I've been a school counselor for so long, going back to school is routine, but when I thought to write about this routine, I actually had to stop and think about what are the most important things to do.
1. Make sure schedules are set. You can't start school if students don't know where they need to go. Run a scheduling check to make sure that classes have all been added and that there aren't missing periods. Also check over room assignments and classroom capacity sizes to make sure there aren't mistakes. Also make sure that you don't have teachers in two different locations at the same time (I have actually done this before.)
2. Make a list of new students and those who have left the building for another school. Our school has a registrar for the district but we still are responsible for requesting and sending records to other schools. Keep track of materials in and out. I also call all our new students and have them in to tour the building and try their lockers. I also try to find out some information about them that I can share with our teachers. This can include--Johnny likes soccer and is good at math, maybe in class we can pair him up with Sam who likes the same things. Or, Tina is from California and has never experienced snow before. She is very excited for the new experiences but is shy and really misses all her friends. Or, we may need to further evaluate Devin's reading abilities. We haven't received all of his records yet, but mom has indicated that he struggles.
3. Clean your office. This includes cleaning your files. I sometimes struggle with this as I have the "I might need this someday" disorder. I have gotten better and if I haven't used something in over a year, I get rid of it--recycle, shred, or trash. I will also rearrange furniture or this year I reupholstered with the help of my friend, Laura, the little couch in my office. In addition, hang posters, decorate, get some fun fidgets, etc.
4. Clean up your inboxes. Whether it's your answering machine or your email, make sure you go through and make return calls or emails from earlier this summer. After you have caught up answering questions or getting back to people, make sure you check your voicemail greeting to make sure if doesn't need to be changed for any reason, and make sure to create folders for emails. Once again get rid of those that you won't need anymore, and create folders to sort and file incoming messages easier. I keep email folders for each grade level team, attendance, CSE/504, medical/health office info, weekly reports for students, and outside program information/applications. This has been helpful and keeps me organized. In addition, I created email lists for special situations--advisory committee members, new students, mental health team members, etc. This makes it easier so when I need to send emails to a group, I don't have to spend extra time thinking if I included everyone or looking for emails.
5. Set your yearly calendar. This is important. Do you have a plan for your year? Even if you are a first year counselor, you need to have a general understanding of how the school year will go. I always start with a yearly calendar and then fill in school vacations, marking periods, and PD days. I also look at the district calendar to see if there are any special events that I should include. From there I look at my biggest projects and write those in--grade 8 scheduling, NYS testing, and the Giving Tree Program are a few examples. Then I look at a calendar of special days to see if there are other days I want to incorporate into my program--Mix It Up Day, World Food Day, Red Ribbon Week, etc. ASCA has a link of National Educational and World Health Dates.
When you are done adding dates, think about the other things you would like to accomplish and include those in your calendar as well--newsletters home, book groups, group counseling, classroom presentations, etc.
6. Get your weekly calendar and organizers ready. I have a really good memory. I admit, I can remember a lot, but even the best memory can forget things so have a plan of how you will write it down. Do you need a paper calendar? Google calendar? Both? Whatever your method, get it ready. I use Google calendar, but I also write it all down in my calendar binder so I can carry it with me to meetings and keep open on my desk. You can see it below, and get your own here.
7. Plan your counseling goals. What do you hope to do this year? How do you want your school counseling program to effect your school? What school needs have to be addressed? What data have your collected to indicate that you need to make a goal? Do you have a needs assessment? What are your school/district goals and how do you support them? These are all questions your counseling goals will need to address as they will help you to create a meaningful comprehensive school counseling program.
8. Plan your lessons. This doesn't mean every lesson you will need during the year, but at least enough to get your year started. Be sure you have an assessment to make sure students learned what you had planned, objectives, and steps that will take you through. Remember kids don't want you to just wing it. You may also need parent permission slips, forms to collect data, lunch bunch invitations, special materials or supplies, etc. Whatever it is, just be prepared with a plan.
9. Learn something new. Are there issues that have trended in your school that you need to learn more about? Do you need to learn more about cyber bullying, technology use, transgender, cutting, suicide ideation, etc? Go online. Check things out, look for upcoming professional development opportunities that will increase your knowledge. Join your counseling association, join our Facebook groups, read a book. These will all help. School Counseling isn't a profession where "this is how it's always been done" will always work.
10. Prepare for the kids by preparing yourself. Get a good night's rest, have your outfit picked out and your coffee ready. The kids (if they're not already) will be back soon. You need to be rested and ready to go for those first days. Most importantly, don't forget to smile and have fun.
I hope everyone has a great year.
Have some ideas for starting back to school? Share them with a group below: