On December 21, 2016 at 12:05pm, the clouds parted and the angels sang…I had officially survived my first semester as an elementary school counselor!!! It was everything I thought it would be and nothing I was prepared for, all rolled into one. My biggest blessing in my new career, has to be the school in which I am getting to serve. Moving to a new building, after seven amazing years at my previous campus was SCARY, but I truly have won the School Counseling lottery!!! My new campus has be so warm, welcoming and forgiving😊. It has truly been an unexpected blessing!
Melanie over at Stylish School Counselor and my fabulous AP, interviewed my last week about my first semester and how I felt about it. One of the things that she asked me was what advice I would give to new counselors. This questions gave me pause, because truly, who I am to give advice to anyone?!?!? But here is what I came up with…these are the things that helped my to stay focused and positive (most of time anyway 😊)
Find your person, both on campus and off. Someone to talk to, cry with, laugh with and keep you accountable. They should also be a person to tell you when you are being unreasonable and need to get over it 😊.
Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. – I PROMISE – you will say it A LOT! I know I have (am). My sweet office staff always tells me that I have a year to say, “I’m new, “so I should take advantage.
Try out as many documentation/organization systems as you need to, to come up with what works for you – I have spent money on TPT, I have scoured blogs, pinterest, talked to other counselors, visited other counselors and talked to the SPED department on my campus (NEVER underestimate the value of your Special Education Department! They are a WEALTH of information!)
FOLLOW THROUGH – no matter what – You are building your reputation with staff, students and parents, they are counting on you.
SAY SORRY – when something comes up and you can’t follow through until later😊 - this is the only guarantee in school counseling – nothing is guaranteed! I create a schedule every week, really, it is more of a guideline for my week. Creating a schedule helps me to refocus when things go off book.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – LOTS OF QUESTIONS! – everyone was new once! Take advatage of what I like to call, "The year of grace." Write down every question, and ask away!
Schedule time during your day for programming – YOU have to do this for yourself, no one will do it for you. On the contrary, if you do not schedule time in your day for programming, your schedule will be filled for you. Scheduling program management time will force you to stop and plan, document, and/or collaborate, as needed, to ulitmately better serve your building.
Laugh A LOT! – In our profession, some days do not seem like there is anything to laugh about. The stories that we hear and the lives that support can make our heart’s heavy. It is those days especially, that we have to look for those things that make us laugh and smile.
If you are not humble already, you will be…and that is ok – Nothing is more humbling then entering into a job where every day you leave with more questions than when you started. I have a list going of questions that I have or things I want to learn about and every time I cross something off my list, I notice that I have added two more things…that is humbling. I told my husband that I was looking forward to the day that I leave work and feel like I was able to answer someone else’s questions for a change 😊.
Practice empathy – EVERYDAY – While I am always busy, always moving, I have to remember that, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE! I work in a school for goodness sake! Everyone is busy and everyone is working on important things. I might not understand the nuisances of everyone’s particular job, but I understand that, to them, their job is everything.
This list is not only my advice to others but they are reminders for me. I ended the original list by saying that I could go on and on… so now I will😊.
Be visible – I try and begin each day greeting students in the back of our campus, then snake my way through the building, checking on students and popping in classrooms. I try to not always see kids in my office, I like to go to them as well.
Create a Testing Team (thank you to Marty Barbieri, our district counseling
Director) – this is super important, especially in Texas! With elementary counselors also being the campus testing coordinator, it becomes vital to have a team in place that works together to tackle the beast that is testing! Marty explains like this - there are too many components with testing, for one person to be solely responsible, when that is not their only responsibility. The team needs to be cross trained in all areas, for not only accountability and support, but to prevent a crisis if something were to happen to the testing coordinator on testing days. (Could you EVEN imagine, being solely responsible for testing then having something happen that prevents you from being there on a testing day ?!?!)
Write your WHY – Putting to words, WHY you do what you do is such a powerful focus point, when things get difficult. It is your professional compass, so to speak.
NEVER forget what it was like to be in the classroom – I cannot stress this enough! And I want someone to remind me of this if I ever forget. Teachers are everything! We do not get to be School Counselors, if not for teachers. We are there to support them and their students, so that they can provide an unforgettable educational experience. Teachers are the front line, every day and no matter how busy, stressed and overwhelmed I am, it does not compare to the job that they do.
Well, this is my advice and I can honestly say that all of these things have helped me to survive this first semester and will continue to carry me long into the future!
What advice you would give to new counselors?