A High School Counselor’s Year in Review

I blinked and this year flew by! I took a minute to exhale as I was reviewing what we accomplished this year in order to present it at our end-of-the-year School Counseling Advisory Council meeting. Though it felt like we, as school counselors, did a lot of the talking at this meeting, I realize it’s because we have to be such vocal advocates for our role and the good things we do. (You can find more about why I’m a big fan of advisory councils HERE.)

We were able to take a few minutes and summarize our programming and data for our stakeholders. We will also send it out in an email for those who are a part of our council who were just unable to make it to the meeting. 
I’m going to use this blog post to roundup and highlight a couple of things we did this year and link back to past posts. Many of the things we did can also be found highlighted on my Instagram throughout this school year. 
We had our quarterly “Coffee with the Counselors” this year where we hosted 4 different topical social/emotional-type sessions for parents. Sometimes we are the ones speaking, and, other times, we bring in guest speakers. Our goal for this time is to be equipping for their parenting or for their families in general. We offer it in the morning time just to hit a different crowd than our evening sessions focused on academics. We don’t have huge, earth shattering attendance, but we do always find it valuable for those who choose to attend. You can read more about the different topics we’ve covered and “Why I Love Coffee with the Counselors” at our school on a past blog post.
Our “Mindful Generals Day” was our response to an overwhelming student need for more mental health awareness, education, and resources. In our beginning-of-the-year needs assessment, 71% of students responded asking for some sort of help with stress management or self-care. Last year’s end-of-year department survey asked for more mental health services. I think it’s a topic students are realizing they need more psycho-educational training with, and I think we found a creative and fun way to step into that gap this year with our first ever Mindfulness Day. Check out how we put together a Mindfuless Day at our high school this year! We even put up a new bulletin board for the occasion, and teachers and students loved it: Mindfulness Bulletin Board. (It now has QR codes to give the bulletin board a “digitally friendly” option!)
Our small groups are something I’m really proud of. It seems really daunting to be in a high school setting and run small groups. I remember in grad school feeling like high school counselors brushed off small groups… even when I needed it as a part of my experience. I can use the usual excuses like “it’s too hard to coordinate,” “students don’t care about doing that,” “teachers won’t let me borrow their students” … OR I can change my mindset and make the time on my calendar to fit a need that the school has and just make it happen. My favorite small group for the last two years has been my First Generation Small Group. It is extremely rewarding for the students AND me. I’m working on getting together some other curriculum for our few other groups. It’s been to keep adding to our toolkit over the past few years. It’s a huge part of what gives me life as a school counselor! I’ve seen teachers shift their mindset as they’ve seen students positively grow and change, and I’ve seen data compel our administrators to continue affirming our role as school counselors. They want MORE of what we’re now doing and less of the menial tasks that I’m not supposed to do anyways!  
For our “Decision Day” this year, I shared an interactive Google Map with our stakeholders. I posted this on our school’s Facebook page, sent it out in a Naviance email, broadcasted it on Twitter and Instagram. We celebrate whatever our students’ post-secondary plans may be: college, military, or work. College Application Day in the fall and Decision Day in the spring are events mandated by our Commission of Higher Ed, but we have the freedom to do whatever we want programming-wise to celebrate these.
I’m also really proud of the 72 classroom lessons we facilitated this school year. Our caseloads are by alphabet which feels scattered sometimes… but in the category of core curriculum classroom lessons, it feels like you really can multiply yourself as a school counselor without getting burnt out on one thing. One of my favorite lessons is the Soft Skills Lesson we do for seniors teaching them some career etiquette and professionalism. We pen thank you notes and write professional emails. 
As the year comes to a close, I am extremely encouraged when I reflect on the work my school counseling team has done over the past year. We endured the growing pains of shifting to alphabet caseloads, but I think our families are better served because of it. I am confident our programming is student-centered, and we have students at the forefront of our mind as we continue to tweak our services and grow our programming. 
If you want to follow along with how our school counseling department plans our year from the beginning to end, check out this blog post on “How to Hold a Productive School Counseling Department Planning Meeting Day” and get my free RESPONSIBILITIES MATRIX that divides up departmental responsibilities.

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