Counselor classroom lessons often get overlooked or pushed to the side because there are a lot of obstacles to pulling them off. First, you have to get your teachers on board. Then, you have to come up with an effective lesson plan. And finally, you have to deliver the content in a compelling way that really engages and benefits students.
I get it — it can feel like A LOT. But, hear me out when I say that this intervention is going to make a HUGE difference in building a counseling program that impacts the lives of students. Not only do counselor classroom lessons extend your reach, but you also gain a larger understanding of who needs more intentional services in a small group or individual setting. It’s a great opportunity to get a pulse on your students by seeing how they operate and relate to their peers in the classroom environment.
Read on to discover how to minimize barriers and start running counselor classroom lessons like a pro at your school.
1- Be your own advocate and fight for counselor classroom lessons
“Fight” might feel like a strong verb when we’re talking about running high school counselor classroom lessons, but there are some schools where this is not the norm (this may be you!). In fact, many teachers may not even be aware that this is in the scope of responsibility of counselors. The first step to overcoming obstacles is to build a case for getting your foot in the classroom.
A quick word for the classroom-lesson-insecure counselor: If you’re thinking “I don’t have the background for this,” take heart! You work in a school full of teachers who are experts at classroom lessons, classroom management, and content delivery. Take the time to learn from them as you consider how to bring your (very valuable!) content into the classroom setting.
As we interact with teachers, it is important that we take the time to explain, and sell, teachers that your content – from social emotional learning to goal setting to personal health and wellness – will ultimately benefit their classroom because it will benefit and grow students. For example, a social emotional learning lesson may equip students to better communicate with their peers in the classroom setting which will consequently influence the teacher’s classroom environment for the better.
2- Make it easy for teachers to say “yes” to counselor classroom lessons
You want to be a partner and a support to your teachers by taking work off their plates rather than adding to them. Come in with a plan and take the time to explain to your teachers how you will execute an effective lesson, engage students, and measure success on the backend. Show that you are organized and in control from the beginning. And since we’re talking about making things easy for everyone, check out my classroom lessons on my TpT store that are packaged and ready for you to use in the classroom.
Ask your teachers for feedback on what topics they think would be the most useful. Are students in their class struggling with relationships and needing support to pursue healthy peer-to-peer connections? Is this a junior or senior class prepping for college and needing guidance on how to pursue financial aid? Are these students struggling with regulating emotions and needing a lesson on coping skills? Your teachers know your students well so use them as a resource!
3- Use your administrator if you’re hitting roadblocks with counselor classroom lessons
If you have administrators on your team and you’re not making progress in your teacher relationships, pull in your administrator for support. Remind them why this is important for your students and school to carry out comprehensive, effective counseling services at your school.
Open communication is really important in the counselor-admin relationship. This is a great way to invite your administrator to advocate for services that reach students in meaningful ways. Maybe even sell your administrator on the value of professional development dollars to purchase some classroom lessons on my TpT store.
4- Build a support team to grow your reach with counselor classroom lessons
Consider how you can use other people to multiply your efforts and reach more classes within the school. If you have an intern or there is a new counselor in your department, invite them in to shadow and learn from you. If you take the time to teach, train, and build their confidence, they could be a great resource for counselor classroom lessons. Imagine how many more classrooms and students you could reach if there were more than one of you? You can start by observing, progress to co-teaching, and then send them on their way. Plus, having a partner is always fun to brainstorm and collaborate together!
5- Create time in your schedule to plan for counselor classroom lessons
Whether this means blocking out time for meetings with teachers, lesson planning, or actually teaching the lesson, counselor classroom lessons require just that… TIME! I get a lot of pushback from our counselor friends that time is the major roadblock to planning out content for the classroom. Head to Episode 44 – “Owning Your Time Management by Using your Calendar” – and learn how you can make your calendar work for you when considering how to build out an effective program that includes counselor classroom lessons.
In your planning time, consider what goals you have around classroom lessons. Think frequency – once a semester? Once a year? – Think to think about a realistic time frame and what your desired outcomes and goals would be.
6- Use video teaching to impact more students with counselor classroom lessons
Along the same lines as using a team to “multiply yourself,” recording a lesson via video can be an effective tool to share with teachers. If you package up the content for your teachers tied with a bow (think video + discussion questions + handouts), you can distribute it to a larger network of classes. You could also use the video for students to watch ahead of time as an assignment and then you could run the discussion portion in a follow-up session.
At the end of the day, the most important feature of effective counselor classroom lessons is content that is actually relevant to your students. Consider what you’re observing in your own interactions with students, as well as teacher feedback, to identify the major needs of your students. This makes the content creation process a lot more direct!
For more insight into running counselor classroom lessons, be sure to listen to Episode 66 of High School Counseling Conversations which touches on all things classroom lesson building. Be sure to join the Clique Collaborative community, my high school counselor membership, to continue the conversation with other high school counselors on how they are making classroom lessons work for their counselor programs. We counselors need each other!