The D-word

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I’m here to talk about the D-word. DOCUMENTATION. School Counselors are tasked to figure out a way to document all kinds of things everyday – student meetings, classroom lessons, contact with parents, SST/IEP meetings, data collection, etc. It’s no easy task! My style of documentation has changed significantly over the years, and I’m proud to have moved into the 21st century when it comes to things like Google docs.

I hear counselors talking a lot about the D-word. It seems all of us are trying to figure out how to keep it all together! The purpose of this post is to share (for FREE) the forms and ways I document different parts of my job. Please use/share what you find useful.

WEEKLY COUNSELOR SCHEDULE

I’ve evolved enough to put what I call my “core weekly schedule” on Google calendar so my secretary and principal know where to find me when needed. My “core weekly schedule” includes things like regularly scheduled classroom lessons, groups, duties, meetings, etc. that are the same time every week (for the most part).

For everything else, I still use a paper and pencil method to record everything I’ve done. On the form I created, I record my classroom lessons, groups, duties, meetings, AND I fill in when I’ve met with students, teachers/staff, parents, as well as when I’ve taken time to document notes or respond to emails/phone calls. I keep all my old weekly schedules in a 3-ring binder so I can refer back to them if I ever need to know where I was when or which students I met with when. I’ve found this method to be very simple but also very necessary so I am accountable each and every day. I write in pencil because we all know a school counselor’s schedule can change faster than we can snap our fingers! I also look at these schedules when I’m recording student counseling notes (see below) so I’m sure not to miss any documentation.

Here’s a link to my form: Weekly Counselor Schedule

STUDENT COUNSELING NOTES

For the first 3 1/2 years in my profession, I took handwritten notes for each individual or small group counseling session I did. I spent HOURS everyday after school writing my notes, and I’d leave with a hand cramp. Enter Google docs (I love you!). The time it takes me to complete my notes now has been cut by about 75%. I create a new Google form for each school year to keep the years separate. Each time I submit a form, it automatically gets sent to a spreadsheet, which I can pull up and sort through by student name, and print if needed. It’s pretty convenient.

Here’s a link to my form: Progress Notes SAMPLE (Please do not submit a form. That’s just not cool. It’s here for looking. Thanks!)

PARENT COMMUNICATION

In the past, I’d have sticky notes and random pieces of paper all over the place when I documented parent/guardian contacts. It got confusing and didn’t work for me. I came across a form that I loved, so I created one for myself. Now I keep these sheets in a 3-ring binder and it’s all organized. If there are ever questions about which parent I’ve contacted and when, I can easily access it! I also use these same forms for community agency/DHHS contacts.

Here’s a link to my form: Parent Communication Log

TEACHER REFERRAL FORMS

I’ve always had a form for teachers to fill out if they’re referring a student to see me. The one I used to use was really short and I found that it didn’t give me enough information, so I’d have to track down the teacher and ask questions, which created more work for me. I found a form similar to the one below, so I tweaked it and have used this one for the last couple years. It’s longer but still doesn’t take much time for teachers to fill out, and it gives me the information I need to get started. Win-win!

Here’s a link to my form: Teacher Referral Form

STUDENT REFERRAL FORMS

Last year, I created a referral form that students could fill out if they wanted to meet with me. I really liked using them! I found that some students who wouldn’t necessarily have the courage to ASK to see me, were more comfortable completing a form and slipping it in my mailbox. This way, students can request my time but don’t have to let anyone know about it besides me. However, I did find that the forms were used for things I didn’t intend. For example, some students would fill one out everyday if I let them because they liked coming to my room (and who wouldn’t?!), but that’s just not possible. Another example is the students who would fill out a form and check off “See me as soon as you can” but wouldn’t have much they needed to actually talk about, or the problem they were coming to me about had already been solved.

So for next year, I revamped the form to get the students thinking before they complete one on a whim. I also added a “I want to check-in with you” spot because I found that some students wanted to talk, but it wasn’t necessarily because they were having a problem. This helps endorse the message I say a lot – students who meet with me are NOT there because they have all kinds of problems! I print these, cut them in half, and put a stack in an envelope for each teacher to keep in their classroom. I also keep an envelope of them right outside my door. They’re used mostly by students in grades 2-5, although I did have some 1st graders use them too. Some days I’d receive none, other days I’d get 10! Just the name of the game, my friends.

Here’s a link to my form: Student Referral Form

COUNSELING PROGRAM PAMPHLET

In years past, I created a Counseling Brochure to give to parents at open house night or through out the year. I’ve revised it here and there, but I got bored with it! Soooo, I finally used a pamphlet template in Microsoft Word and I’m so glad I did! It was incredibly easy to create because all the text boxes and photo boxes were already there. I just had to plug in my own stuff and voilà! I added a quick blurb about confidentiality and a super cute section with quotes from students. I’m very happy with it and can’t wait to hand some out to parents!

Here’s a link to my pamphlet: Program Pamphlet

***I’ve been asked a lot which design I used to make my pamphlet. I used the “Edgy Smudge Design” under Brochures in Microsoft Word***


How do you document notes, meetings, contacts, etc? What works for me might not work for you, but I hope my forms have helped inspire some ideas! Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

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33 thoughts on “The D-word

  1. Hi Jen. I was really nervous about using an online form for my counseling notes at first because I wasn’t sure how secure it was. But I’ve played around with Google forms, docs, and drive, and it’s all password protected, so only I have access to my notes unless I choose to “share” them with someone or print them off. I know many counselors who are using Google forms now for note taking (among other things) and I’ve only heard great things!

  2. Well in my school, Teachers and Students do what we call curriculum vitae. Curriculum vitae is a society where students which helps students to do what the fit in like literating and debating club, drama, jet club and so on. At least this will help the student.
    Principals and Teachers should also have meetings on the improvements of schools.
    Parents should always come to their child’s to see how teir child has gone.

  3. I am definitely going to use the progress notes form. I am wondering about adding CPS, law enforcement, probation as a reason to see child. Or do you use something else for that? This seems like a good way to document at least that they met. Thoughts on that?

    • Hi Kristy, I’m glad you can use the progress notes idea. I don’t often talk to students as a result of law enforcement or probation, but those could certainly be added to your own form! If CPS comes to speak to a student at my school, I don’t document their meeting other than that they met. And I usually just make a handwritten note about it in their file.

  4. I am about to start my second year as a school counselor. Your blog has helped so much and has provided me with new ideas. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  5. I have a question about the google form and documentation. I made a form but am not sure how to reuse it each time I have a student. Also, do you sort yours out by student or just when you need a total?

    • Hi Angela. You should be able to get back into your form each time you want to complete one. I access my form (I click to use the online version) and then put in my info for each student I’ve met with and click submit. All forms completed are sent to your spreadsheet. I use the spreadsheet to sort by student if I want to look up something about our last meeting or to print off their meetings for their files.

  6. Thanks for sharing your resources with google. I’ve used google docs in my school for many reasons, especially a calendar but will try to implement some of your resources, especially the parent and student notes. Good for accountability! Plus I’m much faster and neater with typing than writing. Thanks

  7. This is SO helpful. As a first year school counselor who likes things to be organized but wasn’t really sure how to do it, this is very helpful and will calm my need for organization! Thanks for the great ideas!

  8. Hi Kayla: A truly amazing resource! Thank you! I was wondering if you also printed and kept a copy of the “progress note” in a separate folder. If so, do you print from the main page or from the spreadsheet?

    • Hi Amber, I do print each progress note for each student at the end of the year. I print from the spreadsheet by using the filter option under data. That way, I can print all notes on each student.

  9. Hi Kayla,
    I also use google forms for my notes but I feel like that ties me to my laptop. (Yeah I am old school with a laptop only!) Is there a way to connect them to a phone or a kindle? Something that I carry with me often? If yes how can you access the file quickly?

    • Hi Michelle. I believe you can access your google form from a phone or tablet of some sort. If you have a google app downloaded. Then you might be able to download a shortcut to the form right on the desktop of your device.

  10. Hi Kayla,

    First off, thank you so much for this idea with the progress notes. It is so much easier to type a quick note rather than write in my agenda and then in the file. Quick questions – I am new to the spreadsheet printing, so could you tell me specifically how you print up a single progress note? I would like to know in case I need them for meetings, etc.

    Thank you,
    Melissa Peterson, LICSW
    Snowden International High School
    Boston, MA

    • Hi Melissa, you can print notes by name from the spreadsheet. You go to data and use the filter option and enter the name of the student who’s notes you want to pull up. From there you can print.

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