Happy Back-to-School Season! I hope you get as excited about this time of year as I do! For today’s post, I am going to load you up with 6 school counselor tasks for the beginning of the year. These tasks will help set the stage for you to have your best year in school counseling ever!
School Counselor Task for the Beginning of the Year #1: Setting Up
Of course you already know how to set up your counseling classroom or office, bulletin boards, etc. (And if not, you can check out #8 in this former post I wrote or, check out my post here for some additional tips on office set up.) But, did you also know that there are some fab office set up hacks that will save you time and help you stay in your lane? For example, set your beginning-of-year phone message to share your protocol for counseling questions and to redirect all other questions to the school’s main phone line. That way if you don’t have a secretary to screen those calls, your voice mail greeting does it for you! Another hack is to post your weekly schedule (more on this below) on your office/classroom door, give it to the front office secretary, give it to your admin, and then STICK to it! If you are busy doing your SC thing, you will majorly cut down on people asking you to do non-counseling tasks. Also, make and display a poster of your state’s education code (law) about the role of the school counselor and display it proudly on your door or in your office, so when people ask you to do something outside of your role, you can point to it and say, “I’m so sorry! I’d love to help, but I have to follow the education code which says I must… instead.” Another must-have decoration is the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) list of appropriate and inappropriate duties– post this one prominently in your area and refer to it as needed!
School Counselor Task for the Beginning of the Year #2: Know Your Crisis Protocol
I list this as Task #2 because it is just so important! It is very likely that on the first day of school, one of your kids will have a crisis. And you have to be ready for this! Review your campus or district counselor crisis protocol BEFORE the kiddos arrive so you know exactly what to do when a students tells you they are being hurt by someone else, or they want to hurt themselves or another. Also, have all crisis forms printed and handy for a quick grab in an emergency moment! If you need a crisis protocol, go to my Resources and Links page and click on the image under Crisis Intervention Steps and Resources- you will find everything you need there related to crisis!
School Counselor Task for the Beginning of the Year: #3 Meet with Your Principal
Before going any further with your planning tasks, it is time to sit down for a school counselor program planning meeting with your principal or main administrator. If you have a co-counselor/s, it is best to meet with them first to review the Annual Agreement (link below) and to discuss your shared vision for the counseling program so you are a united team with you meet with your admin. Next, fill out and discuss ASCA’s Annual Agreement with your admin so they understand what you do as a school counselor (most principals don’t know our appropriate role) and so they can tell you what expectations they have for you. Make sure everyone signs and keeps a copy of the AA. This is an invaluable time for advocacy and education of your appropriate role/duties that can’t be missed; it will set the stage for a successful year. This meeting is also a good time to discuss your plans for #4 and #5 below in order to get your principal’s approval before you finalize all your docs.
School Counselor Task #4: Schedule It
Start this task by making your weekly schedule and posting it on your door; then give it to key players in the school (aka- front office secretary). Next make your yearly school counseling calendar of the guidance lesson topics and counseling program events you will facilitate each month. Also, at this time, review any new ideas you gathered last year that you want to add to your program- now is the time to set them up! Provide copies of the Annual Agreement and your weekly schedule to your admin team and front office secretary. If you need templates for these scheduling tools, here’s a link.
School Counselor Task #5: Present Your Program
At this point, you are ready to start prepping your program presentation for staff, students, and community!! Begin with your staff presentation since you will likely see them first. Ask your admin (preferably during #3) for a 30 minute block during a staff meeting to present your program to staff- this is another crucial advocacy moment where you will teach staff what your appropriate SC role is and how you support students. If you need a template for this presentation, click here and scroll to the Counseling Program Presentation to Staff link. Next prep your student and parent/community presentation, which will include many of the same elements that you shared with staff- namely, what your role is and how you help kids!! Your student presentation should be shared the first week that students are back; again, ask admin in #3 for a 15-30 minute block to talk to the kids by grade, class, or even schoolwide to present yourself and your program to them- this could even count for your first guidance lesson! Be sure to include info on how students can access you for both emergency and non-emergency support. For a parent/community presentation, click here; for my brand new extensive guidance lesson that includes activities on presenting yourself and your role to kiddos, click here.
School Counselor Task #6: The Fun Stuff!
At this point, you will have most of your preliminary tasks out of the way! So, it’s time to start thinking about and planning for the fun stuff: groups! If you’ve never run psychoeducational counseling groups before, start off nice and easy with just one or two groups for the semester. In order to get your groups up and running, you can follow the steps on my Group Prep Checklist here. And if you’d like some snazzy and super fun group sessions/activities to start you off, check out one or both of my Get Your Group On books!!
This brings me to the end of my August post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear what kinds of beginning-of-year tasks you are doing at your school! You can catch up with me again in September for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month! In the meantime, you can find out about my latest promotions, free stuff, or counseling adventures by following me on my School Counselor Stephanie Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest pages!