New School Counselors: Setting Up for a Successful and Stress Free School Year

You might be thinking. 'I'm too overwhelmed with the basics of school counseling, I can't imagine learning scheduling, organization, and data collection systems!' You may think this will add more on your plate, but it's actually the contrary. Setting up systems during your first year will save you so much time and headache later on. Believe me, I wish I knew these strategies when I was first starting out.

Scheduling: Have Teachers Sign Up for Class Lessons

I set up this system of teacher sign-ups and love it! I have used it at multiple schools for multiple years. Taking the time to do the legwork upfront helps you avoid the back and forth yo-yo and eliminate the logistical nightmare of trying to plan everything individually.

Tech Tools for Teacher Sign-Ups

Google Sheets: List available times and share the sheet with teachers so they can fill in their ideal times. Set this up in August and have them sign up for the entire year!

Google Calendar: Use a Google Calendar (or Outlook) to create an event for the class lessons. This sends the teacher an invitation. Simplify the process further by using a recurring calendar invite. Note: Keep holidays in mind when scheduling to avoid confusion.

Calendly: This is a free website where teachers can sign up for appointments with you. It is super user friendly on both ends. You write in your available times and it does the rest for you! It syncs with your calendar to keep consistent scheduling.

calendar schedule

The initial set-up for teacher sign-ups can be time-consuming, but it's way better than feeling stressed and crunched for time throughout the year. Plus you are likely seeing less kids in August so it's a good time to get your systems in place before referrals start coming in.

For more detailed scheduling strategies, read this post.

Organization: Create a Counseling Caseload and Log

Counseling Caseload Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet of all the individual and small group students you see to keep track of everyone. I like to use Google Sheets so I have sharing capabilities and can access it across devices.

You can customize it to fit your needs, but here are categories to get you started.

  • Student Name

  • Teacher

  • Grade

  • Area of Need: anger management, grief, etc

  • Counseling Type: group, individual

  • Referred By: parent, teacher, self

  • Contacted Parent

  • Sent Permission Slip

  • Received Permission Slip

  • Asked Teacher Ideal Time

  • Scheduled Sessions

You are likely collecting this information without thinking but having it laid out makes it simple and easy to access.

Tips:

  • Use different colors to indicate small groups

  • If you see a student both individually and in a group, write their names twice but be sure to use an asterisk to make note of this so you don't double count them when collecting data later

Counseling Log Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet keep track of who you are seeing each week. Again, I like to use Google Sheets for this!

Start by including the following columns:

  • Date

  • Student Name

  • Area of Need: anger management, grief, etc

  • Counseling Type: individual or group

  • Duration: the amount of time your session lasted (This provides more detail than your Google Calendar appointment. You may have 30 minutes blocked off on the calendar, but the student is late. Or you may have to factor in travel time to pick them up from class so you end up talking to them for only 20 minutes. This ends up being more accurate than the calendar in the end.)

  • Strategies Used: Write a brief summary of what you did so you can remember for next time!

  • Notes: I don't always write something in this column, but it is a space to share student temperament, important updates, etc.

  • Parent Communication: I only write in this column if I spoke to the parent that week. Then I write the date and a brief note about what was discussed. (Ex: 5/11/20: Mrs. Bremer called to share the results for Dana’s psych eval and ask for an update on her behavior chart.)

* Keep in mind your sessions are confidential and you only want to provide enough information to be helpful in reminding yourself what was covered. You don't want to share too many personal details of what is shared in the session. This is especially important if you plan on sharing this log with anyone else. I share mine with my principal.

Leave this open on your computer all day. Type a few sentences in between students to make sure you are staying on top of it without wasting time.

Bonus: You could use two different tabs and combine the counseling log with your caseload spreadsheet to create a hub.

Read this post to learn even more organization tools.

Data Collection: Conduct Self-Assessments

A self-assessment is a quick questionnaire you give students before and after each group or set of individual sessions (usually about 6-8 weeks).

Which Questions Do I Include on a Self-Assessment?

The questions included depend on the topic (self, control, grief, relational aggression, etc) and can be one of two categories:

  1. Objective learned - This is a right or wrong answer that can be answered objectively. (ex: 'Can you name 5 coping strategies?')

  2. Feelings based - This is answered subjectively and has no definitive correct answer. (ex: 'I feel sad more often than I feel happy.')

You can use one self-assessment with a mix of the two topics or you can separate it by factual and feelings based questions. Check out my self-assessments here.

How do I send a Self-Assessment?

You can use a paper version or a Google Form. The Google Form is perfect for distance learning, and I believe it's superior in person too so you don't have to re-input information into a digital report later. Plus the Google Form displays the results in an easy to interpret fashion so you can see time-stamped responses. This allows you to see how students changed over the weeks and you can display this information using pretty charts and graphs!

Ready for more data collection techniques? Check out this blog post.

Putting these systems into place early on will save you so much time and hassle. Which one are you most excited to implement?

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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