Environment matters. From the office walls to your desktop, what you put in your school counseling office sets the tone for your relationship with your students. How do you make your students feel welcome? What do you want your students to be doing and thinking when they come into your office? For me, it’s all about feeling calm, trusted, and invited. There are five must-have items in my office. These are the items that I rely on the most when a student walks in my door.
School Counseling Office Must-Haves
Students will open up and communicate more effectively when they are able to “play” with something instead of focusing completely on you. Desktop puzzles, magnet toys, stacking objects, and any random object that you can hold and manipulate will do. Sand and play-doh are probably my favorite fidgets. While the sand stays in my office for individual counseling, I like to take containers of play-doh to my classroom lessons to use as a reward for good behavior. As long as they are listening and paying attention, I allow students to manipulate one container of play-doh at their desk during portions of a lesson. The idea came from our Spanish teacher. She keeps a huge box of play-doh in her classroom. It is a calming activity that helps with longer lessons.
Another fun tool for your office is stress balls. I have started buying these online in bulk. Visitors really like to keep them and they are very helpful for those with anxiety. Seeing a big box of fresh stress balls on my desk at the beginning of the year gets me excited. They are my peace offering to visitors.
Tapping into all of the senses keeps us grounded. Subtle lighting and soothing noise are important for creating a calm environment. We never know when somebody is going to charge in with a crisis (student or teacher). Walking into the sound of a rain forest or ocean waves will instantly bring you down a notch. However, I have to be careful not to get too sleepy, though, especially in the afternoon. Which makes sense because mine is actually a sleep machine from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. It is designed to slow you down and it does a great job of that. Incidentally, you can also just use your phone to play any spa playlist from Youtube. Although not as convenient, it has worked for me in the past.
These are essential in establishing the expectations of your sessions with students. It should be one of the first things you discuss with students. Furthermore, having them displayed on the wall in front of my desk is critical in helping me to remember to go over the confidentiality rules with students.
Download the signs shown above here: Confidentiality Signs
Finally, interruptions are a big part of a school counselor’s day. Clipboards are my walking desktop. I can keep business cards and flyers in one for impromptu school tours. Another one has a to-do list for those times when somebody stops me in the hall to ask for assistance with a student.
I’d love to know your school counseling office must-haves. Please comment with your ideas!
Watch the video: School Counselor Office Finds