Saturday, May 30, 2015

7 Things "To Do" to Close Out Your School Year

My “get finished with school get started with summer to do list” is longer than my arm and I am not making much progress.  I'm procrastinating and writing this blog post to share some of the things I think are important for any School Counselor who is interested in building a data driven school counseling program to consider as she or he closes out their school year.

1)  Data Scavenger Hunt! 
I don’t know about your school district, but in mine they purge the system during the summer, making it impossible to retrieve data from the recently ended school year. So get out there and locate the data that is already being generated each and every day and is just sitting in your school district’s computer system waiting for you to find it.  This is the BASIC data School Counselors need to get and review BEFORE they begin to form any plans for the new school year.  This is the data that reveals your students’ needs and identifies where you should focus your efforts.  It is data you will use to compare the growth students have made because of the programming you have provided.  So find it!  Organize it! (I like a 3 ring binder) Disaggregate it!  SET GOALS!
Data to look for:
Attendance/tardy Reports
Reports listing students with D’s and F’s on their report cards
Reports listing students with poor conduct grades
Drop-out prevention/ at risk student listing, my district calls it the Early Warning System
School Climate Surveys
Discipline Referral Reports
Suspension Reports

Here are some editable colorful binder covers for your Data Notebook if you are interested in creating a one stop spot for all your data.

2)  Create a Curriculum Calendar
A curriculum calendar is a great tool to validate the importance of the School Counselor's role in providing services to ALL students to the administration and faculty of your school.  In her book The Use of Data in School Counseling, Trish Hatch says a well planned and filled out calendar supports and protects the School Counselor's time. "An open calendar lends itself to being filled with non-counseling responsibilities as it may appear there is nothing more valuable scheduled."

Based on the data you have analyzed, you now know the type of lessons needed school wide in your classroom counseling curriculum.  Some lessons will be specifically indicated by the data. Others will be presented because it is determined these are skills all students should know.  Create a calendar that shows core counseling lesson themes by grade level, ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors, curriculum, number of students to be served, and expected delivery dates.  Be sure to use the column on the right side of the form below to list yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly events in which you are involved or responsible.  With this kind of planning Administration can see how data needs are being addressed by the School Counselor. Click HERE for a sample of my personal core counseling curriculum plan and HERE for a blank template.

3)  Be a Part of Planning Your School's Yearly Calendar
Don't wait until the start of the new school year to get your programming on your school's yearly calendar. It may too late by then.  Use your counseling core curriculum calendar and add your special events to your school’s year long calendar for the 2015-2016 school year now.  In addition to including special weeks, days, or activities you provide, sponsor, or participate in like Red Ribbon Week, Career Week, Holiday Food and Toy Drive, club meetings, Parent Nights, and puberty education, be sure to include your professional obligations.  It is important for PLC and district meetings, professional workshops and conferences, and School Leadership meetings to be noted on the calendar.

Annual planning helps you, and your administration, to see potential conflicts and gets your programs on the calendar early. This not only helps to avoid conflicts, but it gives you the luxury of planning your events when and where you want without having to settle, or make do, with left over dates and campus facilities.  Perhaps it will even give your administrator a chance to think about all you have planned for the coming school year. And maybe, over the summer, as they create duty schedules and consider non-counseling related activities, they will begin to understand the important work you do with students.

4)  Survey your teachers
This is not about what teachers think you should be teaching or doing, but a chance to get feed-back on the services you have offered this school year.  It’s about perceptions and it takes a thick skin to ask teachers what they think of your services, but sometimes that is an important reality check for some of us. It was for me last year and really helped me to be aware of some areas where I needed to step up my game. It even provided data on how well my faculty understood my job and where they needed more assistance from me in things like Problem Solving Team, 504 plans and reporting to Child Services.

 Here is a link to the Google form I created to survey my teachers last year.  If you would like to use my form, please remember to first make a copy and rename the form before using it or making any additions or deletions.  Otherwise your data will be co-mingled with mine and that will not help either of us.  For instructions on copying and renaming a form go HERE and scroll to slides 30 and 31.

5)  Establish an Annual Agreement
The ASCA website has a great template that lets has you establish the goals for your school counseling program and put them in a form, the Annual Agreement. This form is best completed after reviewing the data you’ve collected and is not only useful for showing your Administration the needs of the school as indicated by the data, but how you plan to spend your time to meet those needs. What a great proactive way to tie data and program needs to your skills as a School Counselor. For a copy of the Annual Agreement go HERE.

6)  Order supplies, books, or materials for next year
Now that you have set goals based on your data, it is easier to know what you are going to be teaching in classroom counseling and small groups.  Take inventory of your materials and decide what  you will need to successfully implement the program you have planned for your students.  Need new resources for teaching study skills, determining learning styles, or teaching conflict resolution skills?  Now is the time to get what you need and have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with your new resources.

7)  Stop procrastinating!
Clean up your office, file that mountain of papers, and go start some serious self care!  Enjoy your summer!  Do the things you love with the people you love.  Get some rest and renew you mind and spirit.  You deserve it!

Well that's it.  I've done the data scavenger hunt, created my curriculum calendar, and surveyed my teachers.  Next week when the students are gone I will be able order my materials and sit down with my Principal to work on our Annual Agreement and the School's Yearly Calendar.  And maybe, just maybe I will file the mountain of papers on my desk before I leave.

What's on your "to do" list?  I hope my list helps focus your ideas on how to begin to build a data-driven school counseling program in your school.

Have a wonderful SUMMER!

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