Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Career Connections Sessions

We implemented Career Connections in an effort to expose students to a careers that match their interests. Our 4th and 5th graders completed career interest inventories to identify their career interests. The inventories used include: SCOIS CLIMB which is SC specific (and FREE for SC schools) and O*Net which is free for all (see post about how we utilize this inventory in lessons here). We recorded the top 3 interests for each student and we use this data to select students to attend Career Connections Sessions.

Career Connections Sessions are 25 minute sessions in which a guest speaker shares his/her career journey with selected students. What works for us is offereing two back to back sessions for each speaker (25 4th graders and then 25 5th graders). We recruited speakres internally by asking staff for recommendations for popular career clusters and then followed their leads. An alternative would be to send a letter out to school families to recruit speakers.

We notify students that they are invited to participate in Career Connections the morning of the session by delivering invitations to their classrooms in the morning. We had the invitations printed on business cards through VistaPrint. The kids enjoy the novelty of the business card invitations!

This year we have ten speakers on the schedule spread over five months. With two sessions per speaker we should have enough space for each student to go to two sessions. Personally, I find this scenario easier to plan than a large career day. I also like that it's based on student interest inventory results (data, data, data!). And with 25 minutes sessions they are getting in depth information and ample time to explore different aspects of the career. As for our K-3 students, we started the Tracker Career Awareness Program. I purchashed the program on TeachersPayTeachers. ALL students K-5 are exposed to a variety of careers between the Career Connections and Tracker Career Awareness Program as well as two career awareness & explorations classroom lessons per classroom. It's been a great experience to see the kids get so excited about careers!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Making College & Career Connections

My awesome co-counselor and I have been working on many program goals this school year. One of our goals is to raise College & Career Awareness across grade levels. We have several initiatives in motion to accomplish this goal including this awesome visual in our school's main hallway:
We gathered staff college data via a Google Form and used Publisher to create the signs to make a bar graph of sorts which was totally inspired by Pinterest. This visual is just one way we are trying to #ReachHigher and raise College & Career Awareness at our school. Other initiatives include classroom lessons in the career domain, Career Connections which is our guest speaker program that is similar to the ever so popular Career Cafe concept---without the hassle of food, College Connections PSAs which will be little blurbs on the morning announcements about college fun facts and staff college related facts like "favorite college memories", Career Tracker Program which is based off an awesome program we found on TpT, and our 5th grade students will complete college research and host a college fair for younger grades after state testing is complete later this spring. We did a Google Form pre-test with students in grades 3-5 to assess College & Career Awareness and I look forward to seeing the post-test results at the end of the school year.

I'd love to hear what others do to raise college and career awareness, please share your ideas in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parent Book Study with the School Counselors

My co-counselor and I recently concluded our first Book Study with the School Counselors. We had 7 mothers sign up to participate. The book study focused on the book Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades by Michelle Anthony & Reyna Lindert. We met three times to discuss the four steps shared in the book and at our final session we included their daughters for a strengths-based art activity. We prepared PowerPoint presentations to use as a guide for discussions which included powerful quotes from the book and points of interest.

We have received great feedback about the book study from participants and we plan to offer another book study next semester to focus on a boy-centered issue. We sent a Google Form to our participants to survey their experience. Here are a few comments that were shared:

    "I thoroughly enjoyed being able to discuss issues with raising little girls with other moms and our gifted HES professionals. I learned a lot about how to communicate more effectively with my children."

    "I really enjoyed meeting other moms and sharing different challenges we have with our daughters. I have learned a lot from the book, and have already started putting the four steps to good use!"

    "Thank you so much for offering a program like this, not only does it help prepare me for future years with my daughter, but it helps me to reflect on my own friendships. Thank you so much for taking your time to put this together."

Increasing parent participation in our school counseling program is one of our goals for this school year, so this initiative tied in well. We had a blast hosting the book study and we look forward to offering additional session in the future. 

Steps for hosting a successful parent book study:
  • Get the approval of your administration.
  • Choose a book that you think would be of interest to parents across grade levels.
  • Set dates and times that are convenient for parents.
  • Set up and distribute the link to a user-friendly sign up form such as SignUpGenius and promote the book study.
  • Prepare for your sessions by creating a guide for discussion - we used PowerPoint for this purpose.
  • Purchase refreshments or solicit donations from a local sponsor to serve at your sessions.
  • Host your sessions with parents and enjoy!
  • Send participants a Google Form to collect feedback from parents upon completion of the book study.
  • Share your success with stakeholders.
Do you have a book in mind that you think would be great for a parent book study? If so, please leave a comment as we are currently exploring options for our next book study.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Advisory Council

I am pleased to share that my co-counselor and I held our first school counseling program advisory council meeting this past week. Establishing an advisory council is not only an integral part of becoming a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP), but it is a fantastic way to share your vision with key stakeholders who can help support your program goals.

Steps to establish an advisory council:
  • Make a list of potential members that represent all stakeholders; obtain approval from principal
  • Determine meeting date, time, place; obtain approval from principal
  • Draft and send invitation to potential members seeking their participation in the council (we found email to be most convenient for this purpose; be sure to include council purpose and member expectations)
  • Draft and send invitation to initial council meeting to members 
  • Prepare agenda, presentation, handouts, sign in sheet, and meeting room
  • Draft and send meeting reminder to council members
  • Ask a trusted council member to take minutes during the meeting
  • Host your first advisory council meeting
  • Draft and send a "thank you" email with meeting minutes attached to members 
  • Celebrate your hard work and relish in the fact that you have done something HUGE for your program!
If you are interested, you can view our meeting agenda, presentation, and a list of representative areas that we included in our council here: HES Advisory Council Docs Note that I used the PowerPoint framework from an advisory council presentation I found online from the school counseling program of Stradford High School in Berkley County. I would share the link, but it appears that their advisory council documents have been removed from their website. 

We started our meeting by asking members to share their name, role, and brief memory of a guidance counselor they had when growing up. (We used the "G-word" on purpose to help us illustrate the transformation of the role of the school counselor later in the presentation). Starting the meeting in this way was a nice icebreaker for members as they were not sure what to expect as this was our first meeting. Most of the memories focused on counselors who were not particularly helpful or memorable while a few had some fond memories to share. This provided a segue into a discussion on the new role of the school counselor.

Our council members had some fabulous feedback and suggestions. They expressed wanting to help support our program goals and seemed genuinely happy to participate on our council. In the days immediately following our meeting, several members shared with us that they were impressed by our presentation and passion for the profession. My co-counselor and I reflected on our meeting and we truly feel that we have broke ground in establishing a strong school counseling program. We are at a brand new school this year, so we have an opportunity to build our program from the ground up. Thanks to our advisory council, we feel that we have the support to achieve our program goals. We hope their enthusiasm spreads to their respective teams and groups to help all of our stakeholders gain better understanding of our role and how we support student success.

So what are you waiting for? Do something BIG for your program and start a school counseling program advisory council! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Get Creative with Canva

Have you discovered Canva? It's a website that allows you to design awesome posters and such for FREE. It's very user friendly and they have a variety of templates. This year my co-counselor and I used it to make some handy-dandy name plates for outside our doors since the only thing outside our door was a sign with the dreaded "G" word. Our administrators used it to design large signs with our school's behavior expectations that hang all around the school. And my most favorite use so far can be seen below. 
I used the custom template to make 5x7 quote pictures. I saved them as images and printed them at Target. I picked up a cheap collage frame at Ikea. Not too shabby for a less than $20 project. While these quotes are great conversation starters for students, they are also my personal motivation to get me through the RAMP process as well as reminders to continue to advocate for my program and profession despite any challenges I may face. 

How will you use Canva in your school counseling program?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Michelle Obama spoke at the American School Counselor Association's Annual Conference this year in Orlando, Florida. I was lucky enough to be in the audience for her inspirational speech. She acknowledged the many struggles we face as school counselors, honored the ripple effect of our work, and discussed how school counselors play an intergral role in the White House's Reach Higher initiative.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her speech:

"I know that you all have one of the hardest, most stressful, most important and most underappreciated jobs of anyone in this country -- and I live with the President of the United States. So frankly, when I think about what you all do on an average day, well, quite frankly, I’m amazed."

"ASCA recommends no more than 250 students per counselor, the national average is one school counselor for every 471 students...And that’s appalling. And a lot of people in this country have no idea about these numbers. They have no idea about all the other challenges you face just to do your jobs."

"So while you might be the most highly educated professional in the building, instead of being allowed to do the job you were trained for, you’re assigned to proctor exams, or monitor the lunchroom, or serve as substitute teachers. And then I understand that on professional development days, you have to sit through yet another workshop on reading strategies or the new math curriculum because there aren’t any professional development units relevant to your job."

"So higher education is no longer just for kids in the top quarter or the top half of the class -- college is for everyone. Every student in this country needs some higher education, whether that’s two-year degree, a four-year degree, or professional training of some sort."

You can view her speech on Youtube here: First Lady Speeks at ASCA14

My new co-counselor and I already planned to incorporate more college and career readiness into our school counseling program at our brand new school this coming school year. Reach Higher fits right into our program goals. The School Counselor Online Professional Exchange is hosting a photo challenge, with the last day to submit photos being July 20, that highlights school counselor goals that align with Reach Higher. See below for my submission.

We tried to get the state sign in there, but it was a challenge to see both the sign and goal print clearly. This is just one of many goals we have for the new school year in preparing ALL students to be college and career ready.

What will you do to #reachhigher?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NBCT School Counselor Candidacy

For some reason I have never given much serious thought to becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (School Counselor!) before this year.  However, when I found out this fall that they were making BIG changes to the process that will stretch the work that can currently be done in one year to a three year process, I knew I had to act quick.  I signed up and got to work.  It's very challenging, but so far it's been fairly maneageble.  I found a fantastic online symposium that covered 3 of the 4 portfolio entries in great detail:  WSU College of Ed.

Good news for those who are interested---there is still have time to sign up under the old rules!  But act fast friends, because this offer expires on February 28, 2014.  More info here:  School Counseling ECYA.  It's a lot of writing, some filming of lessons and individual work, a lot of self-reflection, and piecing together the puzzle of infusing their standards and rubric specifications into your writing.  I hope to complete my remaining 3 entries over the next couple of months, submit my portfolio in May, and take the assessment in June.  I'm excited for the professional growth aspect and more fancy letters to add to the end of my name, but mostly I want the extra $5,000 a year my state provides NBCTs.  Fingers crossed that I pass on my first try!

Are you a NBCT School Counselor?  Feel free to share your words of wisdom here!

Are you a current NBCT Candidate?  How's the process going for you?