Third Time’s The Charm

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What puzzle are school counselors always trying to solve?Check out Savvy School Counselor to print a copy of the schedule form!

Trying to create a schedule for your school counseling program can be like playing musical chairs. You keep going around and around and can sometimes be left standing without an effective method.  I’ve been there, but this past school year I decided to try something new.  You know what?  It finally worked for me!  Could it work for you too?

I have attempted to solve the “scheduling puzzle” for a long time now.  Here’s how it began:

The Sign up Calendar

During the first three years in my school counseling program, I used this method to schedule guidance.  It was what I heard most counselors did, so I did it too.  I created a schedule for the week with rows and columns and the times of the day from 8:30 to 4:30 down the left side.  I would fill in the spaces where I had a duty or time set aside for groups or individual counseling.  I would then post it outside my office, email the teachers to let them know it was there, and wait for everyone to make their way to my office to sign up for guidance.

Pros:  Hang it up and wait!  Look at the schedule each day and see who’s signed up for the day and go teach guidance!

Cons Hmmm… Mrs. Second and Mr. Fifth haven’t signed up yet.

Me– ”Mrs. Second, when would you like for me to visit your classroom for guidance?”

Mrs. Second– “Oh, I’ve been meaning to come by your office to sign up before I leave in the afternoons, but I keep forgetting.”

Bottom line:  I’m waiting and busy teachers are trying to take care of everything else on their plates.

Additionally, sometimes four or five teachers would sign up for the same day!  It just didn’t work for me and made me feel overwhelmed.  After a couple of years, I decided I needed to create a different method for scheduling guidance.

Grade level Specific Form With Assigned Week

For the next few years, I decided to use a form I created for the grade levels to complete during their planning.  This idea stemmed from me missing one or two teachers from the schedule because they didn’t sign up.  Now, the grade level would hopefully sit together, fill out the form and return it to me.  The fact that I used the method for a few years is evidence that it worked pretty well.

Pros:  I assigned the days I was available for guidance and listed the options for the teachers.  If there were five teachers, I would list five options.  The teachers could pick the date that worked for them and give a time when I could visit for guidance.  I had more control over my schedule and rarely had a large number of classes signed up for one day.

Cons:  If I wanted to schedule two grade levels, I couldn’t give them the forms at the same time because the teachers chose times that worked for them.  The issue of overlapping came into play.  So, I’d have to wait for “this” grade level to return the form before I could give a form to “that” grade level for the same week.

I prefer to have my schedule in place about a week prior to the beginning of a new month.  This method turned into a week-to-week task for me.  I am a planner by default, and this method slowly began to frustrate me.  So, a year ago, I decided I needed to create yet another method for scheduling guidance.

Assigned Time and Day of the Week (Yay!)

Something I began to notice the last year I used the grade level specific form was this:  Grade levels were being required to adhere to more structured schedules with literacy blocks, math blocks, and writing blocks.  Of course they were doing this before, but now grade levels had to be teaching the same thing at the same time.  Because of this, many of the members of a team would select the same time of day for guidance.  Due to this new trend, I created a new form.

Click here to open and print a copy of my guidance scheduling form minus the web address.

Last year, I gave this form to grade levels during the workdays prior to school officially starting.  Teachers chose a day of the week and a time for guidance, and I stored the forms in my planner. Most grade levels all chose the same time of day.  So I would know, for example, I have second grade everyday at 2:00 this week and fourth grade at 11:30.  I send out a guidance schedule to teachers a week ahead of time via email, and they plan accordingly.

Pros: Teachers fill out the form one time, and they’re done.  Teachers know they have guidance on whatever day of the week they have chosen one time each month.  I’m not missing Mrs. Second or Mr. Fifth on my schedule.  I can schedule two grade levels without worry of overlapping.  I see two classes each day (three on occasion) and have time in the day for small groups, individual sessions, and those unexpected “fires” that need to be put out.

Cons: Sometimes I have to change a teachers “day selection” due to a meeting off campus or an appointment.  Nothing’s perfect! ;)

I am fortunate that the teachers at my school are very receptive to classroom guidance.  I’ve heard some colleagues say they can’t see all of their grade levels.  This would be a tough pill for me to swallow, as spending time with and being visible to all the students in my school is important to me. This method worked very well for me last year, and I will continue to use it.  No plans on changing yet, but I’ll let you know if I do!

How do you schedule classroom guidance?

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7 thoughts on “Third Time’s The Charm

  1. Great solution –This IS one of the hardest things we do!

    I go to each classroom teacher at the beginning of the year and together we choose a day of the week and time that will work. I don’t go in every week (depending on the grade, it ranges from 18-24 times during the year plus times when I need to go in to deal with a particular issue), but that slot is reserved for class councils, which is what we call classroom counseling lessons in our district. It’s not a perfect solution — I have to go to the less flexible teachers first, and the flexible ones get less desirable times — but the teachers are happy with it. I’ve been in my school for 16 years, so over time teachers have come to really appreciate class councils, so I’m able to be a little more firm in terms of not having a completely crazy schedule (although this past year I had 4 classes on Mondays, plus groups and individuals!). It gets a little better each year! Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

    • Thank you, Rebecca, and thanks for sharing your scheduling method. I hope my plan will continue to work next year. New school years always seem to bring new challenges! But, I’m ready!

      So glad you stopped by!

  2. I schedule the teachers right after a transition time (lunch, art/music,etc) to set up my class guidance schedule and then ask the teachers if that day/time works best. That way, I don’t have to wait to hear from them (I don’t worry about keeping track of who I’ve heard back from… I show up to teach). I started this a few years ago and LOVE it! I do the whole grade level in a certain time slot, too.

  3. I am very similiar. I work only through email and teachers see where others have signed up.

    I keep track of how many times I go into classrooms throughout the year and the lowest number gets my schedule first. I click “share” on my outlook calendar and block out groups/ individual times on an excel so teachers have two ways to access. So each teacher gets priority based on how much exposure the classroom got the year before.

    I get to do weekly lessons with K-3 and bi weekly with 4-5. Each week I send a cheery reminder email to the 4-5 classrooms to plan for me that week!

    Glad you shared!

  4. When I was only at one building I had several teachers who chose to have me come in on a specific time and day as a standing apt. (unless something came up). I loved my time getting to know the kids!

    Unfortunately, that was a luxury supported by Obama’s stimulus and now I’m back to covering 3 buildings. Here is what I do:

    I insist on going into every classroom at least 3 times a year (more is highly encouraged). I schedule these “essential presentations” one grade level per week at the same time per building. I can usually fit K and 1st into one week as they are a little bit shorter (30 min). By the end of the week, I have completed 12 presentations and I’m not jumping from one lesson to another and getting switched up.

    I send out a calendar with available times on our shared drive. Early bird gets first dibbs. Although, I will assist individual non-tech teachers to reserve their spot. I send them out 3-4 weeks ahead and then give them a cut-off of a week to respond. I then send out confirmations through my Outlook calendar.

    It takes me 5 weeks to get through each of my “essential lessons”.

    Throughout the year I send a “cattle call” out with a list of available lessons. This list is also available on our staff server. I also offer to join them in class for a lesson/presentation if I know there is a specific issue.

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