Self-Advocacy for School Counselors

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Self-Advocacy for School Counselors- savvyschoolcounselor.comI have thought a lot this summer about self-advocacy for school counselors.  I started outlining this post, and a few days later I received an email from a new school counselor who is really in a difficult situation with her new position.  She is assigned to SIX schools and isn’t feeling the love so far.  Unfortunately, my email response to her came back to me undelivered. So, I’m hoping she will see this post and contact me again.

I want to preface this post by saying, administrative support is key!  Regardless of the level of support, it is important for you to advocate for your program.  In the end, your administrator has the final say.  Even if you don’t feel supported, know that you’ve done all you can by advocating for yourself.  If you don’t, who will?

Avoid Discipline Issues

As school counselors, we pride ourselves in creating positive relationships with our students.  We work hard to build a good rapport and establish trust with the students we come in contact with each day.  This can be hindered if we are asked to handle disciplinary situations at our schools.  Assisting with disciplinary issues will confuse children about your role.  Instead of seeing you as their adult friend, they will not look forward to coming to your office.  Let your administrators and teachers know where you stand to help avoid being involved with discipline.  Also, be sure to let your students know they are never “in trouble” when they come to see you.  Let them know from the beginning during your introductory classroom counseling lessons.

Avoid the Therapy Trap

Although school counselors have degrees in counseling, we are unable to provide regular therapy to students.  If there is a student needing to be seen once a week for the whole school year, they need more than you can effectively give them.  This doesn’t mean you won’t have some students who come to see you for consecutive sessions.   Be sure to state up front how many sessions the student will have with you.  Last year, I purchased the loyalty cards sold on Vistaprint. I got the idea from THIS BLOG. They have five boxes along the bottom that can be punched or stamped.  This is a great visual for your students to know how many times they will get to visit with you.  Of course, all students won’t need to use the cards, but they are great to have for the ones needing more extensive counseling.

If an IEP or Behavior Plan has included you as an “intervention,”  be sure to speak up.  Yes, you want to work with the student, but being bound in writing by plans like these can be detrimental to your program.  Sometimes the writers of these plans need to be reminded that the student they are creating the plan for isn’t the only student you are working with.  They won’t always see your “big picture.”  Self-advocacy will help make the picture more clear.

Implementing Your Program

I don’t know about you, but running my school counseling program is very important to me.  When I get caught up for days or weeks where I am unable to run my program because of other “school related assignments,” it bothers me to no end.  We can’t always avoid these, but we can still speak up.  The ASCA National Model was created to help with this, so be sure to create yours and make sure your administration has a copy.  We are accountable for following through with the closing the gap action plans we create each school year.

Along with your National Model, you’ll want to be sure to “market” your program.  You can read more about school counselor public relations HERE.  Showing pride in your school counseling program is also a great way to advocate for it.

Management Agreement

As I said before, support from your administration is key.  The management agreement is a part of your ASCA National Model plan.  This agreement is a great way to gain support from your principal.  It outlines all of your programs and services.  It details the percentage of time you will spend delivering your curriculum, planning for individual students, providing responsive services and lending system support.  All of this is done with hopes that you won’t end up doing all of the non-counseling duties we are so often stuck with.  It assists you with advocating for your program.

There are some school counselors who are able to truly do their jobs each day, and that is wonderful!  If you find yourself in a situation that goes against the grain of your school counseling program, speak up.  Doing so may help you get what’s needed to make your program effective.  If it doesn’t, you can feel good knowing you spoke up and advocated for yourself and your program.

To the school counselor who reached out:  I hope to hear back from you again so I can re-send my email to you. 🙂

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Open House is PR Time

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In a previous post, I wrote about Public Relations for School Counselors.  Open House is a great time to promote your school counseling program.  Not only is this important for new school counselors- it’s important for veterans as well.  Use this opportunity to let parents know who you are and how you will be involved with their child(ren) throughout the school year.

How you go about it will depend on your assigned duties.  Over the years, I have usually been assigned as a greeter at the school’s entrance.  This is an excellent area to set up a small table to advertise your program.  Your table should showcase the different programs you plan to implement throughout the school year. Find a simple table cover and add a sign or banner with your name and title.

On your table, include brochures describing your program, business cards with your contact information, and a sign-up form for small groups that require a parent’s permission like Separation/Divorce or Grief Groups.  You can also have your QR code available for parents with smartphones and a small bucket or basket of stickers for students.

This is also a great opportunity to solicit parent volunteers.  If you are hosting Career Café at your school, you can sign-up parents who are willing to come in and share about their profession with your students.  You can also find parents who are willing to serve on your advisory council.  I’d even like to find a parent who enjoys taking pictures. What ever your program needs are, open house is a great time to find your volunteers.  Additionally, be sure to have a small board or poster with post-it notes listing any wish list items you have.  Parents can choose the item they wish to donate to your program and take the post-it note with them as a reminder.

Why not have a free raffle for students who stop by your table?  Find a local business that is willing to donate a free meal, gift card, or sundae.  You may also chose to purchase the prize(s) yourself.  Announce the winner(s) on the first day of school.

Finally, it never hurts to have a fun puppet on hand.  Whether it is on display or on your hand, the students will love to see and interact with it.  Here’s a picture of my puppet after her mini-makeover with a new t-shirt featuring our school mascot the falcon.  All she needs now is a yellow headband, and she’ll be ready to make her debut!  My friend Ed (also known as “Character” Ed) may need to be on stand-by as well.  The kids LOVE him!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  How will you promote your program at your open house this year?

More Character Breakfast Club

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I want to share examples of the flyer, invitation, and exit tickets I will be using for my Character Breakfast Club.  I can’t wait to hold my first one in the fall.  I’ll be sure to update everyone on how things turn out along with any lessons learned.

I made a sample flyer using the Bullying topic I talked about in my first Character Breakfast Club Post.  I will change my flyer each time to tell specifically about the topic of each breakfast club.  If you would like a copy of this form in Publisher in order to make it your own, just email me through my contact page and I will send one to you. ( I can only post PDF documents.)

I ordered my Character Breakfast Club invitations from Vista Print.  I’m looking forward to receiving them soon.  Here are images of the front and back of the invitation.  They are pretty basic as any extra information will have already been included on the flyer sent home with students. If you don’t have time to write each invitation, you can always create labels with the information and attach them to the back of the cards.







I also created a very simple exit ticket.  In order to determine how things are going, you’ll want to know if your guests enjoyed the breakfast club, what activity they liked best, and if they would attend another one.  There is also an area at the bottom for comments or suggestions.  Have these available about ten minutes before the conclusion of the event.  You can also have special stickers on hand for the students as they return them.  I’m thinking about making some that say “Ask me about the Character Breakfast Club!” or “I went to the Character Breakfast Club today!”

I am super excited about including the Character Breakfast Club in my school counseling program.  I am tossing around ideas in regard to how I will invite families.  I am thinking about focusing on one or two classrooms to start in order to gauge the response.  If the response is good, I will offer more than one session in order to accommodate families.  My goal is to host one breakfast club for each grade level this year.  However, response will dictate how things go.  I’ll keep you informed!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates! As always, I’d love to hear from you!  Did I miss anything?  Do you have any suggestions for the flyer and/or the exit ticket?

School Counselor PR

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It’s amazing how much I look forward to having a summer break, but I spend all of my time thinking about the next new school year!  My first item of business is looking for ways to make my school counseling program even more visible for 2012-13!

As I packed away some of the books in my office for the summer, I came across a book I purchased eight years ago when I first found out I was hired as the counselor at my school.  It’s called Public Relations Toolbox and it is edited by Barbara Muller-Ackerman.  The information and reproducible items in this book come from the archives of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and is “A practical, hands-on approach to promoting K-12 school counseling programs.”

At the top of the first page in section one is the definition of “public relations” which was taken from the Grolier International Dictionary.  Public Relations are:  1. The methods and activities employed by an individual, organization, corporation, or government to promote a favorable relationship with the public.  2. The degree of success obtained in achieving such a relationship.  3.  The staff employed to promote such a relationship.  4.  The art or science of establishing such a relationship.  After reflecting on my school counseling PR over the years, I decided I could stand to increase my efforts to build this area of my program even higher.

This section goes on to share several things we as school counselors need to remember such as why our programs are an excellent investment, the role of school counselors, what a professional school counselor is, and advocating for the profession.  It also spoke about “quiet efficiency” which is a category I fall under.  I do what I’m supposed to do.  I follow up with parents, teachers, and students.  I conduct my guidance lessons and groups regularly.  However, as stated in the book, sometimes quiet efficiency is not enough.

Public relations also involves recognizing our co-workers and making them feel valued for what they are doing. It gives several examples of positive recognition tools to use to build up the teacher’s sense of being appreciated.   It goes on to share ideas similar to those I pin on Pinterest like the Milky Way Bar with the note “You’re out of this world” or  candy corn with the message “It may sound corny, but I think you’re great!”  Every time I see cute teacher appreciation ideas like these, I pin them on my Teacher Appreciation board. I’m looking forward to finding little ways to encourage the teachers I work with next year.

If I were to share every great thing about this book, this post would be a tad bit lengthy.  I’ll just say, everything in this book is just as relevant today in 2012 as it was when the book was published in 2002.  There are so many ways to increase your school counselor PR.  Here are just a few I plan to implement:

  • Brochure (update)
  • Contact Cards (Vista Print)
  • Phone Tree Messages (to promote different program initiatives)
  • Incentive Cards (Vista Print- for students with behavior concerns)
  • Guidance Blog  (to keep parents informed)
  • Bookmarks, Bulletin Boards, and Recognition
This list includes some things I’ve done in the past as well as some things I’ve thought about doing but haven’t.

Finally, I will begin using National School Counseling Week as a time to crank up the public relations for the school counseling program. I’ve never done that.  There is a section in the book dedicated to this.  It even includes a countdown calendar to help counselors prepare starting one month in advance!

After reading a great post, Mirror Mirror: The Importance of Reflectionon Darrell Sampson’s blog- From the Counselor’s Office, I took some time to reflect on my school year, and this area stood out for me.  I have demonstrated quiet efficiency, but now I am ready to increase my School Counselor PR by including more ways to make my program shine! What are your plans for public relations?

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You may leave any comments here or visit my contact page to email me directly.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Connect with me!