I’m still on last school year

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Plans of blogging and sharing experiences from last school year have gone a bit awry. Please forgive me. I’ve been very busy the last 10 months and this is why:

mombaby

Miss Connelly Ren was born August 1, 2016.

I’ve joined the world of moms and it. seriously. takes. over.

So while you are already well into the new school year, I’m still home with my little nugget. I’m all yoga pants, diaper changes, and baby snuggles. No complaints here!

Although I will say it is SO weird not to be at school. The beginning of the school year is one of my favorites, so I harbor a tiny bit of sadness to be missing it.

Anywho…

If you follow my blog, you may know that last year, I joined two new schools. Being split is something new for me, so I spent a fair amount of the year trying to figure out how to balance my role in each school. It wasn’t easy. It was busy and hectic and not ideal. But I did my best to be fully present in the school I was at while I was there and offer what I could. Many days that didn’t quite feel like enough (because it’s not).

You probably know that I’m a big fan of doing End of Year School Counseling Reports to showcase how I’ve spent my time and what the School Counseling Program provided over the course of the school year. Well, since I had two schools, both of which held very different needs, I decided to do a  comparative report that would show numbers from various parts of my comprehensive program side by side.

I wanted to take the time to share this report here because the more we document and share what we do, the more likely we are to increase understanding and support for our roles. In my case of split schools, the report also serves as a means to advocate for being where I’m needed most. When you have data to back up what you’re saying, it makes those conversations a little more powerful. 🙂

Take a look! (Click the link to see the full report.)

End of Year School Counseling Report 2015-2016

Summer, please stay for a while

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It was exactly one year ago today that I posted my End of Year Report for 2014. It was also one year ago today that I shared that my fourth year as a Professional School Counselor was the hardest of my short career thus far. Well, I think my fifth year was in competition for that title. And, it may have won. The jury’s still out.

The added challenge for me this year was that I left a school I adored in April to join a vastly different one. I was expecting a challenge, but joining a new school mid-year is not for the faint of heart! I knew within the first week at my new school that it wasn’t a good fit, but I had to finish what I started.

And I did. I officially finished there today, and while I will miss certain things about it, I am so glad it’s over. Now I’m free to focus on finding my “just right” school again.

Before I walked away, though, I spent some time looking at my data from my short April-June stretch to complete a report for the year 2015. It’s a basic look at the raw numbers of what I did in the three months I was there. Click on the picture for a PDF version.

EOY_2015

 

I’ve come to really enjoy putting together an EOY Report. It keeps me accountable and allows me to feel good about what I accomplished.

Now, onto my summer. 😎

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. 🙂

 

 

End of year four & back for more

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Celebrate good times, come on!!!

Without a doubt, my fourth year as a school counselor has been my most challenging. Stress doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt this year as I battled never ending changes – I had my confidence rocked so many times that a part of me considered this to be my last year in this profession. But I’m happy to say that I’m not throwing in the towel; I’m using it to wipe off the parts of me that have been wounded and I’m carrying on…

It’s easy to reflect on a school year and go, “huh, look at everything I didn’t get done.” I went into the year with so many ideas and so much enthusiasm, but sadly both dwindled away with each “no” I received and each additional responsibility I was handed. Sigh.

What’s a counselor to do? Well, this counselor is going to hold her head high because this counselor deserves to feel good about the work she did get done! She’s also going to smile because she knows she tried her best and she knows her students love her anyway. And she’s going to carry on as a professional school counselor because she refuses to let one year of seemingly insurmountable obstacles stop her from doing what she loves!

This counselor is also going to CELEBRATE making it to the end of the school year by sharing a few things with her readers.

First, I was so touched by these thank you letters I received by some of my amazing first graders, that I knew I had to share. The detail in their drawings is pretty remarkable as well!

ThankYou1

“Thank you for helping me when I needed help.”

“Thank you for giving us erasers.”

“Thank you for letting my friend and I eat in your room.”

Second, I want to share something new I did this year to show accountability and advocacy for my role within my district. I created a School Counseling Report, modeled after the lovely annual report at Elementary School Counseling (thank you, Marissa!).

The purpose of my report is to show how I used my time and how I served students this year. My goal was a concise, one page report that others could read quickly while perhaps opening their eyes to what I do. I used data from the documentation that I complete all year – numbers are powerful, so I let them speak for themselves! I uploaded the document to my district’s email system so anyone in my district could take a look. I’ve already gotten some great feedback about it!

Here’s a snapshot of my report. Click on the image to see the document.

EOY_2014

Now for some much needed rest and relaxation! Have a lovely and quiet summer, my fellow counselor friends and readers! 🙂

Back to school basics

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Back to school plans already??

I know, I know. For my school district, there’s still a month before students will fill the hallways with their smiling faces…

But it’s already August 1st, and I’ve been thinking about next year since before last year ended. So….my plans have lead me to creating a “Welcome back packet” for staff at my school. I am so excited to have my thoughts organized in a presentable way!

Here is my School Counseling Program pamphlet to hand out to parents, briefly describing who I am and what I do: Counseling Program Pamphlet

My “Welcome back packet” for staff includes a cover page, welcome back letter with my new ideas, teacher referral form, student referral form, and a ‘How can the School Counselor help?’ reference sheet.

I have realized there is a HUGE need for staff at my school to learn more about a comprehensive School Counseling Program and what it is I do all year long. I hope that receiving a packet from me will help my colleagues feel included and energized to collaborate with me this school year!

I made it a point to write SCHOOL COUNSELOR and SCHOOL COUNSELING PROGRAM about a hundred times in the packet. The more that students, staff, and parents see the correct title, the better! I need to advocate for the shift from the much outdated term “GUIDANCE.”

To help with this endeavor, I created a t-shirt at Vistaprint to wear on the first day of school and open house night. This will allow me to be more visible and introduce myself to new students and parents. Now there will be no question of who I am!

Here’s to a fabulous and fresh school year!!!