A Message From Your Board Chair…
Greetings Wisconsin School Counselors!
I have written in the past about the importance of taking time to recharge your batteries during the Summer months. I hope that this finds you enjoying family, the outdoors, a good book, Game of Thrones, or whatever it is you prefer to do to enrich your time.
My message this time is about self-care through the effective use of data. You heard me right, self-care via data. Two things believed by many to be disjointed and I’m telling you they must go together in order to maximize your program’s impact without going crazy. While I’m not suggesting using data to track your self-care, you probably could. Instead, my message is about prioritizing. Wisconsin School Counselors are well versed in the use of data to set program goals and measure progress. Remember that as you look at data to identify gaps and adjust your program, your mindset should be one of prioritization and not addition. Data tells us where we need to spend our time as well as where it is not as needed.
As you review your program’s data (you can do that at the beginning of the year too, not just the end), make sure you are looking for the areas that may no longer require the same level of priority that they did in the past. Now try a 1 for 1 trade to get started; for every program goal your write, use your data to identify one thing you are willing to let go of, unless, of course, all of the priorities have been met. This act allows us to accomplish more meaningful and needed work for our students without overwhelming ourselves and overflowing our plates. We can work more efficiently and more effectively. That way, we won’t need to write/read articles on self-care come Winter break!
Enjoy the remaining days of summer.
DPI Corner with School Counseling Consultant, Gregg Curtis, Ph.D.
“Organizing Professional Development for 2017-2018”
In a recent conversation with an experienced educator, I became aware of some school districts linking salary bumps to professional development hours. A minimum number of hours was required for the educator to receive the minimum bump. If this becomes a trend around the state, it will become even more necessary for school counselors to seek out appropriate PD opportunities, consider all financial implications (both cost and benefit), reflect on the opportunity’s connection to their work (especially important if using for license renewal), and weigh the return on their investment for being out of their building. None of those steps are particularly easy.
In light of this, I’d like to draw your attention to a few events for you to take through the decision-making process:
ACP Conference: August 21-22, Monona Terrace, Madison – This year’s conference is an 11th hour opportunity to learn from others who are implementing ACP before the services and published E4E Plan become mandated. Learn more and register here: https://dpi.wi.gov/acp/2017-acp-conference
Building the Hearts of Successful Schools Conference: December 7-8, Radisson Paper Valley, Appleton – With a new location and following December 6 pre-conferences on Human Trafficking and Youth Mental Health First Aid, the “Hearts Conference” will provide sessions on a variety of non-cognitive aspects of student success. Featured this year are keynotes by Sean Slade on the “Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community” Model and Dr. Ross Greene on his work around Collaborative and Proactive Services; grounded in the philosophy that kids will do well if they can. Info and registration here: https://dpi.wi.gov/sspw/conference.
Wisconsin School Counselor Association 2018 Annual Conference: February 20-22, Monona Terrace, Madison – With this year’s theme: “School Counselors: Agents of Change,” the WSCA conference promises to again be the premiere professional development opportunity for school counselors from Wisconsin and places beyond. Knowing that counselors long for more tools in their toolbox, I encourage you to present in Madison and share your knowledge, skills, experiences and resources for helping students develop the academic preparedness, social competence, and emotional competence to be successful. You can access the online sectional proposal form here: http://www.wscaweb.org/index.php?module=cms&page=253#.WXt-6rmWxdc.
Finally, I know the CESA-based ACP partners are working hard to schedule professional development on the advanced use of Career Cruising in schools and continued improvement of schools’ ACP process implementation. Check your local CESA website for the schedule of events or contact the CESA ACP partner to find out when/where these opportunities will take place. You can find the DPI’s list of CESA ACP partners here: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/acp/CESA%20ACP%20Coordinator%20Contacts%20%288%29.docx.
This Month’s Feature…
Organization and Time Management Hacks for Back to School
By Tabitha Stelter and Alyssa Pon-Franklin, Publication Co-Coordinators
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your goals for the year: what do you hope to accomplish, what do you envision for your program, and what outcomes do you want for your students? Here are a few tips to help you start the year off on the right foot!
Become familiar with the ASCA National Model (3rd Revision) Mindsets and Behaviors and become trained. In the most recent professional development opportunity through WSCA’s Summer Leadership Academy, Mark Kuranz presented this critical information throughout a day-long workshop to 75 school counselors. Participants walked away with some great information to establish or further develop a school counseling program for success such as be the keeper of the model/vision. See the target in your mind, put it on paper (no matter how imperfect it looks at first) so that you can keep moving towards it.
Once you have a vision for your school counseling program (it may be a program of one counselor and that’s ok!), you can begin to set goals for the year. These goals can guide your work and keep you efficient with your efforts! I keep my goals posted in my office literally; I post my monthly calendar for the year to keep me focused on the big priority items. The more detailed items are listed in the google calendar, but if you want to get really organized, you can use an app, such as Google Keep, Strides, or GoalsOnTrack.
What professional development opportunities are you interested in for the upcoming year? Make sure you budget for those items so you don’t miss out. Is your PD related to the goals that you set for your program? Is there specific PD required for you to be able to achieve your desired outcomes for staff and students? If the PD is expensive, will it decimate your annual budget? If so, decide if it’s worth making sacrifices in other areas. Can you get those highlighters from another source? Are you able to check books out from the library as they come up in your lesson plans? If you can’t find a way to fund the other items in your budget, consider requesting a larger budget or making a one-time request. Think outside the box; consider asking another department if your professional development opportunity could come out of their budget, especially if the training directly impacts students they work with too. If your budget is housed in the Pupil Service or Special Education Department, you may be able to request that your principal’s building budget pay for the professional development opportunity.
For some of you, this may be exciting, as you gear up for the start of the school year. For me, I dread it, thinking of the boxes that await my return after the last few months away from the building (yes, I work from home during the summer and even attempt to shut off work for a full month to recharge my batteries). Next week, I’ll enter my office, pull the boxes open, and attempt a new organization system so that my pencils don’t get mixed in with pens and my thumbtacks stay in one corner of the desk tray organizer instead of spilling into another.
If there is something that I’ve learned over the years, it’s this. Keep things that you use frequently close to you. Things that you don’t need as often can be kept farther or higher from you. I’m not promoting laziness, and I don’t have an aversion to increasing the steps on my Fitbit; I just want to maximize my efforts. It’s also important to work smarter, keeping my desk organized, since I put in the effort up front. If you have the things that you use most often closest to you, (e.g. stapler, tape dispenser, cup of a few pens, pencils and a highlighter), everything else can be kept off your desk in drawers or cabinets. I will speak more to the filing system I use in a little bit.
Another reason I choose to keep my desk free of clutter is because of little hands who like to grab anything. Any gadget that helps make a professional’s job easier looks like a fun toy to them. I love kids, however, I also like to keep them out of my personal space. My desk is an extension of my personal space. When a student, whether 5K or 4th grade, reaches past me to grab the cool dog-shaped tape dispenser off my desk and inadvertently knocks over my coffee, it makes for a tough morning. I try to reduce the number of children reaching for items on my desk so that I can successfully teach them the impulse control skills they are in my office to learn.
If you’re devoted to a system for filing, good for you. Keep on using it. I won’t know. If you feel like you’re ready to go all Google Drive or if you’re not handing over the keys to your Hon (if you’re younger than 35 you may not know what that even means), that’s okay; it just depends on your style. Here are a few tips for each, since I use a blended approach. I am so fortunate to have a desk with two drawers that have hanging file folders. The one to the right I use for student folders; these contain handwritten notes of mostly incomplete thoughts that no one would understand anyway, release of information forms, permission forms if the student was ever involved with a small group opportunity, etc. The drawer to my left has any district-specific resources that I need to access in a jiffy. For example, our district uses Randy Sprick’s CHAMPS Behavior Management, so I keep CHAMPS Plans, Behavior Interventions, etc. I also train staff in Non-Violent Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI), so I keep the forms for Seclusion and Restraint on hand. Another filing cabinet in my office has resources that I refer to if I have the time to grab the hard copy of a lesson plan and worksheet to make copies. If I don’t have the time, that’s when I go to my other filing system.
Google Drive has been a Godsend for this professional since 2003. With Google Drive in my district’s Gsuite, I have unlimited storage capacity. This is liberating and daunting at the same time. I find myself wanting to save many things, but that increases the importance of organizing the files so I don’t have to rely on the little search box each time.
I have the following as “main” categories, but it’s important to fine tune what will work for you:
The subfolders underneath “Students” would include:
Lunch Bunch Ideas
And one of the subfolders underneath “Curriculum” would be “Classroom Lesson”, which I have broken even further by topic, by grade, etc. See how complex it gets? Make it work for you!
For more technology organization tips, I have some real smarties in the resource section. Twitter has helped me to find these amazingly tech savvy folks, so look for @SCOPE4SCS and @CounselingGeek for even more tidbits.
Supplies that make professional’s lives easier and a school counselor’s job more fun include, but are not limited to, fidgets (not necessarily fidget spinners) from any dollar store, such as pencil grips, bounce balls, squish balls, Thinking Putty, or Rubik’s cubes. You get the idea. I also stock up on pencils and other school supplies that you can hand out during the holidays. Target has a great dollar spot section for quality items that include notebooks, blank cards, locker decorating items, and office decorations!
I also keep a drawer filled with items for birthdays. When a student that I meet with has a birthday, or a student that I know won’t have much of a celebration at home, I’ll invite him/her to select a gift from the drawer. I make sure to have an array of multiple colors including gender neutral) of puzzles, balls, toys, and other treats that I have collected from kids’ meals or clearance sales.
If you have worked within the ASCA National Model, then you have a delivery system that lends well to 80% of your time spent in student services and 20% in support of your program. As you set your priorities for the year, do your best to ensure your time allotment is proportional to the goal’s importance. Try using a time tracker for a week or two to get a better picture of how you spend your time (look to the Counseling Geek resource for some good ideas on time tracker tools); from there, make sure you analyze the results and make adjustments. By being mindful about how you use your time, you will feel more accomplished and relaxed throughout the year.
This article was just the beginning. There is much more to preparing for the start of the year that one could get into such as daily how to’s (e.g. scheduling students, scheduling classroom lessons), organizing evaluations and data, organizing the advisory council that informs the comprehensive school counseling program goals, etc. The point is that is that you are preparing a plan. Also anticipate the setbacks or obstacles that come with changes make or new programs you add. If you are primed for the “what ifs” and can answer the call when the difficulties arise, the successes for your students can occur. You will be the agent of change your students deserve. Here’s to a great 2017-18 school year!
Other amazing resources to check out:
15 Tips and Resources To Start a New School (Year) Jeannie Maddox’s Blog “Exploring School Counseling“: August 21, 2015.
SCOPE Dr. Erin Mason’s Site for School Counselors. Section specific to Organization technology tools is linked here.
The Counseling Geek Jeff Ream’s Site for School Counselors. Section specific to Tools that can make school counseling easy.