Conversations: School Counselor Schedules and Disruptions

How is your schedule setup? 

School counselor schedules can vary from building to building, district to district, and state to state. It will depend on your student population, district initiatives, best practices, and your own expertise.

The Helpful CounselorCovering 3 buildings doesn’t provide much wiggle room in scheduling. I visit classrooms every quarter to teach problem-solving and coping skill strategies. It’s not as much as I would like. With only 1 ½ days at each building per week, I need to be available to provide Tier II and Tier III interventions for students needing more intensive support.

 

Roughly 10% of my students receive group support throughout the year. Crunching the numbers, that’s 150 students. I run 3-4 groups at a time at each of my schools. 2-3% of my students receive individual counseling support. Typically, these kids are dealing with something too sensitive to share in elementary level group (e.g., family incarceration, substance abuse, etc.)

 

I have learned to leave the first and last 30 minutes of the day unscheduled. This is my email/phone call/paperwork/meeting with parents/progress monitoring time.

 

Crazy caseloads need a process for scheduling. The Response to Intervention (RTI) process has really helped me establish expectations with teacher and principals. They know that my schedule is determined by the data I get from my needs assessment and progress monitoring.

 

In terms of managing 3 buildings, data is my favorite 4-letter word!

-Heather, The Helpful Counselor

The Middle School CounselorI set my schedule by determining my priorities, setting them on my calendar and then building in other things around them. Priorities for me are scheduled meetings, for example, team meetings, faculty meetings, IEP meetings, Student Support Team meetings and parent-teacher conferences. After my meetings are set, I plan time for my groups. Most of my groups meet during lunch and we have 20 lunch periods each week, so this really can be the bulk of my schedule. With the number of students, I both need to see and want to see, having enough time can start to be challenging. It’s important to identify in your planning how often you will meet and how many sessions.

If I am doing classroom lessons, lessons will beat out my groups, so prearranging with teachers when I will go into classes is a must. There is a lot of long-range planning involved, and when I plan, I need to look at the whole year and not just the week.

I also save time in my schedule for individual meetings, planning, and parent phone calls. Typically I reserve first period as a time to do most planning, emails, and callbacks.

Lastly, I share my schedule with the main office, and group times with the grade level teams. It’s helpful to have people to help remind students and also is a great piece of advocacy as to letting everyone know how busy I am.

Carol Miller, The Middle School Counselor

How do you manage disruptions in your schedule?

Ugh, disruptions. A School Counselor’s schedule can not avoid dreaded disruptions. It is so important to know how to prioritize and respond to, and recover from those disruptions.

The Sunny Sunshine Student Support StoreBeing a school social worker means that my pretty and organized planner is full of scribbles, notes and black lines at the end of the day! My typical schedule includes classroom lessons, meetings, and individual/group counseling. However, with interruptions, such a crises and CPS surprise visits that pretty schedule isn’t so pretty at the end of the day. I manage disruptions to my schedule with a highlighter and some words such as “I am so sorry” to those who I was not able to see. If I have to miss a scheduled appointment, I highlight it and follow up with the reason I missed the appointment and my plan to reschedule in person or via email before I leave for the day.  

 

Handling disruptions in my schedule is something that has never been easy for me because I like things organized. It is inevitable in my job and my highlighter has helped me ensure that I will not miss anything. Highlighting makes it easy for me see what I missed quickly and make a plan to get it done. Have a happy school year!

-The Sunny Sunshine Student Support Store

Bilingual LearnerI work at a high poverty school where there are only two school counselors and 1000 students. We know how to manage and minimize disruptions in our schedule. There are three main ways that we are able to do this. First, we have strategically-planned daily schedules where we build in time every day to handle student, staff, and parent/guardian issues that are unexpected, such as a new student enrolling, a parent phone call, or a staff member that needs to consult with us. Here is a link to my daily schedule template, if you’d like to check it out or use it as your own.

 

The second way we manage and minimize disruptions is through frequent presentations to educate student, staff, and community on the best ways to connect with us. We train them repeatedly that any crisis (specifically defined as a “three hurts emergency”) is ALWAYS a reason to interrupt us, but it is also the ONLY reason to interrupt us. Any issue that is not a crisis requires that they fill out a request to access us (paper, phone or email). This allows us to address their needs in a timely, but fair manner. This means that no one gets to “jump the line”, and at our school, there is always a line.

 

Finally, we strictly adhere that only crises can pull us out of groups, individual sessions, guidance lessons, parent or team meetings, and even program planning! This is so, so important in maintaining a comprehensive school counseling program. After all, if we let every issue disrupt our schedule, we would only be able to do “random acts of guidance.”

Stephanie at Bilingual Learner

 

School Counselor schedules set up and managing disruptions to your school counseling schedule.

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