Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Giveaway! FREE Books!

It is my great pleasure to introduce Erainna Winnett, author of Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives, as my guest blogger.  However, for many School Counselors, Erainna needs no introduction.  Not only has she written this popular book used by School Counselors across our country, but she has written numerous other books including a therapeutic series of activity books and one of my personal favorites, Frenemy Jungle.

In today's post you will find out how Erainna  came to write Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives,  a link for awesome FREE lesson activities she designed to go with her book, and instructions on how to enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of five FREE autographed copies of  Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives!

Welcome Erainna!

First, thank you so much for having me as a guest blogger, I am honored to share my story with your readers. I’ve been in education for the past twenty-two years. After fifteen years in the classroom I felt a calling for something more—a deeper way to connect with and help children, which is how I discovered school counseling.
I moved from classroom teacher to school counselor in 2011 and absolutely fell in love. However, I soon discovered there weren’t a lot of up-to-date resources available for school counselors. After hearing me gripe about it for months, my husband finally told me to write my own resources. Isn’t it nice to have someone who knows what you need before you do?

And so, I began researching self-publishing and taught myself the basics of publishing a book. To be honest, there were some costly mistakes: the cover for Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives was redesigned five times—YIKES—before I found one that I felt was ‘right’. Most students didn’t even know their school had a counselor, much less how one could help them.

The first week of school during my second year as a counselor I went into every classroom and read the Mrs. Joyce book. The children loved it and I received many thank-yous from teachers. Needless to say, the following week my office was constantly busy.
I continued listening to my students and knew that I needed to write other books to address individual needs. This launched me into the Helping Kids Heal therapeutic activity book set. I’m thrilled with how well all of these books have been received. Just last week, I woke up to an email from Ireland requesting copies of my books. Who would have ever thought a small-town Texas counselor-author could reach professionals across the ocean?

As educators, counselors are often the least familiar to parents, students and sometimes teachers. I hope my efforts have offered you some tools and helped you appreciate the power of your roles in our children’s lives. And I invite you to continue to add to our community. I wish you luck in the giveaway and hope you are having a relaxing, restful summer. 

All the best and Happy Counseling. 

Thank you Erainna for sharing your story and your amazing FREE resources to go along with your book Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High- Fives!  

How To Win Your FREE copy of Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives

There are 3 easy ways to enter!   

  • Follow my blog by email and post a comment below about why you should win a copy of Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives. 
  • Like this post on the Exploring School Counseling Facebook page and leave a comment about why you should win,
  • Like this post on the School Counselor Store Facebook page and comment on why you should win. 
Each method gives you one entry in our giveaway. Do all three and receive 3 entries!  Give away begins Friday, June 30 at 12:01 AM EST and closes on Sunday, July 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST. 

Winners will be selected using Rafflecopter and announced at the close of the giveaway.
Thanks for participating! Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scootin' Off to Middle School

Once state testing was completed it was time to turn our attention to middle school.  The sixth grade School Counselor paid us a visit and registered our students for their classes next year.  There was a brief question and answer period, because of time constraints, and the session was over.  I was left with 90 +  anxious and curious fifth graders who had a lot of questions and not as many answers as they would have liked.  In response to their needs I developed 3 lessons to help them make an anxiety reduced transition to middle school.

The Lessons
Lesson 1 "Dear Middle Schooler"
I contacted the  3 sixth grade language arts teachers at the middle school and asked if they would be willing to have their students answer letters from my fifth graders.  Two out of three responded yes and were quite thankful to have an activity for their students to do while the middle school was still involved in state testing.  I had no idea letter writing was no longer taught in language arts, only expository and narrative writing, so we began our class lesson with a brief lesson in letter writing.  I created a template on a PowerPoint slide for their reference and they began to write.  And write!  It is amazing what students can write when they want information.  Some didn't care who answered their letter, but some want specifically to have a boy or a girl answer their questions.  There were the usual questions about lockers, bullying, fights, the difficulty of the teachers, dating, and "girl stuff."

With the letters completed, I put them in our county mail and we waited for our responses. Within about 2 weeks, I had numerous responses to each letter.  A few were silly, but for the most part they were the thoughtful letters of an "older and wiser" student who was sharing their wisdom and advice.  Some even created Q and A lists, and others made pamphlets and brochures about the middle school experience.  I can't tell you how excited my students were to receive these responses and how much these letters reduced their anxiety.

Lesson 2  SCOOTIN' Off to Middle School
There were so many questions my students did not get to ask at our registration session.  Afterwards, I emailed the sixth grade counselor with their questions and for some information on basic facts about the school I was sure my students would not think to ask, but would need to know.  Then, I took my questions and turned with into a game of SCOOT.  If you have never played SCOOT with your students it is awesome! Basically there are a series of cards with questions posted around the room and students rotate from card to card recording their answers within a specified period of time.
At the end of the game I asked for their answers and shared the correct answers for each question.  It was a great way to evaluate how much they knew versus what they thought they knew.  It was interesting to see how much confidence it gave them to be able to correctly answer many of the questions.  They were excited to discover they knew more than they thought they did.

Interested in playing my SCOOTIN' Off to Middle School game with your students?  This game comes with lesson plan, detailed instructions for playing SCOOT, game cards,  and student answer sheets.  The link is HERE.

Lesson 3 Responses from Middle School and Learning to Open a Combination Lock
I started this lesson by passing back the answers to the letters my students had written to the middle school.  The excitement was unbelievable.  A real person in middle school had actually taken the time to read and answer their letter!  After reading their personal letters they shared them with the students at their table and then those who wanted, shared with the class. It was amazing.  Why didn't I do this years ago?

Now they were ready to tackle the locks. In previous years I had purchased combination locks at the Dollar Tree.  With only 12, it was difficult for my students to get the practice they wanted when sharing with a partner.  Plus, I had those students who really struggled with the right, left, right thing and spent nearly the entire class period trying to open their lock.  This year my Principal sprang for 12 more locks. I found them at Wal Mart for about $1.57 each in the hardware section.  A real bargain.

I showed the following YouTube video about how to open locks, passed them out, and let the students start practicing.  If they were able to open one successfully, I suggested they trade with another person and see if they could open a different lock.  My "lock-sperts" then went around the room helping the others who were struggling to get their lock open.  Once everyone was successful we had individual time trials.  Using my phone to track the time, I had the students line up in front of me with a lock.  When I said go,  I stared timing and they started opening their locks.  When they got it open they held up the lock and said, "Done!"  It was awesome to see them perform under pressure and most could open the lock in way less than a minute and my fastest was 7 seconds.  This helped with allaying their fears about not having enough time between classes to open their locker and get to class on time.

We've had a great time learning about middle school and some of the challenges the students might face. But armed with information from our SCOOT game, encouraging words from the sixth graders who have lived it, and their new found lock skills my students are ready to "scoot on off" to middle school.

Are you interested in winning one of my SCOOTIN' Off to Middle School Games?  If so, just follow my TPT store and type in your follower number in the comments section on the School Counselor Store Facebook page below this post or on my Facebook page.  If you are already a follower, just type in "already following."  I will announce the  3 winners  Monday evening, June 12 at 10:00 pm eastern time.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Data Day is like a Mental Health Day!

Now I know, you probably read the title of this post and you thought, "Data and Mental Health? How can those two possibly go together?" Well they do.  Honestly.

While this combo does not conjure thoughts of the spa, beach, golf course, or a day at home in your PJ's binge watching Netflix, preparing for the coming school year can give you peace of mind that leaves you feeling rejuvenated. There's nothing like the feeling of closing out the school year with your data disaggregated and an intentional and comprehensive school counseling plan in place to greet you at the start of a the new school year.  Taking a day away from school at the end of the year to review your data and plan ahead can do just that.

The Spark of an Idea
As president of our local School Counselor organization, I hosted an on-line book club in the fall semester using Dr. Trish Hatch's book, The Use of Data in School Counseling.   In the course of  our study, our group excitedly came to the conclusion that uninterrupted time to review and disaggregate data was essential for planning a successful comprehensive school counseling program.  However, we were discouraged because the time did not exist during our school day to give data a proper look.  As you have no doubt experienced, once you walk on campus the needs of the students and the demands of the day take priority and time for data review and program planning is non-existent. The further we got into Hatch's book talking about intentional school counseling versus "random acts of guidance," the more often this conversation about wanting time to work with our data occurred. We knew we needed a day away from campus to analyze our data and make plans for its use in order to create an intentional and comprehensive school counseling program.

The Idea 
With state testing behind us, three weeks of the school year remained. My entire school district was in countdown mode, asking for summer school teachers, recruiting presenters and attendees for summer institutes, looking at student achievement data, and planning the school calendar for the coming year. It seemed everyone was looking ahead and planning for the new school year. Except School Counselors. Just like every other day, we were dealing with the multitude of issues that came through our doors.

But why not School Counselors?  While everyone else was in preparation for the upcoming school year why not School Counselors?  Now was the opportunity for School Counselors to get the time needed to work with their data.  What we needed was a "work"shop.  No one had ever requested such a thing, so no such workshop existed on the professional development calendar for our district. So what's a School Counselor to do?  Create your own!

After consulting with my VERY supportive principal and a savvy district "insider" about the who and how of putting together a workshop, getting in-service points for the attendees, and how to reserve district spaces for workshops, I was set.  I took my workshop description and goals to my academic coach who assisted me with posting our "Data Day" on the school district professional development website.  An email was sent along with workshop description and agenda to School Counselors and their administrators and School Counselors started signing up.

The Preparation
As a workshop organizer, my preparation involved writing the proposal, getting the workshop on the district PD website, securing the space, and sending email notifications to Prinicipals and School Counselors.  As the workshop facilitator, my preparation involved creating the schedule and PowerPoint for the day, leading the SMART goal activity, answering questions, keeping time, and leading the debriefing and feedback at the end of the day.  Attendees brought coffee, doughnuts, and chocolate to share.

The Mental Health Data Day
After being a testing prisoner for 5 weeks, working away from campus with other School Counselors to think and plan was such a relief.  Yes, I was going to be facilitating and working on disaggregating my school data, but it felt like a mental health day. And my other test weary colleagues agreed. Hanging out with other School Counselors always feels so good.  Add to that a large quiet space to spread out and work, access to our data, reliable wifi, coffee and doughnuts, table chocolate, easy bathroom access, and the chance to go out for lunch.  Yeah it was like a mental health day, only better, because when we left that day, we had a plan.  We had reviewed our data and had the outline of a comprehensive school counseling plan for the coming school year.

The workshop was called the "ABC's of Implementing a Comprehensive School Counseling Plan." There was a PowerPoint with a schedule, but mostly this was a "working" workshop for giving School Counselors uninterrupted time for analyzing, brainstorming, and creating.  ABC. The schedule was to help us manage the day and keep us on track with our tasks. The PowerPoint included an agenda, schedule, and a review on how to write SMART goals. This was really the only presenter piece. I think a lot of School Counselors struggle with writing SMART goals and it was something we struggled with as a group too.

So from 8 am-3 pm we worked.  I mean really worked.  We did the brief SMART goals activity and a short calendar brainstorming activity, but for the most part it was an uninterrupted time to analyze and focus on the needs of our individual schools.  We even got so involved no one wanted to leave for lunch.  We ordered in pizza, took a short break and went back to work. Throughout the day there were intermittent bursts of conversation and spontaneous questions, but for the most part it was parallel work, silently analyzing and creating side by side.

The Feedback
At 2:45 pm we stopped to process the day and complete workshop evaluations.  The feedback was amazing!  Everyone felt rejuvenated.   One person said, "This feels like a mental health day!" Other comments included:
"This is just what I needed!"
"There's no way I would ever be able to do this at school."
" It was good to be away from school and plan for next year."
" I would have never gotten this done during the school day (or at home).  I can't wait to show my principal our data and the things I have planned."
" I'm excited to share this with my department."
" I'm so glad we did this now rather than during pre-planning.  I actually have time to discuss this with my principal and get some things on the calendar."
"I liked that we did this at the end of the year rather than the beginning. It gives me time to talk to my administrators and start the year with a plan in place."
"Two days to do this would be even better. I felt like I needed more time for planning."
"We need to do this every quarter to look at our new data."

The Take Away: Advocate for the profession
When you think about it, teacher teams meet regularly to look at student achievement data and plan their lessons and programs to meet their students' needs.  Why not School Counselors?  When do School Counselors get to do this, especially elementary School Counselors? Why don't we have special planning times designated for School Counselors to collaborate with their same level peers to create a comprehensive school counseling program?   Is it because we never thought about it or because we never thought to ask?  For those who are not quite sure what a comprehensive School Counseling program looks like,  reading a book like Hatch's, The Use of Data in School Counseling will answer your questions and get you started.

Advocating for the profession is not easy.  I won't lie to you, I ran into a series of roadblocks and some resistance that could have prevented me from bringing this workshop experience to life, but we cannot be deterred.  When you see a need,  speak out, address it.  When you have questions, ask.  Do whatever you can to make it happen. That's advocacy.

All the feedback I received both written and verbal indicated the workshop was a positive experience and a much needed opportunity.  Discussion and suggestions included advertising workshop opportunities earlier so more School Counselors could plan to attend, offering a series of days both quarterly and during the last 2 weeks of school to make it easier for School Counselors at the middle and high school levels to attend by staggering their attendance. Also, offering a series of days would enable School Counselors who needed additional time for disaggregating and planning a chance to return and complete their work.

Does your district give School Counselors time away to disaggregate data or plan for the upcoming school year?  If so, I would love to hear about it! Please share below the planning process School Counselors in your district have for creating a comprehensive school counseling plan.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

National School Counseling Week: Appreciation or Advocacy?

It makes me very sad to hear some of the comments from School Counselors around our country regarding National School Counseling Week.  There is much being said and written about not being appreciated and asking why are we doing things for others in our school and  "Isn’t it about us?"  Well, yes it is about us, but not in the way some School Counselors may think.

First it is National School Counseling week not National School Counselor Week or National School Counselor Appreciation Week.  Maybe a change of title would clear things up a bit for many of our colleagues around the country who misunderstand its purpose.  What if it were called School Counseling Advocacy Week?  Would that make more sense?

This week is not about having the faculty, administration, or families of the students we work with appreciate us.  It is about educating those same folks who still call us Guidance Counselors and speaking out for those who  are still Testing Coordinators, RtI Facilitators, and 504 Case Managers.  It is for those who are acting as the Registrar, Lunchroom Hostess, Substitute Teacher, and Disciplinarian. It is for those School Counselors with more students than can be reasonably served, those who are split between multiple schools, and for those students who have NO School Counselor.
 You see, I am afraid if we DON'T talk about how students are different because of what School Counselors do, we will see these situations full of non-counselor duties continue for many of our colleagues and our students.

Personally, I have a fabulous school situation with an administrator who gets me and my job and allows me the freedom to do what I was trained to do.  But, that is not the case for every one of you reading this and even for some of my colleagues in my district.  For this reason I will advocate, for you, for me, and for the profession.  What I do for National School Counseling Week at my school doesn’t just impact me and my situation, but everyone with whom I have contact.  All of the stakeholders currently at my school will not always be there. At some point teachers, administrators, and families move or transfer to other schools, maybe in other cities or states.  I want to know that what I said and did during this week of advocacy helped shaped their thoughts, opinions and attitudes about the value of the School Counselors they will encounter in the future.

So if you don’t want to do cute, cheesy little “stuff” for your school staff, I get that, it’s fine. But don’t ignore an opportunity to advocate for our profession, because that is what this week is all about.   Instead take the time to write your legislators about the state of School Counseling in your district or state.  Or do a Coffee with the Counselor to talk to parents about their experience with their “guidance” or school counselor when they were in school. Take the time to talk about how School Counseling is different today. Share your programming highlights in a newsletter with School Board members or the School Superintendent.  Plan a presentation for your faculty, PTA, or School Board to show data validating the benefit you and your School Counselor colleagues bring to students every single day. 

These are just a few of the things each of us can do to advocate for our profession, but it takes all of us.   And not just during National School Counseling Week but every single day.
United. Together.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Welcoming New Students

Back to school is an exciting time for most students.  I say most students because new students may find starting a new school difficult. It can be stressful going from knowing everyone and everything to knowing none of the other students, the teachers, school expectations, or the  location of the bathroom.

One of the things I love to do each school year is welcome our new students.  I start this at the beginning of  the 3rd week of classes.  Weeks one and two I am conducting my Meet the Counselor lessons during which my returning students introduce me to their new classmates. The new boys and girls now know my face, my name, my job and the location of my room. On Monday of week 3 I start my new student lunches in small groups of 4-6. I hand deliver invitations on the day of our lunch to students in their classrooms. I  think the hand delivered invitation makes students feel more special than if I just left it in the teacher's mailbox. My invitations are in black and white to save on ink, but I print them on colored card stock to make them look special. See invitation here.

Students go to the cafeteria with their class, but at the head of the line so we have as much time as possible for our group. After getting their lunches students join me in my room.  Our lunch together is a lot of fun.  We talk about any questions they have about their new school, what they like best so far, the friends they've made, what they like least, and what they miss about their old school.  I have a simple activity sheet (click here for activity) I have them complete with a list of favorite things and a self-portrait.  I count out a dozen M&Ms (or gold fish crackers) and have students take turns telling me their list of favorites. For each thing they tell me they can eat a piece of candy or cracker.  At the end of the group, I keep their self portrait, take a photo of each student with my special welcome photo frame, and give them a "new student treat bag."  It is a small, decorative cellophane bag from the Dollar Tree with items like stickers, a pencil, erasers, pencil gripper, silicone bracelet, and Smarties. It's not much, but the students really seem to like it.  Photos and self-portraits are then posted on the white board by my group table.

Clowning around with my awesome intern Christina!
Once I've met all the new students from the start of  the school year, I keep tabs on who is entering through my wonderful registrar who sends me a list each week.  As new students enter throughout the year, I offer the same new student lunch to them.  Meeting and greeting new students is an important role of the School Counselor. This brief time together helps new students more easily transition to a new school.  It gives them a feeling of comfort to know there is a safe and friendly adult they can turn to if they need help as they settle into their new school.

I hope you are enjoying this blog hop and are collecting some great ideas and resources for welcoming new students to your school.  For more blog posts on new students, please click HERE.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grown-up Bullies

Three years ago my parents decided to move into an assisted living facility (ALF) while they were still able to make their own decisions, get around, and make new friends.  My dad was the gregarious, outgoing one, he never forgot a name or a face.  That man could talk to a post.  My mom is the meek, quiet one who depended on Dad to meet people and provide the friendships in their couple relationship. Unfortunately, just one short year after moving into the ALF my dad passed away leaving my mom to figure out the friendship thing on her own. Mom is trying. She puts herself out there each day in the dining room, at the Bingo table, and on the facility bus trips around town. It is her experiences in each of these situations that  have brought to the front of my consciousness the fact there are grown-up bullies. Whether it is the nasty comments by a child hating table mate when my Mom had her great grandson of 8 have dinner with her, or the saving of seats at Bingo and telling my Mom you can't sit here, this seat is for "Velma" (who never comes), or the rude comments, to her face, because Mom took the full 90 minutes scheduled for the Wal-Mart bus run when the other residents were ready to go in 60. I help kids with this sort of thing everyday, but I was unprepared to help my Mom deal with her bullies.

Now you are probably thinking, I knew there were adult bullies I work with several or listened to one rant on the phone last week.   Of course, you can  just turn on the TV or listen to talk radio and find bullies too.  I guess I always thought of those things as adults with opposite views loudly expressing their opinions.  Although I know bullies are not just children making fun of or excluding one another, it was my mother's predicament that got me thinking about the bullies at every age and the grown-up bullies I realized I have dealt with this past school year.

As I considered my Mom's experiences, and my own, I came up with 4 types of adult bullies I have dealt with this year. Your experiences, however, may have taught you there are more.

The Boss:   This person thinks they are the boss of you, the teachers, the school. and well, the world actually.  They "know" what is right for you and everyone else and are not afraid to tell you to your face.  They point out everything that is wrong with a situation, but fail to take any responsibility for their part in it. They are part of the problem, never part of the solution.   I think of a recent phone call with a mom regarding the "bullying" of her daughter.  This parent DEMANDS I set up a meeting with the offending child and her mother so they can all meet and deal with this. She tells me there is no law that prevents me from doing that. And I will do it. Now you and I both know THAT is a recipe for disaster!  This mom was quite insistent until I quoted district and state statute about the process for handling complaints of bullying.  Then she backed down.  Strategy:  Remain calm and know your state and district policies.  Always do what's best for all kids no matter what the adults want. 

The Condescender: This is the most closed-minded of bullies.  They are visibly angry most of the time and their tone of voice is frightening. Everyone who is different than them is a target.  Whatever your gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, it doesn't matter.  If you are different than the Condescender you are a target for verbal abuse and ridicule. My poor intern and I had to meet with a family where the dad was a Condescender.  She was quite sure he would pull out a gun and shoot us, he was really that hostile.  Very little was addressed about the problem with his child, but we heard plenty about all the other "losers" in our school and in the world. Now personally, I love this kind of conference.  I take it as a personal challenge to turn the situation around.  Did I change this Condescender? No, but we were able to reach an understanding.  Strategy:  Show no fear, be the best listener you can be, and find some common ground you can agree on. It is not important to be right.

The Thug:  This bully is not necessarily a thug like you might think of in a stereo-typical-criminal sort of way.  I use the term to denote power, might, and intimidation. Like an enforcer.  This person may be physically large or hold an important position in the school or community, or think they do.  When meeting with you they refuse to sit, but rather stand over you looking down, making references about who they know, who will hear about this meeting, what their attorney has said, and which TV station they are going to call.  Stategies: Always match their posture whether sitting or standing, listen more than you talk, remain calm, take notes, and only say things you can back up. Remember, in most cases, it's all just a lot of  talk.

The Sneak:  This bully is a very dangerous grown-up bully.  The trouble with the Sneak is you don't know about them until it is too late. This person is nice to your face, always polite and respectful. You may not see this person as a friend, maybe more like a friendly acquaintance, but you certainly don't see them for the toxic "pot stirrer" that they are.  However, what is said behind your back, in emails, texts, Facebook, and in private conversations to other faculty or parents is shocking.  You wonder what did I do to them?  Maybe they didn't get their way, they don't like the way you responded to a situation, or who knows?  Maybe they have issues of their own or just like the attention.  After all, why does anyone bully?  Strategies: Stay out of the fray.  Maintain your dignity, rise above their petty gossip, and trust that your honest and trustworthy actions speak for themselves. 

Have you encountered grown-up bullies?  At home, at work, in life?  Maybe you just thought of them as difficult colleagues or parents. How would you describe those you have met in your role as a School Counselor or even as member of the grown-up world?   It's easy to get discouraged and feel threatened in our jobs and personal lives by these bullies.  I know that's how my Mom feels. Now she just wants to hide in her apartment and not come out. So what did I tell my Mom?  What any good School Counselor  and daughter would say. Stand up for yourself, use your words, and stay strong! I'm here if you need me!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reflect, Review, Research, Revise, and Relax!

In 2 more days students will be out for the summer!  And two days after that, I will be out for the summer!  I am already daydreaming about what those long unstructured days will look like. Travelling, reading, creating, and relaxing are high on my to do list, along with sleeping late, getting more exercise, and hanging-out with friends.  Whether you are out already or still hanging on for a couple of more weeks, there are some things you will want to do to start preparing your program for your best school year yet!

Part of the reading and creating I will be doing has to do with my school counseling program. Summer gives me the opportunity to think more clearly and deeply about what I want to accomplish in the next school year.  Flying by the seat of my pants has served me well as a Mom and many times over my years of being a School Counselor.  However planning as you go, while it can be stimulating and may produce some amazing lessons, can also be frustrating and leave your school colleagues questioning what it is you really do.  Having a well organized and data informed program does much to improve administrative support and increase the understanding of both teachers and administrators of how students are different because of what School Counselors do.

Reflect.  Take a moment and make a list of all you accomplished this year.  Feels a little surreal looking back on it now doesn't it?  Celebrate it!  Congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Look at all the things you did that weren’t even part of your plan, the teacher and administrative requests, ideas you saw on-line or heard about from another School Counselor. These were not things you planned on doing, but you rose to the occasion and handled them all!  There were a number of things I didn't do this year, but a lot more things I did.  Take the time to reflect on it all, feel pride in what you accomplished and make plans for improvements in the coming school year.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Did I use data to inform my program?
Did I do all I set out to do?  
What did I miss and why? 
What can I do to correct this situation?
What are the things I did that were not part of my original plan for the school year? Were they worthwhile?  
Am I pleased with the impact of my program this year?
Was it the best it could be?
How did my faculty and administration respond to my school counseling program/services?
What can I do to improve on my program for next school year?
What did I do to grow both personally and professionally?

Review.  Start with data. What does your data for the 2015-2016 school year indicate are your school's greatest needs? Not sure what data to review?  Gather year end data in the following areas:
discipline referrals, attendance, students with D's and F's, students with unsatisfactory conduct grades, climate, student, and teacher surveys.

Take some time and look for patterns.  Disaggregate your data to pinpoint specific areas that need your attention.  Share the identified needs with your administration. Discuss your plans to meet those needs on a school wide basis with classroom lessons at Tier 1 and more specific help for students who need small groups at Tier 2. 

Research.   Take some time to research materials that will best meet the needs you have identified for your school population.  There is so much terrific stuff on-line for teaching classes and groups.  A lot of it is free or very inexpensive.  Of course there are great evidenced-based materials out there as well, costing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. Choosing what you would like to use or will use, will depend on your budget and your administration.  Do your research and be prepared to make requests or offer informed suggestions for materials to meet the identified needs of your school. If you have demonstrated a school need with data, you may find yourself in a position to make recommendations to your administration for the resources to meet that need.  Be prepared!

Revise.  Look at your School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan and begin making changes that reflect the needs you saw in the research you did with your school's data. If you don't have a School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan, it is a great tool for laying out your school counseling program. It is like a calendar of your program for the year.  It gives an overview of all you have planned from groups to classes to parent meetings, professional development, special events, school wide programming, assemblies, committee meetings and more.  It is a great tool for planning with your administration, to lock in dates and venues you will need when implementing your school counseling program. If you are unfamiliar with the School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan, take a look at the one I created for my school this past year HERE.  I have included a blank template HERE so you can begin your own planning.

Relax.  And now it is time for family, friends, and fun!  School Counselors work hard at taking care of others, but not so much when it comes to taking care of ourselves.  We need this time to rejuvenate our body, mind, and spirit.  It will be much easier to do if you've reflected on your year, reviewed data, researched materials, and revised your School Wide Counseling Curriculum plan.  So whether you are out for the summer or still have days or weeks remaining, take some time to reflect, review, research, and revise in order to have the most relaxing summer possible. You will return to school recharged and ready to launch your best school year yet!

Happy Summer!