Whether you have an office the size of a closet, a whole classroom or even a traveling cart, school counseling office organization can be daunting. Do you prioritize having a Pinterest perfect space or functionality? Can you have both? These 10 steps will help you get that school counseling space organized regardless of the size. The most important thing is having a space that lets you connect with and effectively support students.
Add Personal Touches
We can spend over 8 hours a day in our classrooms and offices, making it a home away from home. Adding personal touches adds comfort, makes the space inviting, and helps you make connections with staff and students. I love adding pictures of my dogs. Students want to know more about them and I get to ask about their pets. It’s a natural icebreaker.
Choose Your Color Palette Wisely
Themes come and go as you and your school change with each new school year. So pick a foundation of colors that can work for any theme. Use these colors as the base of your bulletin boards, storage bins, rugs, etc. Then, add on top specifics based your theme or the school theme that year.
Don’t Go Broke
It’s easy to get carried away in the Target Dollar Spot, but it can add up quickly. Before you buy something new ask yourself:
“Do I need this or do I just want this?”
“How will I use this?”
“Does this add use to my space or does it just add clutter?”
“Does this go with my theme and style?”
Make Labels Your Friend
It may take time early on, but it will give you time back later when you need to quickly grab a book on behavior. I love using The Responsive Counselor labels because they fit into the square label pouch from the Target Dollar Spot. The clear pouches make it easy to change and relabel as your space continues to grow. I organize most of my books by topic and some by the author.
I use Book Buddy Pro and Goodreads to inventory my books. When I see a new book in a store, I can easily check and see if I own it and Book Buddy Pro allows me to track who I’ve loaned books out to.
Don’t just inventory your books, take time to inventory all of your supplies. Taking the time to inventory your supplies will help you see what you are using most, uncover items you may have forgotten, help identify what you need, and organize your space for summer pack up. Apps like Box Me Up or Sortly to create QR codes as you pack up your boxes at the end of the year.
Think About Your Line of Sight
When you open your refrigerator, where do you first look? Probably the middle shelf, right? Our eyes naturally go to eye level spaces, so take this into consideration when organizing your room. Store the supplies you use most frequently at eye level height. This goes for students as well. Don’t want students grabbing scissors or tearing up your favorite book? Place these items higher up. Out of sight, out of mind!
Have Individual Props Ready to Go
Most days we hit the ground running and don’t stop until the coffee is cold. I try and take time in between students to review notes and set up, things don’t always go as planned. For example, I may have a referral to meet with a student about friendship skills, but through conversation, I realize anger is a central issue. I love using the visual of a “fuse” using yarn or string, but it can slow down the momentum of a session if I have to dig through my office trying to find it. Put your individual props in an easy to access location. Check out more ways to use props in school counseling.
Plastic Tubs Instead of File Folders
For 10 years I tried unsuccessfully to keep file cabinets organized and neat. Finally, I traded in my folders for document holders. I organize my document boxes by topic and include all my notes, files, and copies in each box without worrying if the papers will get shoved, lost and wrinkled. Check out this before and after!
Minimize to Maximize
Each year I do a huge purge of my office and classroom. As I do, I am finding items I had forgotten or not used and ask myself “why?”. Did I forget it and need to move it to a not so hidden location or did I not need it? A good rule of thumb, if you haven’t touched it in a year: get rid of it.
Go Slow and Steady
I read a gardening tip which suggested living in a house for one year before planting, so that you could know the light patterns of your house. I like to take the same approach to my office. You don’t need to have a space straight out from Pinterest your first year. Live in the space, get to know the flow and needs of the school, and then slowly decorate and make the space fit you instead of you trying to fit into the space.
What tips do you have for school counseling office organization? Share in the comments below!
Laura Filtness is the School Counselor in Knoxville, TN and was the 2017 TSCA Elementary School Counselor of the Year. You can visit her blog, Paws-itive School Counseling or follow her on Twitter @sassy_school. Laura creatively infuses her love of dogs into her counseling program. The best way to sum up Laura’s love of her dogs is that she proudly once won a crazy dog mom contest. Her dog, Boss, is a certified therapy dog with H.A.B.I.T. and loves helping kids read.