A Message from the Department of Public Instruction
Surrounded in Support
Hello, WI School Counselors ~
As the 2023 school year begins and unfolds, with all the ups and downs, successes and struggles, and heartwarming and heartbreaking stories, I hope you know that you are surrounded in support. Colleagues in our building, district, region, and state can offer support, professional consultation, resources, and perspective. As referenced in the Compassion Resilience Toolkit, “educators identify other educators as their primary source of support,” and this support mitigates a variety of stress outcomes.
Beyond your colleagues, family, friends, and social media networks, both DPI and WSCA strive hard to be strong support systems, providing many services and resources. We are also more than state-level agencies. We are current and previous school counselors and colleagues in this amazing, challenging, and rewarding profession.
I would love to share all the resources, services, and opportunities available through DPI and WSCA, but the school year would be wrapping up by the time I finished listing them. I’ll highlight a few here and encourage you to sign up for DPI’s School Counseling Email List (type “subscribe” in the email message and send) to receive my Wednesday WOW correspondence and interact with other members and encourage you to join WSCA’s Facebook page and read the monthly WSCAlink in order to stay connected and informed.
WSCA has just about anything you can wish for and has dynamite staff and volunteers that provide comprehensive support and services. The annual WSCA conference is always a highlight (I’d love to connect with you there – hope you can attend!), yet WSCA is so much more. Consultation is available (on any school counseling-related topic – which pretty much means anything and everything!), online learning and on-demand learning (so you can participate anywhere, anytime), ASCA Model Implementation training (you want to be on this train!), Professional Recognition Awards (remember to nominate a colleague by Sept. 15th!), Special Interest Groups (to learn with and from your peers), leadership opportunities (that elevate WSCA and YOU!), and the list goes on (and on). We are so fortunate in Wisconsin to have one of the most robust state school counseling associations, so take advantage of it (otherwise, it’s like leaving a present wrapped)! Pair this with an amazing Student, Services, Prevention, and Wellness (SSPW) Team at DPI, and it’s a match made in heaven! The support available extends way beyond me to this amazing team that includes consultants for other pupil services, mental health, out-of-school time, grant administration, AODA/safety, and Title IV, to name a few. As the DPI School Counseling Consultant, I offer consultation appointments on ASCA Model implementation – thought partnering, providing information, sharing resources, and supporting your implementation of Wisconsin’s comprehensive school counseling program, the ASCA National Model. If you are new to the field or know a colleague, I will be hosting a New School Counselor Orientation during the WSCA preconference. In addition, there is a plethora of resources to support the work of school counselors on our DPI webpages, including SEL, suicide prevention, college and career readiness, mental health, trauma-sensitive schools, bullying prevention…check it out! I am also available for consultation, thought partnering, and professional support. Reach out and connect – my door is always open, and if I don’t have the answer, I have plenty of doors I can knock on to find it.
So, let me close with this recap…you are surrounded in support. Take a deep breath, and just like we tell our students, use your resources and reach out for help. Maintaining a high level of support for students is best accomplished when we maintain our own mental health and physical well-being.
All the best,
A Message from the WSCA Board of Directors
That exciting time of year when we kick off the 2023-2024 School Year has arrived. I hope that you were able to have opportunities to reset and practice your versions of self-care this summer to recharge to meet this new year with the energy, care, and compassion that you, your staff, and your students need.
As a Board, we started last year to focus on defining our “why.” As I reflect on why the start of the school year is such an exciting time of year for me, it is deeply intertwined with my why both for my career and for my work on the Board. As my “why” has always centered on the students that I serve, welcoming them back to school and working directly with them each day energizes me. Digging in each day with the talents with which school counselors uniquely possess and stand alongside my students as they face the variety of challenges daily life presents them. It is in coming alongside them to provide them the tools to overcome these challenges that I feel my “why” is being fulfilled as I attempt to make the changes that improves the world around me and the future, one child at a time.
It is here as well that I was inspired years ago to join the WSCA Board. As an organization, WSCA is dedicated to helping school counselors have the tools they need to support their students. I feel that by joining the leadership at WSCA, I get to expand on my “why” of building a better future. As your elected representatives within WSCA, your Board of Directors engages in discussion and development of our Ends Policies that provide our organizational “why.” As members, your stories and insights are a critical part of these conversations. Throughout this year, we are committed to connecting with you at WSCA events. We look forward to hearing your “why,” as well as your victories and your struggles.
On behalf of the full Board of Directors, I wish you and your students a happy and successful school year. May it be one filled with meeting the challenges presented with grace and belief in something great that helps you and your students fulfill your “whys.”
~Russ Nelson, Board Chair
The “Get Kids Ahead Initiative” provides one-time funding to all public and independent charter schools in Wisconsin to help build Comprehensive School Mental Health Systems (CSMHS) in their schools and districts.
Feature Article – Foundations for Racial Equity: The Influence of the School Counselor
Foundations for Racial Equity: The Influence of the School Counselor
School Counselor, EP Rock Elementary, Hudson Schools
Imagine this: your school is 99% white. You have one family from Pakistan, and their fifth grader is getting ready to do state testing this week during Ramadan. She has been getting up before dawn to eat breakfast and fasting all day until after sunset. She is exhausted and hungry – and proud she is participating for the first time, like her big brother. Her teacher doesn’t know it is Ramadan and doesn’t understand why her student fell asleep during target time.
How could an equity mindset help this child’s test scores?
Like 94% of Wisconsin public school educators, I am White. I was raised in Wisconsin, with a whole set of Midwestern biases. While my school is the most diverse in our district, it is still 80% White. The rest is composed of students who are African American, Latinx, Arab, Chinese, Hmong, and Ukrainian. We have a fair amount of economic diversity too, which contributes to the accepting and generous nature of our staff. Our principal supports the intentional ways we facilitate ongoing courageous conversations about race and ethnicity and learn from each other. We regularly analyze academic and behavioral data to identify the gaps and problem-solve, and we started a parent cultural advisory group to engage in authentic conversations. We showcase our diversity in many ways. Last year, a new student with First Nations heritage completely blossomed when her teacher encouraged her to teach her class Ojibwe words every Friday.
We still have a long way to go, but our work as a staff to understand differences and reveal biases has made us aware we need to continue to grow. It is like a curtain has been pulled to the side, with a light shining on what had been hidden before.
From the preamble to our ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors:
School counselors are leaders, advocates, collaborators, and consultants who create systemic change to ensure equitable educational outcomes through the school counseling program. School counselors demonstrate the belief that all students have the ability to learn by advocating for and contributing to an education system that provides optimal learning environments for all students.
School counselors are in a unique position. We really shine with individuals, going to bat for the student who is misunderstood and underrepresented. But how are we doing system-wide to spark change – especially when our population is mostly White? I challenge you to explore this question.
In the pamphlet, Is Racial Equity in Rural Wisconsin Relevant?, DPI outlines the need for increased focus on racial equity work in Wisconsin’s small-to-medium-sized school districts. These districts often have a low percentage of diverse students, but this population is growing. It may be less likely that someone is leading the charge, but one could make the case that the most homogeneous of schools have the greatest need for equity work. Author Rudine Sims Bishop is often quoted about how to seek diversity in the literature we provide to students: “Children need windows and mirrors. They need mirrors in which they see themselves and windows through which they see the world.”
As school counselors, we may not think it is “in our lane” to wonder about the books available to students in the library or the stories read in the reading curriculum. Our ethical standards would say that it definitely is – not just for the fifth grader observing Ramadan, or for the transfer student from Chicago whose norms have been entirely different his whole life, or the boy from Guatemala who speaks only Quechua. It’s more – how can we create systemic change for the majority White population of students who have little exposure to people who are different from them?
Here are a few ideas about what you can do to help ensure equitable educational outcomes in your school:
- KNOW your data and share it. Numbers are powerful and can illustrate gaps in a way people will believe. This isn’t so we feel badly; it’s to shine a light on something we otherwise wouldn’t know was there. If you can’t see it, you can’t work toward a solution.
- Accept your own ignorance when it comes to understanding bias. Your own misunderstanding is not something to be ashamed of; rather, it is a place to grow from. Those around you will notice your willingness to learn and open themselves as well.
- Work with your school leadership to pursue opportunities for equity professional development, exploring biases, and keeping the conversation courageous. Begin a discussion or strongly support and promote someone else’s.
- Create a small group of like-minded educators in your school, and offer to staff or even parents book clubs for discussion-starting books like White Fragility, Stamped from the Beginning, and Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.
- Showcase diversity that does exist in your school: students from diverse cultures speaking the word of the day on the school news, researching projects for Black History Month, or sharing something from their culture in class.
- Never underestimate the power of displaying a poster, pin, or sticker to show your personal allyship with students of color or other differences.
- Follow influencers who are people of color on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms. This gives you one more way to inform your perspective on the world, daily.
The fifth grader from Pakistan? Her teacher learned about Ramadan, and she contacted the parents about how she could support them. She arranged for herself or others to spend lunch with her somewhere other than the cafeteria. And the next year, we explored ways to have these students take the Forward during the testing window right before Ramadan started. This was one teacher working within the backdrop of a school undergoing systemic change.
What is ONE small thing you can do this year to create systemic change? Maybe it is to start with your own understanding of race. It may be one of the most important things you do this year. How will you embrace the challenge?
We are excited to add a new section to our monthly newsletter called ASCA Connections! This will be where we share important information, updates, and resources from ASCA.
Notable Items For September:
Department of Education
Brian Coleman, 2019 ASCA School Counselor of the Year, represented school counseling and ASCA at the Department of Education’s Free to Learn: Creating Inclusive and Nondiscriminatory School Environments for LGBTQI+ Students on June 21. At the event, the department released Toolkit: Creating Inclusive and Nondiscriminatory School Environments for LGBTQI+ Students.
The toolkit includes best practices, info about using federal funds to support LGBTQI+ inclusive practices and programming in schools, a Q&A resource on student-led groups to support LGBTQI+ students and allies (genders & sexuality alliances, gay-straight alliances or GSAs), as well as resources from CDC and DOJ on supporting the health and safety of LGBTQI+ youth.
Get Involved with ASCA Committees
ASCA’s committees provide an opportunity for members to get involved with ASCA and advance the school counseling profession. Committees serve an important role in supporting ASCA products and services – from assisting with ethical queries to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. New members are added to most committees every October. Interested in joining a committee? Fill out this interest form.
You Spoke, We Listened
Free Equity Institutes
From The Educational Equity Network
DPI’s Educational Equity Network is once again offering free virtual Educational Equity Institutes on four days spread throughout the 2023-24 school year. Each day will provide five distinct webinars that you can pick and choose to attend.
Registering will give you access to all the sessions and related resources/materials.
- Fall Institute – Oct 26, 2023
- Winter Institute – Jan 25, 2024
- Spring Institute – Mar 28, 2024
- Summer Institute – May 23, 2024
Learn more about this opportunity at https://www.thenetworkwi.com/.