Summer is finally here and we all have time to breathe and decompress from another whirlwind year of advocating and empowering! If you’re like us, after a week or so of sipping lemonade by the pool, you might be getting the itch to start planning for another successful year. CounselorChelsey and Counselor Keri are here to share 10 things school counselors can do during the summer to prepare for the school year!
Review your data from the year
What programs and initiatives were successful? Where is there room for improvement? Begin looking for new data-driven interventions to address those areas that were not as successful (and celebrate the areas that were!). Use your data to determine which topics you will cover in classroom guidance lessons and small group programs.
Make a topical calendar
What topics will you cover and when? Generally, I know the specific topics that I will definitely cover each year, so after reviewing my data, I can make a topical calendar to start my organization for the year. For example, I begin the year with classroom lessons introducing the role of the counselor, reviewing or teaching school-wide norms and expectations, and goal-setting. Be sure to schedule events like National School Counseling Week (February 5-9, 2018) and National Day of Kindness (February 7, 2018) as well!
Use Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers to find new ideas and resources
Counselors are always coming up with new and fresh ideas to help your counseling program! Many of these ideas and resources are available on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. These ideas and resources range from blogs, bulletin board ideas, free resources that are smaller, to entire monthly, or even year long resources that can be purchased. I love to spend some of my time in the summer getting fresh ideas! This also helps the frequent flyer students to have the information presented in new and engaging ways. You can find us on Pinterest and TpT with the following links:
Organize group materials
There are groups I know will run each year, such as groups for new students, students with changing families, students who need help managing anger, and students needing a boost with friendship skills. During the summer, I organize materials in a tub for each group. I create a binder with all lesson plans in page protectors and multiple copies of handouts inside page protectors as well. I also print copies of teacher nomination forms, group passes, and parent consent/opt-in forms to keep in the binder. The binder goes in the tub along with any supplies I’ll use specifically for the group. For example, I know I’ll use mini pinwheels and mini bubble bottles for mindfulness group, so I can go ahead and put those in the tub so they’re ready to go when I need them. This is just something quick and simple I can do during the summer that saves me time during the year!
Consider your counseling space.
Maybe I am just indecisive, but I feel like I change the look of my office every year! There are always new ideas for how to create the most inviting and welcome space for the students and staff. Think about anything in your space that you may want to change. Are there any inspiring quotes you want to hang on your walls? Any new seating options you would like to add? Is the lighting welcoming and inviting? These are all things to consider in the summer when you have extra time to plan and create! When a student or parent walks in for the first time, our office gives them a quick impression of who we are, and we want that impression to be a good one that reflects us well! Check out these great spaces from EduKate and Inspire, The School Counselor is In, and Little Miss Counselor:
Plan to connect with teachers and staff at the beginning of the year
As counselors, our relationships with the other staff in our building is crucial. This can really make or break our programs in a lot of ways. Look at your calendar and plan some time to visit teachers in their rooms during the first few work days. Doing this before the students come in is great because teachers have a little bit more time. I like to talk to teachers about what went well last year, see how I can be helpful this year, and quickly catch up on how we spent our summers. Try to spend between 10 and 15 minutes with each teacher – they are busy and you will be too! Another way I like to connect with the teachers is to provide little goodie bags or treats to encourage them at the start of the school year.
Create sign-up forms
For me, one of the hardest parts of planning my program has been scheduling classroom guidance lessons. To hit the ground running at the beginning of the year, consider creating a simple sign-up form for teachers to let you know when they would like you to teach classroom lessons. This can be as simple as a paper form to distribute at faculty in-services or Google forms that will quickly gather and arrange your data for you.
Collaborate with your counseling peers
Reach out to other counselors in your district or area to discuss program planning and bounce ideas off of one another. Find out what’s working for them and consider ways you can implement similar initiatives for your students. If you don’t have local peers, find online communities through ASCA Scene (for members) or social media. We are better together!
Look for professional development opportunities
Find in-person or online professional development opportunities you can attend over the summer to keep counseling skills fresh! Attending the annual ASCA conference is a great way to spend a few days during the summer networking with other school counselors and learning about important research in our field. It is also helpful to identify professional development opportunities available during the year so you can build it into your first draft of your calendar. Bookmark the ASCA webinar series page to make planning your PD a breeze!
For those counselors that get some time off in the summer, use it to recharge! Read a good book (not counseling related!), go outside, spend time with family, drink iced tea. Do the things you enjoy! Our job is very tough and demanding, and we deserve time to relax. Once back to school hits, we will be thrust back into the crazy whirlwind, so use your time off to take a break, or two! If you don’t have time off from your job, or perhaps work a summer job, this is important for you too! Make sure you do one thing each day to practice self-care. Taking care of ourselves is what’s best for us and our students!
While it is always nice to take time to relax and decompress over the summer, there are many ways you can use this time to get a head start on planning for the upcoming year. We hope these 10 tips will help you feel more prepared and confident with the school year begins. Let us know how you are planning on spending your time this summer!