Whether it’s that enormous caseload of students, persistent parents phoning daily, or the ever-increasing pressure from your administrator to see graduation rates improve, counselors are used to the precarious position of wearing about 765 different hats. Of course, with that, comes the ever-present reality of a never-ending to-do list and the necessity to maximize productivity on a daily basis.
I’m here to tell you, don’t let the to-do list stress you out. We all know the minute you cross one task off, six more things somehow appear on the list (magic, really!). I am here to provide you with some of my most popular tools that high school counselors nationwide are implementing to take their productivity to the next level in everyday counselor activities.
1 – Maximize productivity by taking small group counseling sessions to the next level
Meetings with students for group counseling sessions are pretty routine in a day in the life of a high school counselor. It creates space for you to equip your students with tools and resources from social and emotional awareness to college prep. They also benefit from learning from one another operating in a peer-to-peer setting. As you’re thinking about small groups, consider topics that target a broad range of students with different backgrounds. Here are some of my most popular tools and tips used by counselors:
- Kick off career exploration early with an intentional high school counseling small group: This is a resource not just for my senior counselors; it is beneficial to begin discussing and prepping our students for career readiness from the beginning of their high school journeys. This is a 7-session small group curriculum that aids students in researching, exploring, and identifying career goals at any point during their time in high school. The sessions build their confidence around career readiness, career exploration, and career preparedness.
- Consider investing in a high school counseling small group bundle to expedite the curriculum-building process: If you’re feeling the burden of brainstorming and planning out the curricula for small groups, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This small group bundle has 4 complete curriculums for small groups to reach a variety of students plus a data spreadsheet to track your progress.
2- Maximize productivity in how you review and respond to emails and phone calls
Y’all know I am your high school counselor hype girl — which is why I am hyped for you to maximize productivity in your communication. We, counselors, are constantly bombarded with messages from students, parents, teachers, and other staff members. If we aren’t proactive, we could truly just answer emails all day and forget about caring for students altogether. (And no one wants that!) Here are my top tips for taking control of your schedule and setting boundaries to keep students at the center.
- Podcast: 3 Ways to Use Your Calendar to Own Time Management: Do you ever feel like you aren’t the one who is actually in control of your own time as a high school counselor? These short and sweet time management tips will help you get your head above water and get to a place where you can function and even call the shots during your day. When you maximize productivity in your workday you can be more effective in serving your students, families, and school.
- Blog: Don’t Believe These 5 Myths About Your Work Email: Our emails can be a real trap when it comes to planning out a healthy work-life balance and being an effective counselor. In fact, you may think you’re trying to maximize productivity by opening emails outside of working hours or making yourself available around the clock; I’m here to tell you that this mindset is actually working against you. Don’t believe me? Read the blog.
3- Maximize productivity in your relationships with teachers and administrators
Counselors are constantly collaborating with teachers and administrators to support students in their academic and personal growth. Sometimes you have an awesome administrator who supports you and understands the value of your role… and then sometimes you have an administrator who can’t understand why you aren’t chomping at the bit to volunteer for bus duty (because they clearly don’t understand all that you’re doing on a daily basis). Get ahead of these relationships so your stakeholders can begin understanding your role and appreciating all you do to better your students and school.
- Get teachers on board with classroom lessons: This podcast details how to create buy-in with teachers on the importance and ease of incorporating counselor classroom lessons into their semester plan. You want to make things easier on teachers; show them that you are here to be a support to them and their students and not to create more work (and then follow through on your word by not actually creating more work for them!).
- Do a beginning of the year presentation to get on the same page with your admin and staff: You may be an awesome counselor making a huge difference in the lives of your students. But if you’re not advocating for your position and showing people the progress and influence you’re having, you’re already in dangerous territory. My beginning of the year presentation is way to start yourself on the right foot with your stakeholders, especially your administrator. This relationship needs a lot of TLC (more tips on that here!).
4- Maximize productivity when evaluating student achievement
Another big part of being a counselor is conducting needs assessments, collecting data, and measuring growth to help students with academic, career, and personal planning. Simply put, you get to be your students’ best advocates. One of the most rewarding parts of our job is to help set our students on paths of success while they are in high school and beyond.
- Use data to display success in small group counseling: If you’re taking the time to set up and run a small group, be sure to be tracking your success so you can advocate for more time and resources to better care for students. Use this Small Group Counseling Data Spreadsheet with pre-populated formulas to quickly summarize your students’ data from your small group counseling sessions. This template is editable for you to add your own small group questions from your pre and post-tests as you summarize data. This tool will help you effectively measure your students’ progress within small group sessions. Pro tip: Summarize your data quickly and considerably to share with stakeholders. Stakeholders care about data…a lot! (more on why data matters here). If you’re taking the time to set up and run a small group, be sure to be tracking your success so you can advocate for more time and resources to better care for students.
- Blog: Conduct career assessments like a pro: As school counselors, we have an entire chunk of the ASCA National Model dedicated to Career Development Standards. Check out our newest career assessment endeavor that addresses the major components of these standards: Develop Career Awareness, Acquire Career Information, and Identify Career Goals.
While every counselor’s day can look a little different depending on the school, I hope some of my most popular resources and tools used by the Counselor Clique community can help maximize productivity in your day-to-day counselor tasks. We simply have too much on our plate to not think strategically about how to maximize productivity. Be sure to join my high school counselor membership, the Clique Collaborative, for exclusive tips and tools to help you be the best high school counselor you can be. We’re in this thing together!