New School Counselors: "I've got a job, now what!?"

Yay! You've landed your first school counseling job! You should be so proud of yourself. Now you're probably daydreaming about counseling students in your beautiful office. But first take a look at exactly what you're going to need your first year.

What should my office look like?

First try to find out what your actual office space will be. Will it be shared? Will you have a window? Are you in a repurposed custodial closet? All valid questions. Your office may not look like much, but you can make it a cozy, welcoming space for students with a few nice touches.

counseling office

Areas you don't want to forget:

  • Calm-Down Corner (A calm-down corner is a safe space where kids can come to when they need help managing strong emotions.)

  • Bulletin Boards / Posters / Whiteboard (If you don't have a bulletin board, hang up a piece of butcher paper and decorate it. That's what I did!)

  • Your Desk (I like keeping a file cabinet by my desk to have a file folder with each student's info easily accessible.)

  • Small Group Space (I love to lead small groups at a round table or kidney table. All students feel equal and it is a great way to facilitate conversations.)

  • Talking Space (Couches create more of a comfortable therapist's office vibe rather than a sterile classroom. I also love having adult-size seating options for parent meetings.)

Take a tour of my counseling office here to see what these look like in action.

What do I need to counsel students?

Curriculum and Activities

You can use published curriculum like Second Step or Zones of Regulation, buy curriculum online, or create your own lessons and activities.

Books

Reading a book as part of a class lesson or with a small group is a great starting point to discussions. They can be pricey, so start with a few essentials that you can use for multiple purposes. Also check with the librarian to see what SEL books are already on campus. See some of my favorite books here.

Videos

Like books, I like to use videos to start discussions with kiddos. The best thing is they are free! Check out my recommended videos here.

Games

Jenga, a deck of playing cards, dice, and puzzles are my go-to games. You can customize Jenga as an icebreaker, use the playing cards and dice in discussion games, and do puzzles with individual students to build rapport. You can always do homemade games too such as charades, Simon Says, or role play.

Jenga game

4 don'ts' when it comes to buying materials

Don't buy everything!

It is exciting once you start thinking about all of the possibilities for your new office, but don't go overboard on spending.

Don't reinvent the wheel

Meet with your principal and find out what materials are available to you. Try to reach out to the previous counselor as well to see which programs they successfully implemented. You'll have plenty of opportunities to create new activities so take existing curriculum where you can get it.

Don't be afraid to ask for funds

See if there is a school counseling or character education budget. Sometimes the PTA has additional funds for these programs. I worked at a school that had a Teachers Pay Teachers account we could order from. Almost every school has some type of budget for office supplies. So even if curriculum is a no, you can get markers, pencils, clipboards, etc to use with your students. You never know unless you ask!

Don't underestimate the power of DIY

Once you determine what you're starting off with you can buy supplemental materials like books, small group curriculum, and digital activities. My first year almost everything I did was DIY. Don't compare yourself to other's offices or Pinterest perfection.

This is such an exciting time but it can be easy to get caught up in the details. At the end of the day change happens as a result of connecting with the kids.

Click here to sign up for my free School Counselor Bootcamp so you can be confident and prepared going into your first year!

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