By: Neeti Sarkar

Appreciation Days. The calendar is full of them, and to be honest, if you're a teacher, husband, wife, cow, or even a houseplant (I'm serious), there is a day dedicated to celebrate you. As a school counselor, though, you might feel less celebrated and even underappreciated, especially in comparison to teachers who are often flooded with cards and gifts, at least annually.

National School Counseling Week (NSCW) is just around the corner (February 6 - 10) but to be clear, it isn't really an appreciation week. And truth be told, for everything school counselors are and do, one work week isn't enough to throw light on the unparalleled contribution of school counselors. NSCW is meant to promote and celebrate the success of your school counseling program. Sponsored by ASCA, the 2023 theme for NSCW is School Counselors: Helping Students Dream Big. And while ASCA suggests different ways to celebrate this week, if you're looking for other ideas, maybe some of the ones listed below might pique your interest.

1. Reconnect in the Classroom

Come February and it's a new semester for some of us. This is then a great time to redo your Meet the Counselor lesson. I personally love this jeopardy inspired game show version and so do all my upper elementary kiddos.

meet the counselor game show

During NSCW, you could also spend the first 30-60 minutes of the day going into different classrooms and joining circle time. How about reading your favorite SEL books with your students? Or use a counseling theme prompt to initiate a good discussion.

Reconnecting with students in the middle of the year helps remind them of your role and the services you provide, and that can never be a bad thing!

2. Advocate for your Role

Do you do a mid-year data analysis/evaluation? I suggest you do, definitely because it helps in the making of your End of the Year Report, but also because you can use your current stats of the number of lessons taught, groups hosted, and individual students seen, available to admin, teachers, and parents, to get more buy-in from them. You could share these details via a Data Wall like this.

It's also a great time to use your school newsletter/website to let stakeholders know how you are supporting students. If possible, ask the admin if you can make a presentation to staff and/or parents. Here's where you can present before and after reports from attendance records, for example. You could use other student data that has been positively impacted by your interventions, pointing to the effectiveness of your program. Don't forget to make this session fun and interactive. Ensure you have a brochure/flyer that details the services you provide and how you may be contacted. Let your school community see that you are really invested in what you do.

3. Educate Stakeholders

Everytime I am referred to as the 'Guidance Counselor', I cringe. Does that resonate with you too? As late as last week, I had to correct my title on a bunch of IEPs (#facepalm). Have you had teachers tell you how lucky they think you are to not have to grade papers or to have a set timetable? Maybe NSCW is a good time to educate staff about what exactly you do. Speak to them about MTSS and how ASCA standards are incorporated into the lessons you teach. Another thing teachers struggle to grapple with is about when to make a referral. It would be wise to get them to understand that discipline issues are handled by the principal and social/emotional ones by you. They need to know it's not your job to play the bad cop!

4. Appreciate Supporters

Are there specific people in your school community that have gone over and beyond to support you? Maybe it's your principal who takes the time to have weekly meetings with you and showcases your work to higher authorities. Perhaps there is a coworker who takes the time to check-in on you and encourage you. I've had a few parents who make the time and effort to stop by and thank me every year for helping their littles get on with school. Why not write them thank you notes or print out quirky certificates of appreciation for them. It's super easy to make one on Canva.

5. Have fun!

Are you a fan of theme days? How about picking one for every day of NSCW? On Mindful Monday, you could go into classrooms/have teachers do a guided meditation with the kiddos. Alternatively, you could teach students a new relaxation strategy during assembly. Do you prefer doing a color-themed celebration? Choose a color for everyone to wear and make sure that students, teachers (and parents) know what it stands for. For example, at my school, (albeit for Anti-Bullying Week) we wore rainbow colors to show that we are an inclusive school.

No matter how you plan to mark NSCW, it would be wise to not expect to be paraded around and celebrated by your colleagues. But don't lose heart. As someone who is part of the fraternity of school counselors, know that you are seen and valued. Your school is fortunate to have you even if they don't say or show it as much as they should. Keep up the fabulous work and here's hoping you have a great National School Counseling Week!

About the author: Neeti Sarkar is a Primary School Counselor at an IB school in Bangalore, India. Over the span of almost 10 years, she's worked with students aged 3-18, but enjoys working with the littles the most. Neeti's also a seasoned journalist, so when she isn't making behaviour plans, teaching guidance lessons, and supporting her school community in various other ways, she makes time for her other passion- writing.


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