Those who know me know that I have a strong value for helping others and getting involved in my community. Though my AmeriCorps service definitely increased my dedication to community service, volunteering is something I have always enjoyed doing, and I have learned valuable lessons and skills through the process. My value for helping others is something I bring into my work as a school counselor in multiple ways. In addition to providing services for students, I also like to encourage all students to become active members of their community through volunteering. In my experience, most students love to help and want to help...they just need a little help finding the right opportunity for them. Through my internship and community work experiences, I have had to opportunity to lead student service learning activities with Coats For Kids, the Salvation Army, the Wildlife Sanctuary, Animal Shelters, and community clean up initiatives. Each of these experiences left the students energized to keep helping, and I am thrilled with their enthusiasm.
The benefits of service-learning are endless. In addition to helping the community, students of all ages learn empathy, teamwork, citizenship, job skills, personal strengths and interests, etc. When I have had the opportunity to volunteer with students, I have seen struggling students step up as leaders, and it warms my heart to watch student's grow to develop positive self-worth through the process of volunteering. I truly believe that service learning is the most effective way to teach citizenship and help students realize their importance to their school and community. I fully intend to integrate student service learning into my practice as a school counselor in whichever school I join. I know that no matter where I go, the community need is there, and the students are ready and waiting for the opportunity to grow and learn through volunteering in their community!
Spring is here and Earth Day is just around the corner. What a great opportunity to gather groups of student volunteers to pick up school grounds, local parks, and other spots that we all share as community members. So excited! :)
Perspectives on Accountability in Education
Throughout the course of my professional counseling program, I have learned a great deal about the importance of accountability in a school counseling program (and education overall). Famous questions from my program like "what does the desegregated data look like?" and "what does the data tell you?" have been engrained into how I approach my practice as school counselor intern. Yet, in my experience, I see a lot of resistance and fear in the current field of school counseling when the words "accountability" and "data" are spoken. It is my goal to try to shift this perception of data so more experienced school counselors and educators have a sense of the benefits of using data to guide and evaluate our practices.
Here's a little what I am hearing from some professionals in the field: "I am worried about collected pre- and post-test data. Administrators and school board members are just going to look at what the students do not know, and they will wonder what I am not doing."
"I just know that what I am doing is working." Ready, Set, Reframe!
Yes, collecting data on school counseling jobs will show gaps. However, I am confident that any data you collect will also show the value of your programming efforts. The school counseling program is an integral part of the school system and plays a key role in the holistic development of all students. As school counselors, we know this and we see our positive impact in our school's climate and in the students we have the pleasure of working with daily. With data collection, we can show stakeholders the impact what we do as school counselors. Using data to guide us in how we spend out time and where we focus our efforts will make our job a lot easier. We do not have to do it all and stretch ourselves so thin that we barely scratch the surface of an issue; instead, we can use student data to focus more of our time on what is most important to our school and our students. Try sending out a needs assessment survey to parents, teachers, and students to get a sense of the specific needs of your school. I found an excellent example of a needs assessment
geared toward teachers that might be helpful.
In addition to using school data to support how your time is spent, gathering pre- and post-test data, and especially results-based school data, will let you know how effective your programs are in addressing specific school need and reducing student gaps. As school counselors, it is our role to help all students to succeed in school and beyond. In order to achieve this goal, I believe we must be willing and eager to take a hard look at ourselves, our programs, and our approaches. Like our students, we are a continuously a work in progress, and I believe it is important to reframe our school counseling program in this way.
I know all about the sting of putting a lot of time into a program, classroom lesson, or small group counseling group only to find that the data indicates little or no gains. Yet, at least I know that what I was doing didn't work, so know not to repeat the effort in the same way. And when your data indicates student gains, publish it! Post it on your school's website, write about it in your school's newsletter, present your findings to the school board, shout it from the rooftops! Let the world know that your school counseling program is working hard to help students succeed.
**I believe it is essential to note that data is just one piece of the puzzle and does not indicate, in itself, causation. It does not tell us the how or the why, rather it shows us what is happening. It is up to us as educators to figure out the why, the how, and the what now. Try to see accountability as an opportunity to increase your impact on your school and your students. Have fun with it and challenge yourself to make every school year the best year! :)
Technology and social media have quickly become the primary ways in which our students connect with each other. With this shift in the way students communicate, student’s today face new challenges regarding social skill development and cyberbullying. Yet, among these challenges are numerous benefits to our technology-driven world. As experts of communication, I believe school counselors need to make every effort to join our students in their wired worlds. When school counselors embrace technology, we are tapping into an abundance of resources that provide us with new ways to engage our students. Plus, technology is fun!
At my middle school internship site, the school counselors were provided with ipads, which we have been playing with over the past three weeks. There are many useful apps on this tech tool that can enhance any school counseling program. Using the ipad, we put together a few very useful videos and presentations, which can be viewed in the classroom or on the school’s website. Instead of scrambling to visit over 30 classrooms during the frantic first weeks of school, we sent our “Meet Your School Counselor” video to teachers to play in their classroom. Included in the presentation was a video tour of the student services office and instructions for how students may request to see their school counselor. To create a personal connection, we visited students during lunch periods and offered treats to students who shared what they learned in the video. This quick and easy experiment with technology is just one example of how school counselors can use technology to connect with students and maximize the use of their time (or in this case, be in two places at once!).
Until I get my hands on my very own ipad, I still have access to a variety of tech tools that help me organize find creative school counseling resources. I would like to take a moment to share a few resources I have been working with recently.
- I cannot say enough about how amazing Pinterest is in terms of school counseling resource sharing. I have found a ton of creative ideas for ways to support and connect with students through Pinterest, and I promise this will not be the last time you hear me praise this amazing site!
- Livebinders is another resource I have just become familiar with that would be great in terms of organizing links to resources that may be helpful for students and/or their parents or guardians.
- Prezi, Sliderocket, and youtube offer creative ways to make presentations come to life. I was introduced to some of these tools during staff training at my internship site, and I love them. Prezi is my favorite presentation tool so far because it allows for a lot of creative freedom to make your presentation a memorable experience.
- My final tech shout out goes to mass texting tool called Remind101. Using this tool, a teacher friend of my is able to sent reminders and updates about her second grade class to parent’s cell phones. This could be a great tool that school counselors might utilize to connect with students and parents/guardians. Imagine how cool it would be to send students and their families positive messages, words of encouragement, and reminders about school counseling services. I look forward to trying this out!
There are so many resources at our fingertips, and the list continues to grow. What are your favorite tech tools, and how are you utilizing them to enhance student learning?
Personalized gift for new students.
Yesterday was the first day of school at my middle school internship site. I was so excited to get started that I was barely able to sleep before the day began. I have always loved back to school season! Between new books, new clothes, new school supplies, and new students, the first day of school seems a more fitting marker of the new year. During training at my internship site, the school’s principal addressed how unique and advantageous it is to be in a career where we are able to get a new start each fall. Indeed, the arrival of new students each fall invites new opportunities to inspire, support, learn, and improve ourselves. How cool!
In an effort to help the students feel welcome and cared for, I put together personalized gifts for each member of the group seventh grade students I will be meeting with daily alongside my supervisor. Though my seventh graders did not exactly jump for joy when I handed them their treat, I do believe these little efforts go a long way in regards to building meaningful relationships with students. One of my goals this year is to become more crafty and find creative ways to acknowledge people I care about.
When the school doors officially opened, over 400 new seventh grade students entered, confused and lost in the halls of this huge middle school building. With so much to cover in one day, the students were rushed from one place to another. It felt like a crash course into life as a middle school student. Despite all of the training and planning, the day felt chaotic. Thankfully, my experiences in my counseling program over the past two years have taught me to recognize the opportunity for growth through chaos. New to the school myself, I could relate to the students’ feelings of anxiety and confusion. I smiled through my anxiety, making every effort to greet each student and offer my assistance. I did not have all of the answers, and most of the time, I did not know where to find the students’ classes. Yet, I joined them in the chaos until we found our way together. This is how I intend to be as a school counselor. I will not be able to solve all of my students’ problems, and yet, I will be there to support them along the way.
As many of us ring in the new school year, I am determined to make this year the best year ever! I gladly join my school internships in their journey toward continuous growth and improvement. I am ready to jump in, take risks, collaborate, and do whatever it takes to enhance student opportunities for success. Here we go!