suggest keeping your posts positive. As a school counselor, it's our job to put your best foot forward. Parents, students, colleagues, administrators, and future employers can always find you. It's our job to teach students how to use social media appropriately, so we have to make sure we're doing that ourselves.

Lines in the Sand

Last year, I took my first school counseling job part-time at a charter school. I loved most of my coworkers, but I wasn't really happy there. In late spring, I went to visit one of my professors from Lehigh. He told me I needed to decide what my line in the sand was-- what I was willing to put up with and what I wasn't from a workplace. Shortly after this conversation, a few significant events and conversations occurred at work and I realized that my line in the sand had been drawn. I knew I wouldn't be returning the next school year. I made my decision to write my letter of resignation and leave before the school year even ended. I love what I do as a school counselor. For a post on why I love being a school counselor, click here. But I also love my family. I want to have a life outside of work too. Work-life balance and self-care is really important to me. I didn't feel like I had that at my first school. I didn't always feel appreciated or respected by certain people either. I saw and felt what my line in the sand was. This piece of advice has been the single most important piece of advice I have ever received. I also use it in my personal life now too. I didn't have a job that I was planning to go to when I quit my first school counseling job. It was a risky, but bold move to take. For awhile, I questioned if I made the right decision and was upset about it. I was given an opportunity to be a long-term substitute school counselor at Freemansburg Elementary School in Bethlehem. I loved working there as a counselor. This experience showed me that I made the right decision leaving my first school. I saw that I could have work-life balance as a counselor at Freemansburg and I was respected and appreciated. I learned that I could have everything I wanted in a school counseling job and my line in the sand wasn't so unrealistic.

When I was at a group interview a few weeks ago, I saw a counselor that I worked with at my first school. She told me that she was talking to her husband about me. She told me that she told him she looks up to and respects me for standing up for myself and drawing my line in the sand. I was shocked that someone older than me would look up to me, but it really feels amazing to be respected like that.

School Counseling Lessons
This year, I really started to establish my school counselor identity. I know, without a doubt, that this is the only job for me. I've tried subbing as a teacher or teacher assistant, but nothing feels quite as right as being a school counselor. I was the official school counselor at a K-3 charter school. I started establishing my vision for my school counseling program. I saw the direction I wanted my career to go. I realized that at some point, I want to attend a PSCA Conference and an ASCA Conference. Maybe at some point, I'll even present at one. I may never win school counselor of the year, but wherever I land up being an official school counselor, I want my "kids" (students) to think I'm the best counselor in the world. It shouldn't be hard to convince them of that based on how much I love school counseling.

I learned that I'm adaptable. Shortly after taking my long-term sub job in an elementary school, I started to establish relationships with staff. I felt like I belonged there. I feel like if I get another long-term substitute school counseling job, all I have to do is share my personality and joy and I'll fit right in. I'm Proactive (Habit 1) by nature and I love to jump right in and get my hands dirty. I'm always asking what I can do to help and I am highly visible in the schools that I work in. I also learned that I love teaching school counselor interns. I had the opportunity to "supervise" two interns at this school. I thought I would never want to have interns, but they changed my mind. More on this in a future post.

Charter v. Public
I always knew I wanted to work in a public school. The school district that I have spent most of my professional career working for has made such a positive impact on me in the four years I worked and interned there that it hurt for me to leave and go to a charter school, especially one that had such a tumultuous relationship with my district. I knew I wasn't happy in the charter school I worked at and that I was looking to return to the public school system. I returned to my district to sub as a teacher and teacher assistant and as an LTS school counselor. I loved it. This experience reinforced that I belong in a public school. One of the things I noticed right off the bat is that there is more of an opportunity for work-life balance or Sharpening the Saw (Habit 7) in public schools. Public schools also follow education law more closely than charter schools. I know that public schools are the only place for me.

What I Want
I hope that within the next two years, I can get an official elementary school counseling position in a public school that I can stay at until I retire. I hope that as much as possible, I can pick up long-term substitute school counseling positions to gain experience until I can get an official position, because there is nothing else I'd rather do. I really do love school counseling that much.

I met some of the most amazing people at the first school I worked at as a school counselor and the first school I was a long-term substitute school counselor at. My work relationships are becoming much more important to me. When you love the people you work with, it makes work that much better. Some of my personal relationships are changing, and that's tough for me, but that's how life goes. People grow up and grow apart and relationships change. But I've also formed new friendships that are important to me. I hope that the personal and professional relationships that I established in 2017 will still be a prominent part of my life in 2018.

As 2018 approaches, I decided to think about what I would like to accomplish by next year. Where do I want to be in 365 days? What do I want to be doing and who do I want there with me?

  1. I hope that I get the long-term substitute school counseling job that I applied for in a local elementary school. I'll be interviewing for it next week. I'm nervous, but really hope that I get the position and the opportunity to show my stuff to another school district that may need a school counselor in the next few years.
  2. I hope that no matter what, I'm working as a school counselor this time next year, whether it be as a long-term substitute or as the official counselor. 
  3. I hope that I'll have a decent amount of money saved up to buy a house by this time next year. 
  4. I hope that no matter what I'm doing and who I'm with that I am happy. 

It's amazing to see how far I've come in the last year. I'm proud of what I've accomplished in 2017, even if I'm not where I want to be just yet. There were bumps along the road and sometimes tears, but I learned important lessons and gained important relationships that I wouldn't trade for anything. I look forward to 2018 with hope and more than a little anxiety, but I have faith that I'm ready for whatever lessons, experiences, and relationships lie ahead in the next year. Always look for the silver lining.

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