The counselor-administrator relationship can be an absolute force for good when leveraged correctly. As with any relationship, this partnership requires some intentional TLC that starts at the beginning of the year and carries on until graduation day. Think proactive vision-casting, wide-open communication, and clear expectations set from the start. Read on to discover how to take your administrator relationship from a casual acquaintance to a true partner in crime who can help you best serve your students this school year.
1- Explain your role as a high school counselor from the start
My beginning of the year presentation makes this super simple! This is a powerful way to demonstrate advocacy for your role and remind your admin how you are serving students. Not to mention… when they see your plan, they may pause before piling unnecessary tasks on you that take away from your core counseling responsibilities.
An early meeting may also expose if your expectations are not properly aligned with your administrator. This presents an opportunity to advocate for the appropriate responsibilities of a school counselor and get on the same page early in hopes of moving forward in a healthy, supportive partnership.
As you share your vision for the year, consider downloading the Annual Administrative Conference template on the ASCA website. This is an extremely useful tool for opening up the conversation to set expectations within the administrator relationship, define your role, as well as outline your goals. It is the culmination of resetting everything with your admin all in one place. And a good old-fashioned paper trail is never a bad idea!
My most successful counseling years have been backed by a strong administrator relationship where we truly felt like teammates. Be sure to invite your admin into the regular rhythms of your role, such as advisory council meetings.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance that trust and communication flow freely within this relationship. In fact, I think this partnership is so crucial that I have a whole podcast episode on resetting your administrator relationship in the new year — check it out!
2- Keep an open door policy for clear communication within the administrator relationship
As much as you can, think of your admin as your partner, friend, and resource for working through tough situations. Use each others’ strengths to conquer challenges as they arise throughout the year. If you have time early on, consider taking the Strengths Finder assessment separately (big fan of this test here!) so you can compare skill sets and understand how to build a partnership that works to each of your unique abilities.
When addressing big issues with students, divide and conquer. Delegate responsibilities and circle back to talk about how it went or what you still need to do. When you’re a team working together, students succeed from all angles and get the benefit of multiple personalities and strengths coming together.
Study your admin’s communication style (do they prefer emails, notes, set meetings on the calendar, conversations in the halls, voicemails? Everyone is different on this). Be honest about the support you need from them and emphasize in your conversations how the administrator relationship is truly an asset to your students (more tips on keeping an open communication channel here).
Be honest about how you see yourself growing professionally and the money you need for professional development opportunities. If this is already causing your blood pressure to rise, be sure to read my blog post on how to find money for your professional development. Sometimes us counselors have to be our own advocates, so don’t be bashful! Your career (and daily job satisfaction) depends on it.
3- Circle back often to track progress on goals and expectations throughout the year
Regular meetings and checkpoints will help you to work better as a team and grow in your own effectiveness as a counselor. Revisit the conference template often. Keep the goal conversation rolling (let’s NOT make our goals seem like New Year’s resolutions that never get touched again). Set up an accountability structure where mutual goal-sharing is part of the regular rhythm of your administrator relationship.
Celebrate wins, communicate roadblocks, and share how goals are being met and where progress is being made. Be proactive with your meetings, always looking to a future date for check-ins. If you’re working directly with your principal, keep a lookout for these super-promising characteristics of a leader who values school counselors.
As many of you already know, the counselor-administrator relationship can make or break a school year so don’t let this relationship get stale. And as far as staying fresh yourself, be sure to check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for a wide range of high school counseling resources. You can also join the wait list for my high school counselor membership — the Clique Collaborative — for access to exclusive professional development opportunities, an awesome interactive counselor community, and more.
What have you done to keep the counselor-administrator relationship fresh? I’d love to hear from you!